Even in a place as beautiful as Aventura, the risk of being injured due to an unsafe product or harmed by an unfair policy exists every single day. Sometimes, the same risks are posed to many people and the same injuries and damages are caused. In these situations, being a participant in a class action lawsuit may be your best option for receiving the compensation you need for your recovery. Read on for more information, and contact an attorney with class action experience for more information.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit in which there are many plaintiffs with similar cases all seeking action against the same defendant. In these circumstances, the judge may opt to consolidate all of the claims into one suit. The “class” refers to the plaintiffs, which is the group that has been harmed by the issue. Product liability cases make up a large number of class actions. Product liability occurs when the manufacturer or distributor of a product is negligent in its processes and that negligence causes injuries to consumers. Some products that may be the focus of a product liability case, and subsequently a class action, include:
- Tainted medicines or foods
- Defective medical devices
- Defective car parts
- Products that do not provide adequate warnings related to improper usage. An example would be an infant car seat that does not carry a warning that it can only be safely used when placed in the back seat or rear-facing in the car.
There are typically three different kinds of product liability cases that someone can have. Product liability can involve a wide range of products ranging from motorcycle parts to toys but at the end of the day it comes down to either the design of the product being defective, product defects due to problems with the manufacturing process, or the labeling of the product being insufficient or absent so that warnings and caution over product risks can be conveyed. Class action lawsuits can involve any of these three types of product liability but typically the defect’s effect on the consumer base would have to be significant enough to cause many to suffer significant damages and come together to take collective legal action.
In addition to product liability, other types of cases that may become class actions include labor and employment disputes affecting many people, consumer fraud, and antitrust matters.
Class action lawsuits start as individual lawsuits. A lawyer representing at least one of the plaintiffs can request certification of the case as a class action. If the judge agrees, then other individuals with similar claims will be notified about their eligibility to join the class. Here are some other facts about class actions:
- Class action suits may be heard in either federal or state court. The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 provides federal jurisdiction for class action cases in which the damages exceed $5 million.
- Class action lawsuits are beneficial to the court, as they help alleviate overcrowded dockets and repetitious claims. They also can be of benefit to plaintiffs whose claims are relatively small and, therefore, don’t have much value on their own.
- Many class action participants state that they feel more empowered when taking on a multi-billion dollar corporation in a group than they would on their own.
- Class actions prevent differing outcomes of separate cases being tried in different jurisdictions.
- There is no set number of plaintiffs needed in order for a case to be certified as a class action as long as the attorney requesting certification is able to present a good faith belief that a large number of individuals have similar complaints against the same defendant.
- The requirements needed for a case to become certified as a class action include: Numerosity – there are so many plaintiffs that hearing each case separately would be impractical; Commonality – the members of the class have common claims against the defendant; Typicality – the claims of the class representative were caused by the same event or policy; Adequacy of representation—demonstrating that the plaintiff’s legal counsel is able to represent the needs of all of the class members and that the plaintiff has no conflicts of interest with any other member of the class.
- The person named as the plaintiff in the initially filed case serves as the class representative, representing the claims of unnamed others who are participants in the class. Some courts provide incentive awards to class representatives for their time and expenses if the case is successful.
- In cases where there are some class members that have one claim and other class members who have a different claim, the class may be organized into subclasses in order to satisfy the commonality requirement for class action.
- Class actions generally settle before a trial actually begins. Settlements are divided among the class in a way that is fair, reasonable, and adequate, with each member receiving a percentage of the settlement. The court—with the help of the class representative and the class action attorney—decide how to fairly, reasonably, and adequately divide the settlement.
Well-Known Class Action Lawsuits
Due to the number of victims and the size of the corporations that are often named in class action lawsuits, these types of cases often gain notoriety through news media or—in some circumstances—even become the focus of a movie. Further, some of these cases inspire changes to laws or policies. Here are some of the more well-known class action lawsuits:
- Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka: The 1954 class action suit resulted in the landmark decision that ended segregation in public schools by declaring a “separate but equal” education unconstitutional. The class representative was Oliver Brown, whose son was denied the opportunity to attend a school in Kansas because it was for white children only. The case was a consolidation of five cases in four different states. Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become the first black Supreme Court justice, led the lawsuit.
- Anderson v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: At the time when the case was decided, the settlement of $333 million was the largest civil settlement in U.S. history. The case was dramatized in the movie Erin Brockovich and alleged that the residents of one California town had been harmed due to the utility company dumping contaminated wastewater into the region’s groundwater. The case stated that the company knew that the contaminant in the wastewater was a carcinogen.
- Tobacco Settlement of 1998: The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 was signed by the attorneys general of 46 states in the nation, as well as five of the largest cigarette manufacturers at the time. Since the settlement, dozens of other manufacturers have signed on. The result of the settlement was a minimum of $206 billion that was to be paid by the manufacturers to the states as compensation for skyrocketing healthcare costs due to residents who were addicted to smoking. The sum was to be paid out over 25 years. In addition, there were a number of other clauses involved in the settlement which changed the way these manufacturers do business, including greater transparency, not advertising tobacco in ways that appeal to minors, and more education aimed at helping the public understand the dangers of smoking.
- BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico: In 2016, final approval of a settlement that provided $20 billion for environmental damage claims due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The bulk of the compensation went to covering federal penalties and fines. However, more than $5 billion was provided to state and local governments who were impacted by the spill.
- Fen-Phen: In Philadelphia, in 2000, American Home Products, which sold the popular diet drug, Fen-Phen, settled a $3.75 billion class action lawsuit due to claims that Fen-Phen caused potentially fatal heart valve damage. This settlement provided up to $1.5 million to those who were injured due to their use of the drug.
- Enron: In 2008, a $7.2 billion settlement was offered and accepted by a federal judge in Houston. The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of individual and institutional investors who were harmed when the energy company, Enron, defrauded shareholders before filing for bankruptcy. The bulk of the settlement funds were provided by J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, including $2 billion paid by Citigroup to the class representative, the University of California. In addition to the settlement, two Enron executives were convicted of charges stemming from the case.
- Silicone breast implants: A group of manufacturers of silicone breast implants ultimately settled claims in the mid-1990s for $3.4 billion after it was found that the implants could lead to autoimmune and connective tissue disorders. The group, represented by manufacturer Dow Corning, had initially offered a settlement of $4.75 billion. However, the number of claims exceeded the amount offered. Dow Corning eventually settled the claimed against it in bankruptcy court, while the remaining manufacturers agreed to the $3.4 billion settlement.
- Collins v. United States: This class action was filed in 2010 and ended with a settlement in 2013. The members of the class, in this case, were honorably discharged from service due to their sexual orientation and, in accordance with military regulations, were entitled to only receive half the normal separation pay. Several attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union requested that the military change its policy after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and provide those who had been discharged with full separation pay. In 2013, the federal government and the ACLU reached a settlement that provided full separation pay for those who had been discharged since November 2004, as well as back pay.
- Lane v. Facebook: Although the settlement did not involve paying any money to Facebook users, the Northern California case ended up causing the social media giant to pay money towards privacy and security efforts. In 2007, Facebook launched a program called Beacon, which caused the private information of users to be posted on social media without consent. Due to the class action suit, Facebook ended its affiliation with Beacon and created a $9.5 million fund for privacy and security.
- Jensen v. Eveleth Mine: This 1984 case, which became the subject of the 2005 movie “North Country,” involved the first women to be hired to work at Eveleth iron mine in Minnesota and the sexual harassment they faced from male workers at the mine. It became the first sexual harassment suit to become a class action. The members of the class were forced to endure months of grueling depositions that featured questions about their sexual histories that were not relevant to the case. The case was settled for $3.5 million the night before a jury trial began.
How Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP Can Help Your Class Action Case
We rely on the products and services we receive to be safe and responsive to our best interest. However, this doesn’t always happen. When a number of people have suffered due to the negligence of a company, a class action lawsuit may be the best recourse for meeting the needs of all of the victims. However, class action lawsuits are complex from start to finish, and having an attorney experienced with class actions guide the way increases your chance of a positive outcome.
If you or someone you love has been injured in Aventura by a defective product, harmed by an unfair policy in government or the workplace, or you became sick over a bad drug, Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP may be able to help. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are ready to hear the details of your case and to help you understand what your legal options are. To schedule your free consultation, contact us online or call us at (954) 302-7068.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS
20807 Biscayne Boulevard Suite 100,
Aventura, FL 33180
What Our Clients Have to Say:
“So happy I chose Sibley Dolman!!! My experience with the law firm right from the start was fast, friendly and understanding. I started treatment for my injury right away, and while I was focusing on getting better the firm was fighting for me. Incredibly happy with the outcome, thank you to Brent and the team for all the hard work and updates.”
Rating: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Read more reviews on Google!