Frequently Asked QuestionsWHAT IS A CLASS ACTION?
A class action is a form of lawsuit in which one or more persons acting on his or her own behalf bring a claim to court in the hopes of representing others who have suffered a similar harm at the hands of the same party. In this type of litigation, the claims of many people who are similarly situated are resolved in a single proceeding.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A CLASS ACTION?
The purpose of a class action is to help level the legal playing field between big corporations and average people. The goals of a class action can be summarized as follows:
1) Access to justice: giving people who might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of a lawyer a chance to have their day in court;
2) Judicial economy: saving court costs in the handling of large cases involving many injured people by only having one trial;
3) Behaviour modification: deterring corporate wrongdoing by making them pay large sums for any harm they may have caused to individuals.
WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF A CLASS ACTION?
The primary advantage of a class action is that it is often the only realistic option to bringing justice to a cause. It allows a group of people to have access to the courts in situations where the case would be too expensive or too complex for one person to sue on his or her own.
ARE THERE ANY COSTS TO BEING A CLASS MEMBER?
Financial risks for taking on a class action are absorbed by the law firm. Individual class members are not responsible to pay lawyer fees nor are they liable to pay any costs if the class action is not successful.
The costs are assumed by the lawyers who act for the lead plaintiff in conformity with a written agreement to this effect. Typically, it is a contingency fee agreement with class counsel, which provides for the payment of legal fees only if the action is resolved successfully, either by way of settlement or judgment.
All legal fees of class counsel must first be approved by the court, which must be satisfied that the fees are fair and reasonable in the circumstances.
HOW DO I JOIN A CLASS ACTION?
You do not have to do anything to join a class action. A person who fits within the court's definition of the class is automatically included in the class action unless he or she follows the instructions the court gives on how to be excluded following certification.
However, in order to assist the lawyers representing the class, it is very helpful to provide information related to your claim and your contact information. This way, you will be able to receive direct notice of certification, the results of the trial or of a settlement, and other major steps in the legal proceeding.
If the class action is successful, you will need to file a claim in order to receive any compensation. Therefore, it will be useful to keep actively informed of all developments.
WHY SHOULD I PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION?
All class members stand to benefit from a successful class action and are not burdened with the expense and inconvenience of starting and prosecuting their own lawsuit. There are also no costs or legal fee associated with being a class member and no risk of any adverse awards if the class action is not successful.
HOW LONG WILL THE LAWSUIT TAKE BEFORE IT IS RESOLVED?
Since class actions are usually brought against large corporations and involve complex legal issues, they can take several years. Although each case is different, a typical class action will take at least 2-3 years.
HOW DOES A CLASS ACTION WORK?
1) A lawyer files a class action lawsuit on behalf of one or more parties;
2) A judge agrees that the case should proceed as a class action and certifies it;
3) Once certified, the judge directs notice be given to all parties having a similar claim during a defined time period so they may be informed and have input on the case. This first notice gives people an opportunity to "opt out" (not be part of the class or represented by the party who brought the case). Those who opt out have no further standing in the case and can either drop the matter or bring an action on their own behalf. Individuals that remain a party in the case are bound by the judgment or settlement and prohibited from taking any further action.
4) The case could potentially proceed for years. It is either settled out of court and presented for approval as to fairness (most often the case), or the case is tried and the judge renders a decision. If the lead plaintiff and the class members win a judgment over the company being sued, there is another publication notifying people about how they can collect their damages or take advantage of any other
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN A CLASS ACTION?
You are responsible to make sure that you submit your claim before the end of the notice period in order to be compensated.
If a class action is successful, notice is usually given to all eligible parties by publication in various newspapers or by direct mail, if possible. This notice will give you detailed instructions of what you need to submit and where you need to send your claim.
If you do not receive notice and the deadline for participation in a class passes, you have no recourse in that particular lawsuit, meaning you have no right to any of the damages awarded. It is for this reason that it is important to register your name and contact information on the website of plaintiff's counsel (this website if you are affected by any class action lawsuit in which we act as class counsel) to make sure that you receive notice and do not mistakenly miss it, thereby negatively affecting your right of recovery.