What if you used a popular pesticide on your garden and later learned it was a health risk? Or received a hip or knee replacement that made your problems worse?
Countless class action lawsuits involve dangerous products, pharmaceutical drugs, and credit card abuses.
Some class action cases have even changed the course of history.
For example, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a class-action lawsuit that declared segregated or separate-but-equal schools unconstitutional and is one of the most important decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.
When a company or individual harms someone, the injured person may be able to sue those responsible for causing the injury. However, if the loss is relatively small, the amount of compensation awarded may not be worthwhile in light of the expected cost of litigation. However, there should be consequences for a company that produces defective products or engages in wrongdoing.
What can you do if you suffer an injury due to negligence, but it is not cost-effective to file a lawsuit?
You may be able to file a class-action lawsuit, which allows a single court case to adjudicate many similar claims at once. This process is a powerful and practical way for an individual to obtain justice. If you think you may have a potential class-action lawsuit, consult a St. Louis class-action lawsuit attorney at Bruning Law Firm to discuss your options.
Table of Contents
- About Bruning Law Firm
- What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
- Difference Between Class Action Lawsuits and Personal Injury Claims
- How a Class Action Lawsuit Works
- Should You File a Class Action Lawsuit or a Personal Injury Claim?
- What Compensation Can You Recover?
- Contact St. Louis Class Action Lawsuit Lawyer Today
About Bruning Law Firm
The Bruning Law Firm brings over 35 years of legal experience and knowledge to every case we take. We pursue justice and pride ourselves on being trial-ready lawyers that champion the rights of the injured and oppressed. We are also a family firm, bringing family values, care, and attention to every client and everything we do.
Some of the Bruning Law Firm’s recent case results include:
- $50 million jury verdict in detective product case
- $15.5 million settlement in a premises liability case
- $4.5 million settlement in a medical malpractice case
- $1.6 million jury verdict in a securities fraud case
Though these results do not guarantee our future successes, we believe it showcases the power and dedication of our firm along with the extensive knowledge that we bring to every new case we accept. Call the Bruning Law Firm for your free case evaluation.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action is a type of civil lawsuit brought on behalf of many people harmed in the same way by the same entity. When individuals do not have the resources to file a lawsuit, they band together in a single case. The plaintiff makes the complaint against the defendant. In a class-action lawsuit, a few lead plaintiffs typically file the lawsuit, but the suit may represent hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs simultaneously.
Common issues in class action litigation include dangerous or defective drugs or products, employment discrimination, privacy or data breaches, financial fraud, and environmental or health concerns.
Common class action lawsuits include actions for:
- Consumer fraud class action lawsuits are the most common type. They include business practices such as defective products, false advertising, or other violations of consumer protection laws.
- Employment class actions focus on abuses against employees, such as unpaid overtime and other compensation issues, missing break times, and discrimination.
- Privacy class action lawsuits have become more common. They deal with data breach violations and other issues involving collecting and using an individual’s personal information.
- Environmental disaster class action lawsuits are usually the result of oil spills, chemical spills, or water contamination.
- Securities fraud involves stock fraud, investment fraud, and stockbroker fraud.
- Insurance claims.
- Antitrust lawsuits involve actions such as price-fixing, which results in the consumer overpaying.
- Americans with disabilities have also filed class-action lawsuits claiming that companies have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against disabled Americans.
The Key Difference Between Class Action Lawsuits and Personal Injury Claims
In a class-action lawsuit, one lawsuit represents the entire entity, rather than each injured party filing a claim alone. Generally, if you have a personalized problem, you will file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. On the other hand, if your claim involves a widespread problem suffered by multiple people, a class action lawsuit can help each impacted party seek necessary compensation for those injuries.
In a class-action lawsuit, one plaintiff represents all the people who have sustained similar injuries because of the liable party’s negligence. Usually, the plaintiff has the same general injuries as other clients, often stemming from the same problem or type of problem.
1. The class-action lawsuit usually contains clear defining boundaries that determine who can join that class.
To participate in a class-action lawsuit, you will need to show that you fit into that class. Suppose, for example, that you discover that a class action lawsuit exists against the company that manufactured your hip replacement. Plaintiffs included in the case may include those who received a particular type of hip replacement within a specific time frame who have suffered specific problems.
If you received that specific hip replacement as part of your procedure, but do not have any of those problems, you may not have grounds to participate in the class-action lawsuit. On the other hand, if you go to your doctor for evaluation and discover that you do have those problems, you may have grounds to participate in the lawsuit.
2. A judge must certify the class involved in the lawsuit.
A judge will evaluate the class defined by the lawsuit and determine whether it should count as a single class, usually based on the size of the group. If a large group of people has suffered similar injuries because of using a product, the judge may be more likely to certify the class than if it includes only a small number of people.
3. A class-action lawsuit usually involves a common set of factors that led to serious injury.
These common factors help establish the grounds for a class-action lawsuit, rather than each entity who suffered injury needing to file a personal injury claim on their own.
Possible defendants in a class-action lawsuit
Any entity whose negligent, reckless, illegal, or intentional conduct harms many people may be a defendant in a class-action lawsuit.
Possible defendants include:
- Manufacturers of consumer goods
- Employers that discriminate against their employees or fail to adhere to employment laws
- Banks, mortgage companies, and other financial services
- Companies that practice false or misleading advertising
Laws concerning class action lawsuits
There are state and federal laws concerning class action lawsuits. In U.S. district courts, the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) allows any class action with damages greater than $5 million to be removed to federal court. The goal of this law is partly to reduce forum-shopping by plaintiffs hoping to file their claim in the most favorable state court.
The primary source of law regarding class actions in U.S. federal courts is Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs can bring class actions in most state courts, and most states, including Missouri, have requirements similar to Rule 23 that govern class action proceedings in their courts. These rules protect the rights of absent class members and set forth requirements for the lawsuits.
Missouri’s rules on class actions are very similar to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23. The proposed class must meet specific requirements to achieve certification as a class action.
For example, according to Missouri Rule 52.08(a), the prerequisites for certification as a class action are:
(1) the class is so numerous that the joinder of all members is impracticable,
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class,
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
How a class action lawsuit works in St. Louis
If someone contacts an attorney about a possible class action, the attorney must carefully evaluate the circumstances to decide whether a class action lawsuit is appropriate; otherwise, the court may dismiss the case as frivolous.
The attorney may consider factors such as:
- Has someone already filed a lawsuit concerning this issue?
- How many others have similarly suffered harm?
- Does the statute of limitations, which is the deadline for filing a lawsuit, bar the claim?
- Are their previous cases and legal opinions regarding similar claims?
- Has the defendant filed bankruptcy, or are there other circumstances shielding the defendant from liability?
- Should the defendant file an individual lawsuit or a class action?
Filing the lawsuit
As with other lawsuits, the complaint is the legal document that begins the lawsuit. The named, or lead, plaintiff is the person (or persons) filing the lawsuit. However, there are also many people, possibly hundreds or thousands, who are class members. These are individuals similarly affected by the claims listed in the complaint. Any resulting settlement or judgment will cover the class members.
Often, they do not know about the suit until they receive a class action notice in the mail. This notice tells them that a recently filed or settled lawsuit may affect their legal rights. The defendant is the opposing company or person.
If the attorney believes a class action is appropriate, they will draft a complaint describing the facts of the case and the damages sought. The complaint also indicates the class of persons covered by the lawsuit. For example, in a class-action lawsuit for a defective appliance, the proposed class of people might be anyone in the United States who purchased the defective appliance for personal use.
Certifying the class
Even though an attorney files a class-action lawsuit, it is not an official class action until a judge gives it a class certification. Instead, it is a putative class action until the judge confirms all the requirements and certifies the case.
Now the lawsuit moves into the discovery phase. During this time, the lawyer may request documents, interrogatories, depositions, and other evidence to prove the allegations in the complaint. For example, in the case of a defective appliance, the lawyer may request design and engineering documents.
Resolution of the lawsuit through settlement or trial
Very few civil cases go to trial. Instead, the parties reach a negotiated settlement. When a class action lawsuit settles, the defendant typically establishes a settlement fund to compensate the victims. The presiding judge studies the settlement to determine if it provides fair compensation to the class members.
If so, the judge issues an order approving the settlement. Sometimes no one contests approval of the settlement, and a judge with an overloaded docket does not hold a fairness hearing. However, the law provides that there must be a hearing on the settlement even if there are no objections.
If the parties do not settle, the case proceeds to a trial. A judge or jury hears the evidence and decides the case.
Notification of the class members
Frequently, a class action lawsuit affects hundreds of people, many of whom are still unidentified. To reach all potentially affected people, courts issue instructions for notifying potential claimants. For example, they may run advertisements in various types of media. In some cases, the lawyer sends this notice after the judge has certified the case as a class action and after the lawsuit resolves.
Potential plaintiffs usually have the right to opt in (join the lawsuit) or opt out (decline to join). This step is an important decision because if you opt in to a class-action lawsuit, you cannot take individual action by filing a separate civil lawsuit. If you opt out of a class-action suit, you can choose to pursue a separate lawsuit on your own or not take any legal action.
If their damages exceed the losses of others in the class action, a person might want to consider opting out of a class action to file their own case. However, someone participating in a class-action lawsuit will not be able to seek legal action for the same matter. Once the individual informs the court of their decision to opt out, it is not possible to change their mind and opt in a class-action lawsuit.
Generally, class members have a deadline to collect their awarded compensation. If they fail to take their settlement award, the court disburses the remaining money at the judge's discretion. For example, it may go to a qualified non-profit charity, put in a consumer trust fund, or return to the defendant.
How much does it cost to join a class-action lawsuit?
There is no cost for joining a class-action lawsuit. In most class action cases, the court determines how to pay the court costs and attorneys’ fees. Usually, the attorneys take their costs and expenses. They also receive a percentage of the total compensation awarded to class members as attorneys’ fees. Therefore, all plaintiffs share the costs of expenses and attorneys’ fees.
The only financial consideration is whether the individual wants to opt out of the class action to file their own lawsuit. The damages depend on the plaintiffs' injuries, the number of people in the class, and the company's value.
For example, if 10,000 plaintiffs sue a small company, they each may receive only a little compensation. However, if your injuries are substantially worse than other plaintiffs in your class, joining a class action could cost you a great deal of money. Before pursuing a class action lawsuit or joining a class action, you should discuss potential fees and anticipated damages with an experienced attorney.
How is the compensation from a class action suit divided?
Before disbursing the funds, the judge must review the proposed compensation and confirm that it is an appropriate settlement of the case. Even if the parties settle before trial, the court must still approve the settlement agreement.
The lead plaintiffs, the participants, and the lawyers who worked on the lawsuit split the compensation. Each person's payoff depends on the number of lead plaintiffs, injured plaintiffs, and class members. The lead plaintiffs typically have the worst injuries and the greatest damages. Payments may come in sums or structured settlements.
Should You File a Class Action Lawsuit or a Personal Injury Claim?
Generally, if you fit into the class defined by a class-action lawsuit, you will need to participate in a class-action lawsuit, rather than filing a personal injury claim on your own. If a class-action lawsuit does not exist, on the other hand, you may file a personal injury claim based on your specific injuries. Consult the attorneys at Bruning Law Firm to help determine whether you should participate in a class-action lawsuit. You may want to consider several key factors.
Which strategy will best help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries?
Often, a class-action lawsuit will assign specific damages to the members of the class based on the injuries they have sustained. Instead of breaking down specific costs, which may vary from one person to the next, a class action lawsuit may assign a lump amount to all members. Your specific expenses may not look like the expenses sustained by others involved in the class-action lawsuit, even if you sustained relatively similar injuries.
It may take longer to settle a class-action lawsuit than a personal injury claim.
A class-action lawsuit may need to allow time, not only for your attorney to investigate the claim, but for your attorney to find others who may participate. The negotiation may also take longer, since the company might fight harder to minimize the compensation it has to pay out as much as possible.
Bruning Law Firm: St. Louis Class Action Lawsuit Attorneys
At Bruning Law Firm, we have successfully helped manage many lawsuits, including class-action lawsuits against large companies. For example, we helped manage a claim in which a cleaner was overcharging on its fees, resulting in considerable compensation for our clients.
When we work on class action lawsuits, we offer many advantages.
We help identify the full compensation deserved by members of the class.
Many of the members of your class, all of whom may have sustained severe injuries, may have little idea how much compensation they actually deserve for those injuries. At Bruning Law Firm, we help break down the compensation you should pursue for the injuries you sustained, including the financial losses you may have faced because of your injuries.
We put together a compelling argument that helps show why the liable party should pay for those injuries.
Dealing with a class-action lawsuit can prove incredibly complex and time-consuming, particularly as you wrestle with the liable party and why that party should accept the blame for the accident. At Bruning Law Firm, we help put together a compelling argument that will establish how the liable entity violated its duty of care to you and the rest of your class and why you deserve compensation for the injuries you sustained. By presenting the claim properly, we can help make it easier for everyone in the class to get the compensation they deserve.
We help clearly define the class and actively seek out other members who may deserve compensation.
Finding the right people to participate in a class-action lawsuit can be an incredibly important part of the process. You want to make sure that you bring in as many members as possible, but at the same time, you want to identify a clear class that will define who needs compensation and why—making it more difficult to dispute the compensation you deserve. We will help clearly define the class involved in the lawsuit and the damages you sustained due to your use of a specific product.
We help make sure that you understand all your rights as you move forward with a class action claim.
You may encounter difficulties along the way as you move toward the resolution of a class-action lawsuit. At Bruning Law Firm, we will make sure you understand your rights, and we can answer any questions you might have about the class action lawsuit process.
What Compensation Can You Recover in a St. Louis Class Action Lawsuit?
Compensation in a class action lawsuit will depend on a variety of factors. Keep in mind several key facts about dealing with class-action lawsuits.
1. The judge will take a look at a single plaintiff and use that plaintiff’s injuries, medical bills, and other losses to establish the baseline for the entire claim.
In a class-action lawsuit, the judge will use a single example of the injuries that the plaintiffs have sustained to determine what compensation the entire class deserves. In general, a class-action lawsuit will include damages based on:
Average medical bills. The judge will look at the example plaintiff’s injuries and what medical bills they led to. Suppose, for example, that a product has a history of causing traumatic brain injury in its users. Unlike a personal injury claim, a judge will not look at every plaintiff’s medical bills. Instead, the judge will examine the average medical bills faced by every member of the claim, then base compensation accordingly.
Medical bills may include all medical expenses related to the accident and to those injuries, including emergency medical care, hospitalization, and ongoing procedures to treat those injuries. If you required specialized medical care because of your injuries, or you suffered more complications than the averag” plaintiff used to represent the class, you may not receive additional compensation for those costs. Burn victims, for example, may suffer a high rate of complications, but those complications often depend on individual factors, rather than victims experiencing the same symptoms across the board.
Potential compensation for lost wages. Some injuries naturally cause people to lose time at work. Often, that can mean substantial lost income during an incredibly trying and traumatic time. During a class-action lawsuit, the judge will look at your approximate time lost at work and assign a specific amount of compensation to those losses. Those calculations will not include individual calculations for every member of the class, but may assign a general amount for lost wages. If you lost less time at work—for example, if your employer chose to work with you to get you back to work as quickly as possible, or allowed you to continue working from home while you recovered from your injuries—you may receive the same compensation as others in the class action suit. On the other hand, if you face higher lost wages due to a higher-paying job or a longer stay at home after your injuries, you may still receive the same compensation as others.
Compensation for the long-term impacts of the injuries you sustained, including pain and suffering. Many lawsuits, including class action lawsuits, will include a request for compensation for the victims’ pain and suffering. In a class-action lawsuit, that amount will generally reflect a percentage of your medical bills. You will not need to tell your personal story or to personally explain the suffering you may have expressed as part of the claim.
2. The judge will determine how to distribute the funds associated with a class action claim.
Usually, a class action claim will involve specific compensation paid out to each member of the lawsuit. If most of the members of the class sustained similar injuries, it may involve only a basic, percentage-based calculation. On the other hand, some class-action lawsuits may involve more complex breakdowns based on the type and severity of injuries sustained.
3. You may not receive as much compensation as part of a class-action lawsuit as you would if you filed an individual personal injury claim.
Often, a class-action lawsuit will not offer the best possible outcome for many individual members of the lawsuit. You may not receive as much compensation as you would if you filed a personal injury claim, particularly if the company must stretch its resources to compensate the victims of that accident. However, it can make hiring an attorney more cost-effective and can reduce much of the stress associated with the claim. If you fit into the class described by a class-action lawsuit, you may no longer have a choice about filing a personal injury claim.
Contact Bruning Law Firm if You Feel You Have a Class Action Case
These types of lawsuits allow individuals to seek justice from a negligent party when they would not be able to pursue the claim on their own. Participating in a class-action lawsuit often relieves much of the stress of legal fees or participating in court proceedings.