Class action lawsuits are a different legal animal than individual cases. Namely, instead of one or a handful of claimants, class action plaintiffs’ attorneys represent large parties — aka classes. Below are the answers to three common questions regarding class actions in California.
How many people constitute a class?
Typically, classes fall somewhere between 30 and several thousand plaintiffs. For example, let’s say a woman accuses “Acme Company” of selling defective widgets that broke her finger. Once her story goes public, thousands of other consumers chime in with the same complaint.
In this situation, the plaintiff with the most sympathetic story would likely serve as the named party. However, the claimant’s attorneys would represent everyone who allegedly suffered widget-related finger damage and signed onto the class action against Acme.
However, for a class action case to move forward, a judge must certify it, which isn’t a cakewalk. Many classes are killed at this stage because of malfeasance or other infractions on the part of the claimants.
Who must be present at a class action hearing?
At individual hearings, all parties must attend court — or authorize a legal proxy to stand in their place. With class action lawsuits, only one or two pleading parties participate in the hearings as the named plaintiffs.
Who can be sued in a class action?
Class actions are a type of business litigation claim, meaning the defendants are usually companies or professional organizations. Although U.S. law treats corporations as people for several statutory definitions, class actions can not be brought against an individual.
Just because a class action is ratified doesn’t mean the plaintiffs will be successful. Many claims fail early in the process. Defendants that are prepared early on have a better chance of prevailing.