As with many things in life, there is often “strength in numbers.” This theory spawned a certain type of litigation known as “class action” where, instead of one plaintiff seeking relief for a certain wrong, a group of plaintiffs in similar situations brings their claims collectively, often in an effort to rival the strength of a large corporate defendant. There are Class Action Attorneys In Los Angeles that specializes in these types of situations. Below is an overview of class action litigation in California.
Many states have laws that mirror the federal practice and procedure of class action litigation. California has some notable differences. The main definition is contained in the California Code of Civil Procedure §382 which provides, in relevant part:
When the question is one of common or general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court, one or more may sue or defend for the benefit of all.
In California, based on certain case law, to bring a class action, a plaintiff must establish the existence of “an ascertainable class” and a “well-defined community of interest among class members.”
So what does this mean? “Community of interest” is made up of three factors: (i) predominant common questions of law or fact; (ii) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (ii) class representatives who can adequately represent the class.
A plaintiff must also demonstrate that the use of a class action will provide a substantial benefit to those involved, including plaintiffs and the courts. This benefit can be the “strength in numbers” discussion from above, but also that it would be more efficient to litigate all these claims in one case as opposed to multiple cases which could lead to differing decisions for each plaintiff.
It is important to find Class Action Attorneys In Los Angeles with the knowledge and experience to handle such a different type of lawsuit.
So what should you look for in a class action attorney?
Experience is very important. As detailed above, there are many rules different in class action lawsuits as compared to your run-of-the-mill auto accident or slip-and-fall. Your attorney—and any support staff working on your case—must be experienced in order not to ruin your chances at trial or before.
A successful track record is also important. As with experience, you want attorneys whose experiences with class actions have been positive. This factor also comes into play because an attorney with a known successful track record is more likely to be offered higher settlement amounts than someone who the defendants believe is more easily defeated at trial.
In light of the number of parties involved, expenses may run high, in terms of medical records, deposition transcripts and the like. For this reason, a law firm’s financial stability is important. Typically, monies will be fronted by the attorneys and then paid back through any settlement. If your attorney cannot afford to lay out monies for these expenses, your case will not be properly prosecuted.
What else is there to know about class action lawsuits?
There are certainly other financial benefits. First, because there are more plaintiffs, costs will be spread out among each plaintiff. If it costs $500 to file a complaint and have it served, $500 for one plaintiff is far more than $500 spread over 20 plaintiffs.
Next, attorneys in class action lawsuits also typically collect money on a contingency basis. In other words, they only earn money if you win. Although class action contingency fees tend to be a higher percentage than other lawsuits, you still do not have to pay any money for attorneys’ fees, something that can prove a huge advantage.
Recently, there has been a push to make sure plaintiffs in class action lawsuits actually receive a benefit. In a recent case against Subway sandwich shops, attorneys represented class members who complained that the “foot-long” sandwiches they paid for were less than 11 inches. Following litigation, the “settlement” required Subway to endeavor to make sandwich sizes more uniform and accurate. When the attorneys requested $520,000 in attorneys’ fees, this was rejected by the judge in light of the fact that the plaintiffs received no actual benefit.
Similarly, some lawyers will seek high fees when a lawsuit does not actually accomplish any real goals but actually protects the defendant. In a case involving a data breach by Yahoo, that defendant agreed to pay $50 million to the various plaintiffs, but when the plaintiffs’ attorney requested another $37 million in attorneys’ fees, the entire settlement was rejected by the judge because even though Yahoo was paying a substantial amount, each plaintiff was not receiving much and Yahoo was not required to take any steps to remediate what caused the breach in the first place.
As you can see, class action lawsuits are more complicated than others and require close supervision by judges and the plaintiffs themselves. For these reasons, it is important to retain Class Action Attorneys In Los Angeles with the knowledge, experience and positive track record to make sure your case is properly handled.