Were you injured or cheated in the same manner as a large group of people by the same product or action of one company?
Our Orange County – Los Angeles based class action lawyers can help you join an existing class action lawsuit or become the lead plaintiff in a new one.
In California, one person can file a lawsuit against a business on behalf of hundreds of people.
These massive class action lawsuits have a long history in the United States, and many of them have resulted in multimillion-dollar damages for plaintiffs. Even when individual claims don’t amount to much, when hundreds or thousands of them are combined, the impact is substantial.
Class action lawsuits tend to be more efficient and cost effective for everyone involved, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to win one.
It takes a skilled legal team to protect your rights, make a strong argument and achieve the outcome you desire. Our team of business lawyers have the litigation skill, business know-how and class action experience necessary to help you reach your legal goals.
If you are considering joining an existing class action lawsuit or filing your own in Los Angeles or Orange County, contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you.
What Is a Class Action?
A class action is a lawsuit that involves a large group of people who share the same or substantially similar legal claim.
This group of people is what’s known as a “class” of claimants, and together they file a massive civil lawsuit against one or more defendants, often large businesses. These lawsuits can be filed in federal or California state courts, depending on the facts of the case.
Certain types of cases tend to be filed as class actions. These include:
- Labor & employment violations
- Consumer fraud (i.e. false advertising)
- Antitrust and unfair competition
- Personal injury/defective products
- Discrimination based on race, age, gender, etc.
- Intellectual property violations
- Financial fraud and misconduct
- Insurance bad faith
Class actions are used when it is impractical for multiple plaintiffs to bring the same lawsuit before the same court. These types of lawsuits also make it easier and less expensive for the the courts and parties to manage the claim.
When there are dozens or even hundreds of people involved, a class action is often the most efficient way to reach a resolution.
Who Can Join a Class Action Lawsuit
Every class action is led by one or a handful of representatives, also known as lead plaintiffs.
The representative files the lawsuit and leads the case, appearing in court and giving testimony.
Other members of the class are invited to join the litigation, which entitles them to a portion of any court damages or settlement, but they are not actively involved in the case.
Class members can also choose to opt out. These members do not receive damages, but they may be able to file their own lawsuit independently.
If your damages are substantial in comparison to other class members, this is sometimes the best option. Contact an experienced class action lawyer to determine your best options in this case.
Before class action litigation can begin, the court must "certify” the class, or determine that there is a defined group of people with the same viable claim. The lead plaintiff must prove that:
- The class is clearly defined (i.e., full-time employees who worked at a particular company during a particular time period)
- The representative and all members of the class experienced the same wrongdoing
- There are enough members in the class to make individual lawsuits impractical (usually 40 or more people)
- The claims and underlying legal issues are the same or so similar that the representative will adequately represent every individual
- A class action is the best or only feasible way to resolve the claims
If the judge certifies the class, the case can move forward. A certification does not mean that the judge has found the defendant guilty; it only means that the case is viable. If the judge does not certify the class, then the case is dismissed.
Federal vs. California State Class Actions
It’s possible to file a class action in state or federal court, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Class actions filed in federal court are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, a rule that explains when and how class actions may be filed. The vast majority of class actions are filed in federal court under this rule.
Individual states also have their own class action rules. State rules generally follow the federal rule, though the specifics can vary from state to state, and some locations are more class action-friendly than others. This was alleviated somewhat when Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act, which put all federal class actions into one court system.
In California, class action rules are broader than the federal rule or in other states.
This means that judges can be more flexible when certifying a class, and there are fewer barriers for plaintiffs to file a lawsuit. For example, Rule 23 requires that a class action involve at least 15 class members. In CA, although class actions must still involve multiple plaintiffs, there is no minimum.
These more lenient rules are part of the reason why class action lawsuits are so common in the Golden State.
Labor & Employment Class Actions Are Common
Employment cases make up more than 30% of all class actions in CA. Since alleged violations usually affect many employees in the same way, many labor and employment cases lend themselves to class actions—and when multiple employees come forward, the chances of them recovering damages increases significantly.
Most employment class actions involve wage and hour disputes, but there are a number of violations that can spark a class action:
- Unpaid overtime or holiday pay
- Misclassification as a contractor
- Illegal wage deductions
- Discouraging or preventing family or medical leave
- Failure to provide meal or rest breaks
- Harassment and discrimination
- Paying less than minimum wage
- Failing to issue a final paycheck
- Unpaid commissions
In labor and employment class actions, the class may recover lost wages, back pay, punitive damages and attorney’s fees, which can amount to millions of dollars when numerous people are involved.
With strong experience with both class actions and labor and employment lawsuits, our lawyers can help you reach a positive outcome in this type of class action.
How Mass Torts Are Different from Class Actions
Class actions are often compared to mass torts, another type of lawsuit where a group of individuals alleges that they have been harmed in the same way.
Mass torts differ, however, in that every plaintiff’s claim is filed separately in districts throughout the country. These individual claims are then consolidated and heard by the court at the same time, but every claim is still considered unique.
Mass torts are most frequently used when the plaintiffs have been harmed for the same reason, but the injuries or losses they suffered differ in severity. Usually, mass torts are related to:
- Defective consumer products
- Dangerous pharmaceuticals and medical devices
- Unfair competition/antitrust
- Disasters (i.e. a plane crash)
- Toxic contamination
Unlike a class action, the plaintiffs in a mass tort do not need to be certified, although the case must still be approved by a judge to move forward. Each plaintiff is entitled to a share of any settlement. If the case goes to trial and the defendant is found liable, each plaintiff receives compensation based on their individual injuries or losses.
How Hochfelsen & Kani Can Help You
Class actions, like all lawsuits, are time sensitive. If you are considering joining an existing class action lawsuit or filing your own, contact our office right away to learn more about your rights and legal options.
Our business lawyers will help you:
- Choose the right strategy;
- Prepare the strongest possible claim;
- Negotiate aggressively on your behalf;
- Protect your rights; and
- Get the outcome you deserve.