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Class Actions & Consumer Rights

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Class Actions

In certain types of cases, the law provides for a “class action.” A typical class action is a case in which many affected consumers have a claim, but the monetary value of each claim is relatively small. When a consumer has a claim but the monetary damage he or she has suffered is not large, it may be difficult or impossible for the consumer to obtain legal protection of his or her rights or to bring a lawsuit to enforce those rights, because the cost of pursuing the claim is greater than the value of the claim itself.

Consider the following hypothetical example:

A bank charges you a $50 late fee that you think is illegal. No lawyer will represent you to sue for just $50. Many other consumers might also have suffered the illegal $50 fee.

In this situation, with a class action, it might be possible to recover damages for a large group of consumers. Sometimes, without a class action there might be no practical way for any consumer to obtain a legal remedy. It might cost the attorney more money than it’s worth to do the necessary work. If the consumer attempts to proceed on his own without an attorney, he may have to spend many hours trying to figure out the legal system for himself. The result is that the consumer is not protected and has no legal remedy.

To cure this situation, the law allows for the bringing of class actions in certain situations.  In a typical class action, the group of damaged consumers, or “class,” will consist of hundreds or thousands of persons who all suffered a similar harm. Because there are so many individuals involved, it would be impractical to bring a separate lawsuit for every single person. In the imaginary bank scenario above, however, if thousands of bank customers were each legally owed $50, they might have the ability to obtain that legal relief through a class action. For a free consultation, give us a call 800.849.5291 or email us.

For a class action to be brought, the law requires that all of the affected individuals have similar claims. For example, where the unfair and deceptive practices of a company affect a large number of consumers the same way, those practices might give rise to a class action.

Not every person in the “class” has to actually be listed in the lawsuit when it begins. The law allows class actions to be brought by one or more “class representatives” on behalf of the many other class members.

Our law firm has experience with participating in class actions, where appropriate, in order to fairly and adequately protect the rights of our clients. Our attorneys are experienced in the prosecution of class actions and multiple-victim claims involving consumer fraud and unfair and deceptive practices.

  • Consumer products
  • Consumer electronics
  • Home appliances
  • Computers, DVD players, home electronics
  • Phone company bills
  • Cable TV bills
  • Predatory lending
  • Payday lenders
  • Internet lenders
  • Internet scams
  • Reductions in pension benefits
  • Reductions in medical benefits

The plaintiffs in a class action are known as “named plaintiffs” or “class representatives,” and they file a lawsuit on behalf of a larger class of people.

Consumer class actions may be filed, where appropriate, to recover damages for people who have been harmed in similar ways by product manufacturers, predatory lenders, or other kinds of defendants.

  • The number of victims must be so numerous that a class action makes more sense than having each person file an individual claim.
  • There must be common issues regarding all of the victims in the class.
  • The claims of the named plaintiffs (aka the “class representatives”) must be like the claims of other affected victims; their claims must be typical of those of other people.
  • The class representatives must be able to fairly and properly represent the class. The representatives must pursue the interests of the class as a whole, not just their own interests.

If a class action proceeds and the court enters a final judgment or settlement, in that case, even persons who were not involved in the lawsuit (known as “absent class members”) may be bound by the judgment or settlement of the matter.

However, often, the absent class members are entitled to notice and an opportunity to opt out of the matter. If an affected individual receives a notice and decides to opt out, this means that he or she will not be bound by any judgment or settlement of the class action, and he or she may have the ability to bring his or her own claim for damages.

If you have any questions about class action issues, please feel free to contact our office at (800)849-5291 or send us an email


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