Lawsuits in Alabama and around the country may become class actions if more than one person suffers harm due to a defendant’s negligence. This type of litigation is often brought against manufacturers accused of making dangerous or defective products, companies accused of running deceptive advertising campaigns, and employers accused of violating wage and hour laws. Class actions relieve the burden on civil courts and allow plaintiffs with claims that may not justify filing an individual lawsuit to pursue legal remedies.
Class action certification
Before a class action lawsuit can proceed, the class must be certified by a judge. During the certification hearing, the lead plaintiffs must establish that all members of the class have similar claims and would be adequately represented if the case were to move forward. Class members are usually notified about the lawsuit by mail, and they are not required to take any action to be included. However, they can choose to opt out of the lawsuit if they wish. Class action lawsuits are often complex and the damages awarded are sometimes high, which is why they frequently take a long time to litigate.
Class action lawsuits may be argued in state or federal courts. It is widely believed that federal courts are more friendly to defendants, which is why motions are often filed to change venue. This became a lot easier in 2005 when Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act. The act allows class action lawsuits to be moved to the federal court system if at least one person on each side resides in different states and there are at least 100 plaintiffs seeking more than $5 million in damages in the aggregate.
While joining a class action lawsuit reduces the cost of litigation, it is not always a prudent step to take because any damages awarded will be divided equally. This is why attorneys with experience in this area may sometimes advise prospective members to opt-out and file individual lawsuits if they suffered more serious injuries than other members of the class.