There are several class action lawsuits involving drugs that are used by people with diabetes, which allegedly have some very unwanted side effects (e.g., Avantia), and drugs that allegedly cause diabetes (e.g., Zyprexa). This article provides some basic information about class action lawsuits to assist in the decision on whether or not to join such a lawsuits.
Torts are lawsuits that do not involve criminal claims. The plaintiff sues the defendant, claiming that the defendant intentionally or unintentionally harmed the plaintiff. An unintentional action that causes harm to another is usually called negligence. The plaintiff is usually seeking monetary relief (payment) to make up for the harm they experienced because of the defendant’s action or inaction. Sometimes in a tort the plaintiff is seeking for the defendant to perform specific action(s) or to refrain from performing specific action(s). Such non-monetary requests are known as equitable relief.
A class action lawsuit is a tort claim that involves numerous parties who were harmed by the defendant. Each individual plaintiff may not have suffered sufficient harm to make it cost-effective to engage legal counsel to pursue the case. However, if there are multiple individuals who suffer a similar harm from the same defendant the law allows these individuals to form a class and as a group prosecute against the defendant. This can make it feasible for numerous plaintiffs with “small” claims to be able to afford these tort actions because much of the proof against the defendant is the same for all plaintiffs.
To be certified as a class the plaintiffs must show commonality (the plaintiff’s claims are common to the entire class), adequacy (the representative, named, parties adequately represent the interests of the class), numerosity (the number of individuals that make up the class is so large as to make individual suits impractical), and typicality (claims of the representative plaintiffs are typical of the class of plaintiffs.) The specific law on interpreting these elements varies by jurisdiction. The class is certified if a judge agrees that these criteria are met. Once a class is certified the case may continue to court or settlement. A recent suit against Wal-Mart was not certified because the judge did not agree that the different plaintiffs claims were similar enough to be certified as a class.
Class action lawsuits can allow many small plaintiffs to file a lawsuit and obtain remedies from large well-funded defendants. Also, most class action plaintiffs’ attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that they only receive money if their clients receive money from the defendant. Since attorneys’ fees are taken out of any payments before plaintiffs receive any money, some plaintiffs who can show substantial harm do not recover sufficient moneys to cover their harm. Also, depending on the specific structure of the settlement, sometimes the representative plaintiffs receive more than the un-named members of the class. Finally, sometimes the class action lawsuit is the only way some plaintiffs will ever be able to afford a suit against the defendant and receive any payments for the harm they have experienced from the defendant’s action or inaction.
The amount of the payments to individual plaintiffs can often seem quite small. There is also a current trend of awarding plaintiffs coupons for future purchases. This requires the plaintiffs to have future dealings with the defendant who has done them wrong in the past. Some lawyers believe this type of monetary relief is unfair to the plaintiffs.
If you are solicited to become part of a class for a class action lawsuit consider the following:
1) It will be a long time before you will know whether or not your class wins, whether in court or in an out-of-court settlement agreement.
2) The amount of monetary relief may not be sufficient to cover your personal harm and may require you to have additional business dealings with the defendant.
3) This may be an opportunity for you to be part of an legal action that will make a defendant admit they did wrong and take corrective action.
In summary, even if the eventual monetary relief from a class action lawsuit may not cover your damages there may be other reasons for you to become part of a class.
Note: This is not legal advice. I'm not your attorney. This type of claim may be covered under State or Federal law. Applicable law varies greatly from State to State and from State to Federal Law. This article provides general information that may not apply to your specific situation. This merely provides guidance on deciding what to tell your lawyer.