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Certifiably Classy: The Importance of Certification in Class Actions
Have you and others wanted to sue a bad business or corrupt corporation? Do you know of other friends who share similar stories of harm done by the evils of capitalistic entities or organizations? Well, then you must know that any group of individuals can file a class-action lawsuit if they are harmed, injured, or had their rights violated by the wrongdoings of another entity or organization.
A class-action lawsuit can be thought of as several lawsuits by multiple individuals combined into one. However, the lawsuit that the group files must fulfill certain criteria before it officially becomes a class action lawsuit.
The group’s individuals must also meet specific legal requirements for their group to be considered a class. A group must be certified as a class for a class-action lawsuit to happen. The class then designates an individual or two to be their lead plaintiff or plaintiffs to work with their attorneys and represent them in court.
To have the class certified is one of the real nitty-gritty steps to file a class action lawsuit. Class certification will either make or break your case — no certification, no class, no class action. In this article, you will be taught all you need to know about the importance of certifying a class in class action lawsuits and what a would-be class must do to attain justice. So stay strong and read on.
Step 1: Get an attorney (or two) to check your case.
If you want to start a class action lawsuit, you know you’ll be needing one or more attorneys to consult with. Consult with them right away to know whether your legal complaint will be a valid class action. They will also ask you to submit documents that help support your case. The attorney, or attorneys, assigned to your case will then evaluate your lawsuit and determine whether it satisfies the following criteria for a class action lawsuit:
- There is the existence of similar lawsuits with similar allegations;
- Has a good success rate based on previous rulings and judicial opinions of lawsuits with similar claims;
- Involves a number of people that were harmed or injured in the same way by the defendant (the recommended minimum number of people is forty;)
- The plaintiff’s ability to comply with the time limit for filing under the applicable statute of limitations is good;
- The defendant’s capacity to be sued is high;
- The filing of a class action lawsuit will be more effective than filing a regular lawsuit.
Step 2: Have a judge certify your class.
Once a prospective class action has been filed and served on the defendant, a court must certify the class: no class certification, no case. Also, do know that a lawsuit’s ticket to class-action status is dependent on its ascertainability.
Whether there are common issues shared between the plaintiffs and class members making a claim, and whether it is easy to identify those who have been affected by the accused defendant’s wrongdoings. The class must meet the following requirements for certification:
- Numerosity – the class members must be so numerous that it will be impractical for them to file separate lawsuits;
- Commonality – the lead plaintiff or plaintiffs must present “questions of law or fact” that are common among all the cases of the class members (the questions must be based on the same problem or unlawful action done by the defendant;)
- Typicality – the lead plaintiff or plaintiffs must have the same legal claims and defenses as all the class members, and any defenses to those claims would be the same or very typical (the claims and defenses of the lead plaintiff/s must be so typical within the class;)
- Adequacy of representation – the lead plaintiff or plaintiffs’ ability to justly and adequately represent the interests of and protect the well-being of the class members (the attorneys and law firm representing the class will also be scrutinized, especially regarding legal fees and compensation.)
Having a class certified is not just a matter of ticking off a checklist of requirements. A judge can exercise a fair amount of discretion with their decisions, and the arguments for and against certification can take a long while. If the class is certified, the legal case can move on to pre-trial procedures. A judge certifying a class does not mean the judge thinks the defendant is automatically at fault.
It just means that the defendant is now facing a legitimate lawsuit. Defendants can argue that a class does not meet any of the requirements above to prevent certification. The court and attorneys involved can notify more potential plaintiffs of a class action lawsuit and involve them as class members after certification.
Class certification provides plaintiffs with more control in the legal system and a bigger chance of success at trial. Because of this, as well as the arduous, pricy, protracted, and non-discreet nature of litigation, defendants will often attempt to settle class actions outside of court once the plaintiffs have attained class certification (usually as a last resort).
Holding powerful groups and individuals accountable for their actions is integral to maintaining a fair and just society. Getting “class-certified” is one of the steps to file a class action lawsuit, but it is just one of many steps to attain justice in this consumeristic world. Remember, one needs to know what they can do to protect their rights to fight for them fairly and justly.
Deinah Storm used to work in the corporate world as a marketing affiliate. She quit her job to pursue her passion for writing, but to this day, Deinah is committed to educating consumers about the different marketing scams and how to avoid them.