Lots of people have probably heard the term “class action,” but not everyone knows what it means. They may have the vague sense it has something to do with lots of people getting together in a lawsuit—and they’d be right. That’s basically what a class action involves.
That doesn’t mean, however, that class actions are just like ordinary lawsuits, only bigger. Far from it. Class actions represent a distinct class of legal matters that have the potential to make large-scale changes in how companies and institutions do business and treat the public. If, that is, those matters have the right attorneys in charge of the case.
The experienced class action attorneys at Boohoff Law possess the resources and know-how to organize, lead, and prevail in class action lawsuits on behalf of large groups of injured plaintiffs. If you have sustained injuries or damages because of the wrongdoing of a large company, organization, or institution, and you suspect there are more people just like you, then a class action may give you powerful tools to assert your rights and the rights of others. Contact us today to learn more.
About Boohoff Law
Boohoff Law is a law firm with extensive experience representing people injured or harmed through no fault of their own. Through their hard work and passionate advocacy on behalf of its clients, Boohoff Law attorneys, led by attorney Tatiana Boohoff, have earned a reputation as top-notch trial lawyers committed to achieving justice and obtaining compensation from even the most powerful of adversaries. Over the years, they have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards in matters ranging from complex car accidents to medical malpractice.
While there are no guarantees of recovery in any particular case, Boohoff Law lawyers possess the skill and knowledge to manage, and win, the most complicated personal injury matters. The firm’s size and sophistication make it the natural choice to represent a class of injured plaintiffs in a class action.
About Class Actions
A class action is a lawsuit in which a group of “similarly situated” plaintiffs pursues identical claims against one or more wrongdoer defendants. Typical class actions involve personal injury, financial injury, or property damage claims against large corporations, organizations, or institutions.
The general purpose of a class action is to consolidate claims that could be brought by many different plaintiffs, in many different courts, into a single lawsuit that is representative of the whole set of potential claims. In seeking to consolidate claims into a class action, plaintiffs give themselves the most efficient avenue possible to recover damages from the defendants, sparing themselves (and the defendants) the cost and difficulty of managing multiple lawsuits.
What Makes a Class Action a Class Action?
As you might imagine, not all claims for damages merit class action status. Instead, courts in each state, and the federal courts, have rules that dictate when and how a plaintiff can file a claim on behalf of an injured class of people (or against a class of defendants, although this is less common).
In Washington State, the law sets out the following prerequisites for a claim to receive class action status:
One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Class actions do not arise automatically when these requirements are met, however. Instead, a party who thinks a class action is appropriate in a particular case must ask a court to allow the matter to proceed as a class action. In deciding whether to allow that to happen, the court considers:
- Whether treating the matter as a class action would avoid inconsistent outcomes;
- Whether the party with potential liability has acted in a manner applicable to the whole class; and
- Whether “the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.”
Examples of Typical Class Actions
The rules above may seem a little ambiguous and lawyerly to many readers. They’re easier to understand in context. Here are some examples of typical class action lawsuits.
- Pharmaceutical. A class of patients injured when they took a drug with dangerous side effects may sue the manufacturer of the drug, because the members of the class sustained similar injuries.
- Automotive. A class of drivers of a particular brand of car or car part, such as a defective transmission, may sue the automotive manufacturer as a class to recover the cost of repairing or replacing the part, or for injuries sustained in an accident caused by the product.
- Industrial. A class of individuals injured by exposure to the same dangerous product – such as asbestos—may combine their claims to sue one or more manufacturers of that product as a class.
- Commercial. Customers of a business who have all been injured in the same manner by how the business conducted itself toward them may sue as a class to recover the costs associated with those injuries—for example, customers of a bank who were all charged an illegal fee, or of a credit reporting agency whose personal information was stolen in a data breach;
- Aviation/Mass Transit. A class made up of families of passengers who died in a plane crash or mass transit accident may organize as a class to seek compensation from the transportation operator.
Although class actions like the ones above most typically arise out of the conduct of a large enterprise or institution, that’s not always the case. Sometimes a class of people may have identical claims suitable for a class action against an individual—such as a doctor who mistreated them in the same manner. Any time a group of people were harmed in a predominantly identical manner, so that it would be a waste of time, money, and effort to bring each action individually, it may make sense to pursue the claim as a class action.
Pros and Cons of Class Actions
As with any legal strategy, class actions come with benefits and drawbacks that vary from case to case. Some of the frequent “pros” of class actions include:
- Efficiency and cost savings. As noted above, a single lawsuit handles the claims of many, sparing everyone unnecessary cost and (potentially) diverting money to paying damages that would otherwise be spent on lawyers;
- Makes lawsuits viable when individual damages are relatively low. No one person is going to spend the time and effort to sue a gigantic bank over a $50 fee, even if the fee is illegal. It would cost more money to bring the suit than what you could hope to recover. But if the bank charged the illegal fee to 10,000 customers, bringing an action on behalf of that entire class of cheated out of $50 each becomes worthwhile.
- Calls attention to injustice and propels change. Class actions tend to receive greater attention from the press and public than individual actions. They also tend to force defendants to face potentially large financial risks that bringing an individual action would not. When people injured by wrongdoing hope to achieve justice and force a large organization to change its ways, class actions pack the clout necessary to create meaningful change.
Still, there are also some cons to consider:
- No individual day in court. Class actions do justice on a broad scale. The harm suffered by one person “stands in” for the harm suffered by everyone. That means individual stories tend to influence the direction of the case less, leaving some class members feeling as if they did not receive their day in court.
- One-size-fits-all outcomes. Likewise, when a class action succeeds, the members of the class tend to share in a one-size-fits-all award, often paid out of a single “pot” of funds made available for settlement. An especially large class can “dilute” the pot, resulting in relatively low payouts.
- The court must approve settlements. Courts take a larger role in the resolution of class actions than they do in individual cases, because of the importance of ensuring that a settlement serves the interests of all members of a class.
- Impossible in some cases. Large companies increasingly bury “waivers” of class actions in the fine print of their customer contracts, making it legally difficult, if not outright impossible, to seek justice through a class action.
The Job of a Class Action Attorney
A successful class action attorney needs a unique combination of skills and resources. Obviously, that attorney needs a thorough understanding of the law and the factual issues relevant to a claim. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Managing a class action involves having the insight and organizational skills to work with a court to identify class members, communicate with them, and achieve justice on a broad scale that serves individual and collective interests.
That is no small job. And it’s why many personal injury attorneys shy away from class action matters. It’s not that they don’t want to help their injured clients. It’s that they lack the breadth of experience to handle the complicated, important task of representing dozens, hundreds, even thousands of similarly situated people all at once.
In fact, having the right law firm represent the lead plaintiff in a class action is so important, it often falls to the courts to decide which of a number of attorneys who want the job should take the laboring oar. Courts look for law firms like Boohoff Law, who have solid reputations, excellent attorneys, and the resources to represent the class against large, often-well-funded defendants.
Choosing a Seattle Class Action Attorney
Unlike many personal injury matters we handle at Boohoff Law, it’s rare for a client to walk through our doors primed and ready to file a class action lawsuit. More often, people come to us knowing they’ve been harmed, and in the course of meeting with us and telling their stories, it becomes clear they may share a common story with others. So, in most cases, one of our attorneys proposes a class action as a strategy to a client, and not vice-versa, and together the attorney and client decide whether that is the appropriate path for the client’s individual situation and goals.
But that’s not always the case. At Boohoff Law, we are also strong believers in the power of class action lawsuits to even the playing field between big corporations and institutions on one side, and people who were harmed on the other.
We encourage anyone who feels like they’ve been hurt, harmed, or taken for a ride by a big business or organization, but who worries it’s not worth it to take action, to sit down with one of our attorneys to tell us their story. Even if you’ve only been hurt a little, if there are many others like you, then a class action may give you the tools to fight back and stop the harm from happening to others.
Boohoff Law: Your Seattle Class Action Law Firm
Class actions represent a special class of lawsuit that call for the highest quality legal representation available. The team at Boohoff Law has the skills, dedication, and resources to organize, litigate, and achieve justice in the largest, most complex class action matters involving personal and/or financial injuries. If you have been injured and you think there are more people just like you, contact us today or call us at (877) 999-9999 to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with a member of our class action team.