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Understanding the Basics of Class Action Lawsuits: How Do I File a Class Action Lawsuit?

Over the past few years, there has been an increase in consumer class actions in courts across the country.  Almost every consumer product could be subject to scrutiny for class action claims.  Class actions give injured plaintiffs who have claims with small monetary damages a means to team up together to receive compensation from large corporations.

What is a Class Action?

Class action is a type of lawsuit where several persons (known as “class representatives” or “named plaintiffs”) sue on behalf of themselves and a larger group of people (“the class” or “class members”).  The subject matter of class action lawsuits varies, but a couple of factors are nearly always present:

  1. All members of the class have common issues in dispute; and
  2. The people affected by the issue are so numerous that it is impracticable to bring them all before the court separately.

Class actions may be initiated in state or federal court and classes may consist of members in one state or span several states.  Overall, class action lawsuits seek to protect consumer rights of all members of the class.

Advantages of Class Actions

Beyond protecting consumer rights, class action lawsuits have several distinct advantages. These include the following:

  1. Helps individuals who have small claims that would otherwise be expensive to litigate separately lower litigation costs;
  2. Strengthens the negotiation position of consumers against large corporations to level the playing field between opposing sides;
  3. Relieves the burden on courts of having to adjudicate multiple court actions and avoids inconsistent judgments;
  4. Individuals who otherwise have claims that are too small to warrant an individual suit can join in a class action to help protect them.

How Do I Get My Class Certified?

In order to proceed with a class action lawsuit, a court must “certify” your class.  In state court, under Rule 1.220 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, there are four primary requirements to certify your class:

  1. Numerosity: Under Rule 1.220(a)(1), a class must be “so numerous that separate joinder of each member is impracticable.”  This simply means a proponent must show that joining all class members would be extremely difficult or inconvenient.  However, a proponent does not necessarily need to identify each member of the class from the outset.  Florida courts have held classes as small as 25 members would fulfill the numerosity requirement.
  2. Commonality: Claims of the potential representative parties “must raise questions of law or fact common to the questions of law or fact raised by the claim of each member of the potential class.” Florida courts have found this requirement can be fulfilled if all members have a genuine common single issue.
  3. Typicality: The facts and circumstances that make up the claim or defense advanced by the representative party is typical of the claim or defense of each member of the proposed class.
  4. Adequacy of Representation: The representative parties must “fairly and adequately protect and represent the interests of each member of the class.”

Beyond these requirements, Rule 1.220 requires that the court must find that the proposed class falls into one of three categories:

  1. Limited Fund/Inconsistent Standard: Where there are limited funds from which a class member may recover or where courts may apply inconsistent standards for individual claims;
  2. Injunctive Relief: Where 1) “the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to all the members of the class” and 2) the representative plaintiff is seeking “final injunctive or declaratory relief.”
  3. Common Predominance: Where the questions of law or fact common to the class predominate over any questions affecting individual members of the class.

If you believe a corporation has wronged you and you are interested in commencing a class action lawsuit, the experienced class action lawyers at Lesser, Lesser, Landy, & Smith, PLLC in West Palm Beach, Stuart and Boca Raton can help you evaluate the merits of your case, help build your proposed class and ensure the class meets the requirements under the law.  Contact us today for a free consultation.

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