Consumer Class Action

A consumer class action is a lawsuit filed by a group of plaintiffs on their own behalf as well as on behalf of a larger group of people who were similarly injured by a product or service. The decision in a class action case applies to all of the individuals in the group. The attorneys of Freese and Goss are experienced consumer class action lawyers, and they can answer your questions regarding whether your situation may be appropriate for participation in a class action.

The Benefits of a Class Action

Class actions are a tool for large groups of people who have been hurt by one or more defendants. A class action makes a case manageable; instead of hundreds or even thousands of individual plaintiffs each trying to litigate or negotiate with the defendant(s), the claims of all of these similarly aggrieved plaintiffs can be considered together in one case before one judge, in one jurisdiction.

A class action may be appropriate against a defendant corporation that has:

 

  • knowingly sold a harmful product

  • engaged in an illegal business practice

  • used false information to sell its product or service

Class actions have a valuable function, acting to protect consumers whose legal claims may otherwise languish without the support of many other plaintiffs in a collective action. The following examples are areas in which individual consumers, investors, or businesses may join together to recover damages from corporate defendants in class actions:

  • Consumer Protection—Individual plaintiffs bought or used the same defective product from a corporation

  • Antitrust—Anti-competitive activities of a corporation or a group of corporations resulted in inflated prices for their product or service

  • Securities—Investors or businesses were misled by deceptive or false public statements by a securities company

  • Commodities—Manipulation of commodities exchanges causes financial harm to investors or businesses

A Long History, and Many Uses

Class actions are not a recently developed legal concept — they’ve been around for quite a long time. Class actions were used to resolve the claims of feudal tenants against manor lords in the Middle Ages. Today, in addition to consumer law claims, class actions are also used for:

 

  • Labor disputes

  • Employee benefits disputes

  • Environmental claims — for example, many parties hurt by an oil spill

  • Cases alleging civil rights violations

  • Cases alleging human rights violations

The process of beginning or participating in a class action involves specific and strict guidelines. The place where a class action will be handled must also be considered. A plaintiff does not need to live near the court where the case will be decided. Generally, before a judge will consider a class action, he or she must conclude that there are too many “class members” for them all to be named as plaintiffs. From that point, a long and sometimes complex legal proceeding works to decide whether the plaintiffs’ claim should be compensated by a monetary judgment and/or a judicial order against the defendant.

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