If you watch television during the day, you might see advertisements looking for people to participate in a class action lawsuit. Many of these advertisements are for people who have suffered some kind of injury from a medical malfunction, or prescription drug side effects. You might be wondering why law offices advertise so aggressively to find people for these lawsuits, and what it all means.
What is a Class Action lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is essentially a personal injury lawsuit, often against a large corporation, with multiple plaintiffs who have all suffered the same injury.
Because large corporations can afford to hire expensive lawyers, a single person trying to file a suit against one of these companies could end up bankrupt before the case ever sees the inside of a courtroom; and that’s if they can even afford to retain a lawyer in the first place. If the case does make it to court, then it’s this one person’s word against the large corporation; and the large corporation is going to do everything it can to prove that the individual is at fault for his injuries.
The class action lawsuit works to the plaintiff’s advantage because:
· It spreads the cost of the suit among multiple plaintiffs (and sometimes the lawyers don’t charge at all until after the settlement); and,
· Having multiple plaintiffs means it’s harder for the corporation to claim that the injury was due one person doing something wrong.
People can file class action lawsuits for any type consumer issue, from defective automobile ignition switches to adverse drug side effects.
How Class Action Lawsuits Begin
Most class action lawsuits begin with a consumer complaint. In the case of a prescription drug, consumers might report adverse effects to their doctors, and then decide to sue.
It’s also possible that a medical professional could report the issue to the FDA. The FDA could investigate, issue a recall, and make a public announcement about the drug side effects, prompting individual consumers to initiate lawsuits.
Once the law firm takes the case, several things have to happen for it to qualify as a class action lawsuit.
· First, a judge must certify that the plaintiffs all share a common complaint – ie: the same side effects from the same drug;
· Second, a judge must define the criteria for the class. For example, the class criteria for the Baron and Budd Levoquin lawsuit are individuals who have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy after taking name-brand Levaquin. If they have taken the generic version, or if they have diabetes, they won’t qualify to participate because of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling regarding the right to sue generic drug manufacturers, and the fact that diabetes can also cause peripheral neuropathy. People who have suffered other side effects besides, or in addition to, peripheral neuropathy, might also not fit the criteria.
· Third, the judge will require that all potential plaintiffs be notified that a class action is in the works. This is where all of the television ads come in. Law firms might also advertise in print, radio, and even on social media sites to find potential plaintiffs.
The notification of plaintiffs is important because there are often people who have experienced side effects and not realized the cause. It’s also important because they need at least 100 plaintiffs, who meet the class criteria, to file the class action lawsuit.
· Fourth, plaintiffs who meet the criteria are automatically included in the suit, but are given the option to opt out if they wish.
· Fifth, the judge assigns counsel to handle the case. In most cases, the assigned counsel is the law firm that originally brought the case to the judge’s attention.
Once all five steps have been satisfied, the actual class action lawsuit begins.
The Class Action Lawsuit.
The process of a class action lawsuit is much like the process for any other personal injury lawsuit. There are four distinct phases: the discovery, the preparation for trial, the trial, and the judgment or damages.
· During the discovery phase both sides collect all the information they can on the case. This includes taking depositions from the plaintiffs and doctors involved in the case, reviewing plaintiff medical records, and even ordering physical examinations.
· In the trial preparation stage the attorneys for both sides put together all of the material they will need for the actual trial, including picking the jury, and finding expert witnesses.
· In the trial stage, both sides present their information to the judge and jury.
· In the judgment stage, the jury presents their verdict to the judge. If the jury rules in the plaintiffs’ favor, the plaintiffs receive their compensation, of which the law firm gets a portion.
It should be noted that a company could offer a financial settlement to the plaintiffs at any point, from discovery up to the last day of the trial. If the plaintiffs accept, the lawsuit ends at that point, and the plaintiffs collect on the settlement.