Understanding Class Action Litigation — Why Bring a Class Action?

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At The Brod Firm, we strive to help every client recover. Our San Francisco plaintiff’s law firm takes cases we believe in and our team works hard to get our clients the full amount of damages available under California law. We also believe in helping clients navigate the legal system in the best possible manner. In some cases, the best method for resolving a dispute is not an individual suit but rather a class action, a lawsuit that allows multiple plaintiffs to bring their case collectively in either state (via a mix of statutory and case law) or federal court (via Federal Rule of Civil Procedure §23).

Efficiency & Cost-Effectiveness
There are a number of reasons why it may be better to bring a claim as a class action that as an individual suit. In cases where many plaintiffs share the same issues of law and fact, a class action can be more efficient than individual suits. The collective suit can avoid having the same issues, fact-based witnesses, and experts repeated countless times. This saves court costs and helps keep the civil system flowing efficiently. For example, suppose an allergy drug causes a dangerous side effect. Using the class action device can mean that issues like causation (proving the drug is responsible for the adverse effect) and the amount of advance knowledge the company had only need to be litigated once rather than proven again and again by each patient who suffered the dangerous side effect.

Encouraging Suit Where Individual Plaintiffs Expect Less Financial Recovery
Class actions are also beneficial when the amount each plaintiff is likely to receive is too small to justify individual suits. In such cases, there may be no individual plaintiff with the personal, economic incentive to file a claim. This can help advance the cause of justice by holding a company or individual responsible for an action that hurt a large number of people but only caused a small amount of damage to each person. For example, suppose a price-fixing scheme raised the price of a certain service by only a small amount per customer. A class action can allow the customers to recover when it may not feel worth the effort for a specific plaintiff to bring a claim independently. Class actions of this sort also help deter future behavior, especially if the class is large enough that the small amount each person recovers becomes significant when all the claims are totaled.

Limited Fund Cases
Sometimes a class action may be the best way to ensure all of the impacted plaintiffs are able to recover. This situation is often referred to as a “limited fund” case. If there is only a limited amount of money available, proceeding with individual claims might mean only those who file claims the earliest are able to recover. Suppose the company in the first example (the drug with harmful side effects) has since closed its doors. If the harmful side effect is severe, each claim may have a significant dollar value and there is a risk that those who file later (but still within the limitations period) would be left without any recourse because all the money has been used. Class actions can avoid this unfair result and ensure equitable distribution of the available funds.

Uniformity & Action Seeking Behavioral Change
In a related vein, class actions can promote uniformity. Even the best courts can disagree and filing the same case multiple times can result in a range of different results. Class actions ensure consistent results and prevent plaintiffs with identical claims (such as in the price-fixing example) from receiving different recoveries. This can also be important when the judgment also provides guidance for the defendant’s future behavior. In some cases, class actions the court may order the defendant to stop certain behavior or issue a declaratory judgment that establishes the rights and obligations of both sides. Inconsistent individual results can make following such rulings impossible and make class actions a better option.

We Can Help
Whether you are filing an individual claim or a class action, our San Francisco victim’s law firm works hard for every client. Please call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
An Introduction To Class Actions
The Role of the Named Plaintiff in a Class Action Lawsuit