Affected by a Class Action Lawsuit? Here’s What to Do
If you’ve received a “Notice of Class Action Lawsuit” through the mail or email, you may be wondering what a class action lawsuit is, how the legal proceedings described in the notice affect you, and what you should do next. Here, the Maryland class action litigation lawyers at Peter Angelos Law further explain what a class action lawsuit is and what to do if you receive a notice of your involvement.
Overview of Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits arise when several people, often hundreds or thousands, are negatively impacted by the same harmful or unlawful action of a person or organization. If certain procedural requirements are met, the impacted individuals can form a “class” of plaintiffs in one lawsuit rather than filing hundreds or thousands of individual cases.
Class actions typically arise over matters such as:
- Defective products, such as faulty vehicle components or prescription drugs,
- Unfair business practices, including phone services and banking,
- Stockholder claims, including securities fraud, and
- Employment-related issues such as discrimination and wage/hour law disputes.
Class action lawsuits play a very important role in our legal system. They allow for a level playing field between large corporations and consumers. By participating together, consumers gain the leverage needed to hold these large entities responsible.
Once it has been determined that the lawsuit involves enough plaintiffs to be considered a class action lawsuit, the class must be “certified”. While certification procedures may vary slightly from state to state, see—Maryland’s rules here—most states follow what is set out in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). The FRCP outlines the following:
- There must be so many potential claimants that it is “impracticable” to join them all in one lawsuit.
- There must be common “questions of law or fact” across all cases, meaning they are all based on the same problem or wrongdoing.
- The named plaintiffs (class representatives) have the same claims as all others in the class, and any defenses to those claims would be the same or very similar.
- The class representatives will provide fair and adequate protection for the class.
Class Action Notices
Once a class action has been properly filed, the parties and the court will work to identify all affected individuals and make reasonable effort to notify them of the lawsuit. Notices can be sent out via U.S. mail or email, but the specifics of what must be included depend on where the case has been filed. Procedural rules for class action lawsuits and settlements differ slightly among the federal system and the different states, however many state procedural rules for class actions often follow what is set out in the federal procedure rules.
According to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, for most kinds of class-action lawsuits, the court must ensure that all class members receive the most effective notice practicable, including individual notice to any member who can be identified through reasonable effort. This notice must “clearly and concisely state in plain, easily understood language” certain key information such as the nature of the case, specific allegations against the defendant, the right to “opt-out of” the class, and the binding effect that comes with any settlement or judgment.
What to Do After Receiving a Notice
In most instances, the proper course of action after receiving a notice of a class-action lawsuit is to do nothing. By receiving the notice, you have been made aware of the legal proceedings and have already been identified as belonging to the group of individuals who are included in the lawsuit. If the involved parties reach a settlement, you’ll receive a Notice of Settlement of Class Action and be entitled to your portion of agreed compensation.
When to Seek out Legal Counsel for a Class-Action Lawsuit
If you’re a more passive participant in a class-action lawsuit, it is unlikely that you will need the support of an attorney. However, if you’re a lead plaintiff, or an individual who is filing the lawsuit on behalf of the class, having an experienced class action litigation lawyer is imperative. The lead plaintiff will be the name attached to the class action and will publicly represent the interests of the entire class. Lead plaintiffs must have losses that are representative of those participating in the class action, remain involved throughout the case, only accept settlements that are in the best interests of the case members, and have sufficient legal counsel.
Consult with the Maryland Class-Action Litigation Lawyers at Peter Angelos Law
Class action lawsuits can be overwhelming and complex, especially if you are a lead plaintiff. If you believe you may have grounds for opening a class action lawsuit, consult with the experienced class action litigation lawyers at Peter Angelos Law today.