Class Actions

Class Actions

The public often reads about class actions in news articles about litigation which involves large numbers of people affected by various products. For example, cigarettes, automobiles, breast implants, and tires. Understanding class actions can be important as a patient, consumer and as a possible recipient of a class action notice.

The rules of civil procedure in both state and federal court have developed a system to make the process more accessible to those who have common interests. Often, there is a misunderstanding about this process and its goals.

In meeting these goals, the courts have a great deal to say about how class actions are handled. First, the court determines whether there is a legitimate class. In other words, are there sufficient numbers of people involved and is a class action a fair way for all concerned to bring about an appropriate remedy for the wrong involved.

Class actions sometimes involve what seems to be a small matter when viewed from the standpoint of an individual case, but when viewed in terms of the volume of people affected, there is significance. For example, in Arizona, class actions have been influential in a case involving the price of bread. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office protected every person who bought a loaf of bread from illegal price fixing. In a case in California, a class action was brought against a bank which had unfairly charged interest rates and fees.

A class action can provide a safety in numbers effect. It may be too expensive for an individual litigant to sue, but the same suit can be cost effective when pursued as a class action. Sometimes this is not the case. For example, in breast implant litigation the Dow Coming bankruptcy may limit the remedy as sought by injured women for faulty and harmful breast implants.

There have been popular movies about lawsuits involving class actions. A Civil Action starring John Travolta and Erin Brokovich with Julia Roberts are examples of cases in which rights were advanced through a class action.

Often a person’s first introduction to a class action is through receiving a notice about the filing of the case in which they can be included. If any individual feels harmed in any way, they should contact an attorney at to determine the full extent of their rights and remedies, which might involve the filing of a class action. The experience of a licensed advocate can help you assess your claims and your next steps.

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