A class-action lawsuit is filed when different people combine their lawsuits because the facts of the case are so similar. A recent example of a class action is the case involving the fire at the EQ plant in Apex, North Carolina. In the EQ case, a class action was brought on behalf of all families that were forced to evacuate their homes due to the fire. It would have been difficult for each family to bring individual lawsuits so a class action was filed for the thousands of affected familes.
A class action is designed to save court time, and allow one judge to hear all the cases at the same time and make one decision binding to all parties. If the court agrees to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit, that means the court agrees there is a problem where all people in the same circumstances should get redress which is often in the form of money.
Once the judge decides the case should be a class action, he issues an order “certifying” the class. This happens even when the case settles as a class action. After the class is certified, the judge directs notice be given to all parties having a similar claim during a particular time period so they may be informed and have input on the case. The class action notice must be the best and most practical way as to inform all potential class members of their rights regarding the class action. This first notice gives people an opportunity to “opt out” (not be part of the class or represented by the party who brought the case). Those who opt out have no further standing in the case and can either drop the matter or bring action on their own behalf. Individuals that remain a party in the case are usually bound by the settlement and prohibited from taking any further action on the matter.
It is not unusual for a class action to proceed for several years. It is either settled outside of court and presented to the court for its approval as to fairness (most often the case), or the case is tried and the judge renders a decision. If the plaintiffs (the class participants) win a judgment over the company being sued, they are notified about how they can collect damages or remedies.
Presently, the lawyers at Hendren, Redwine & Malone are involved in the following class actions:
- Beaulieu et al. v. EQ Industrial Services et al.
- Hinkley et al. v. Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. et al.
- Chavez v. Nationwide Affinity Insurance Company of America et al.
- Ealy v. INDSPEC
I recently found this interesting interview discussing some of the fine points of class actions particularly employment based claims.