If you do have a class action, what are the steps that you should expect to follow?

As the person who brings the class action, the class representative, your role is to represent your interests and the interests of the class. Like with most other types of litigation, to be the plaintiff, the things you will need to do to actively participate in the litigation will be to:

  • Confidentially discuss the basic facts of your case with an attorney to allow the attorney to make a preliminary determination whether your facts and circumstances amount to a class action.
  • Provide all relevant documents and information to the attorneys, as needed, for the attorney to be able to organize the facts that you have conveyed and the documentary proof and to finalize the firm's decision as to whether there is a class action that we would like to pursue.
  • Sign a retainer agreement retaining the law firm for your matter and agreeing to the terms of representation, including that the law firm pays all the costs and expenses for the litigation only to be repaid upon successful completion of the case and from the proceeds won in the case. No costs or expenses will be expected to be paid by you individually.
  • Answer written questions where the opposing attorney will write and submit a list of questions that you will be expected to answer honestly.
  • Answer questions orally at a deposition where you are asked questions by the opposing attorney so that they can understand your situation and the case in greater depth.
  • Attend trial and be on the stand. In rare instances when a class action does not settle, it makes it to trial. If the case does make it to trial, you will be expected to be available to answer questions orally at trial.

There may be additional obligations put on you depending on the case, and, if possible, we will inform you of them before your agreeing to be a class representative.

Depending on the corporate defendant, a class action may take many times longer or be quite a bit shorter than a individual cases. Some drag on for many years, while other class actions settle in a relatively short amount of time.

The usual order of events is that after a complaint is filed, the parties do limited investigation into whether the action fits the class action requirements. The plaintiffs then ask the court for class certification, a decision by the court whether the case may continue as a class action. The defendant generally opposes the request to try and stop the class from being certified.

The vast majority of class action cases are settled if the court certifies the case as a class action or if the defendant believes it will be certified. The members of a class action are notified of the proposed settlement and given an opportunity to join in or object to its terms. Some types of class actions require that you send in an "opt-in" form to join. For others, you're in if you do nothing. After the class members respond to the proposed settlement, a court determines whether the settlement is fair and reasonable.

The main benefit of class actions is that they level the playing field when individuals join together to take on a big company.

As a class plaintiff, you get the same benefit as all of the class members, plus, at the courts discretion, you may get a type of "bonus" as a thank you for your efforts in standing up for the rights of others.

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