In California, a class action lawsuit is a legal action in which one or more plaintiffs sue as representatives of a group of people with similar claims. Liability is then determined by a judge who approves a legal remedy for all members.
Common types of these lawsuits that our California personal injury attorneys handle include (but are not limited to):
- Consumer class actions for consumer fraud,
- Dangerous or defective products liability,
- Employment wage and hour class actions,
- Civil rights violations,
- Securities class actions for securities violations,
- Valsartan lawsuits,
- Immigration violations,
- Asbestos violations,
- Antitrust violations, and
- Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) violations
Below, our California personal injury lawyers will answer these faqs:
- 1. What are class actions?
- 2. How do I start a class action lawsuit?
- 3. What criteria does a California court use in certifying a class?
- 4. What is the procedure?
- 5. Can I “opt out”?
- 6. Does everyone get the same amount of money in a class action lawsuit?
- 7. What are some current class actions I could join?
A class action in California is a lawsuit that resolves a common issue of liability and/or damages affecting a large group of people. California Code of Civil Procedure § 382 provides:
“[W]hen the question is one of a common or general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court, one or more may sue or defend for the benefit of all.”
Class actions are particularly useful for cases where each class member is seeking a relatively small amount of money (like after being overcharged on a cable bill or other utility bill or being victims of a scam). Bringing an individual lawsuit would not be worth the expense, but bringing a class action would.
You can initiate a class action in California. The first step is to file a lawsuit and move for certification.
The court then decides whether the proposed new class action claim meets the requirements for certification. At this point, the judge does not consider the underlying merits of the case. The judge only determines whether the claims should be tried under CCP 382.1
To get a certification in California, you must establish that there is “an ascertainable class” and a “well-defined community of interest among  members.”2
“Community of interest” is determined by three factors:
- Predominant common questions of law or fact;
- Class representatives with claims or defenses typical of all the members of the proposed class; and
- Representatives who can adequately represent all the members of the class.
You must also establish that resolving the claims in this type of lawsuit would “provide substantial benefits” to both the courts and the litigants.3 This involves showing that this type of lawsuit is superior to alternative methods of resolving the dispute(s), including individual litigation.4
Once the class is certified, the case moves forward as a lawsuit.
The court will notify potential members of the case by mailing them legal notice of the claim. The notice will explain what the class action case is about and the rights of each member.
If the class action litigation is eventually resolved in your favor (either by trial or settlement) the court will notify members how to make a claim for relief. In such a case, the defendant will usually be ordered to pay your fees and costs – including:
- attorneys’ fees, and
- court costs.5
You usually have the right to “opt out” of class actions or proposed settlements in California. The opt-out procedure will be explained in the legal notice sent by the court.
By opting out, you retain the right to file an individual lawsuit. If you do nothing, you will be bound by any settlement or decision in the lawsuit.
Only if everyone in the class suffered identical damages. Usually there are some class members who sustained mild injuries and others who endured major losses. So once a class action finally settles, the money should be divided among the class members in proportion to your individual losses.
Some notable open class action lawsuits in the US that you may be eligible to join are:
- Equifax Data Breach Class Action – This class action settlement allows people affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach where 147 million had personal info stolen to get free credit monitoring or cash payments up to $20,000 for losses.
- Facebook Biometric Data Class Action – Facebook users in Illinois can join this class action lawsuit alleging Facebook collected biometric data without consent through features like photo tagging.6
- Wells Fargo Auto Insurance Class Action – Wells Fargo customers who got unnecessary auto insurance can get part of a $300 million settlement.7
- Robinhood Outages Class Action – Robinhood users affected by major 2020 service outages can get compensation for losses in this $10 million settlement.
- LendingClub P2P Loan Class Action – Borrowers who paid origination fees on LendingClub personal loans can get payments from an $18 million settlement over claims the fees were excessive.
Contact us for help…
If you have been the victim of a wrongful act in California, we invite you to contact our class action attorneys for legal advice.
We can also help you determine whether you have the grounds for class actions in Nevada or class actions in Colorado. Also see our article on how many people are needed to start a class action lawsuit.
- Lindner vs. Thrifty Oil (2000) 23 Cal.4th 429; see, for example, Evenskaas v. Cal. Transit (Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, 2022) 2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 622; Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, (California Supreme Court, 2021), 11 Cal.5th 858; Falk v. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles ( See also CACI 115 – ““Class Action” Defined (Plaintiff Class)”. (See also FRCP 23 at dccourts.gov for federal law rules.)
- Sav-On Drug Stores v. Superior Court (2004) 34 Cal. 4th 319.
- Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 715. La Sala v. American Sav. & Loan Assn. (1971) 5 Cal.3d 864.
- Daar v. Yellow Cab Co, (1967) 67 Cal. 2d 695; Vasquez v. Superior Court (1971) 4 Cal.3d 800. Note that federal class actions are governed by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23 and 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332(d).
- According to the February 2010 report Class Certification in California by the Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts, “Eighty-nine percent of cases  ended in settlement while only 15 percent of cases with no  certification ended in settlement.” Note that in the 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated through various decisions that arbitration is often preferable to class actions. The Court also sanctioned the use of class action waivers. Note that class actions are not the same thing as multi-district litigations (MDLs). Certainly, MDLs are like class actions in that similarly injured plaintiffs join together to sue the same defendant in an effort to expedite litigation and save costs. Though MDLs are fundamentally different from class actions because MDL plaintiffs’ cases remain separate. MDLs are common in mass tort claims involving defective medical devices or dangerous drugs.
- Judge approves $650M Facebook privacy lawsuit settlement, AP (February 26, 2021).
- Dan Ennis, Wells Fargo to pay $300M to settle auto-loan class action, Banking Dive (Feb. 8, 2023).