A California “class action” lawsuit is a legal action in which one or more plaintiffs sue as representatives of a “class” of people with similar claims. Liability is then determined by a judge who approves a legal remedy for all members of the class.
Common types of class action litigation our California personal injury attorneys handle include (but are not limited to):
- Consumer fraud,
- Dangerous or defective products liability,
- Employment wage and hour class actions,
- Civil rights violations,
- Securities violations,
- Valsartan lawsuits, and
- Immigration violations.
To help you better understand “class action” lawsuits, our California personal injury lawyers discuss, below:
- 1. What is a class action?
- 2. How does a class action get initiated in California?
- 3. What criteria does a California court use in certifying a class?
- 4. What is the procedure in a class action?
- 5. Can people “opt out” of a class action in California?
A class action is a lawsuit that resolves a common issue of liability and/or damages affecting many people.
The primary authority for class actions in California is Code of Civil Procedure § 382 on “permissive joinder.” CCP 382 provides, in relevant part:
“[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.”
Any potential plaintiff can initiate a class action in California. The first step in a class action is to file a lawsuit and move for certification as a class.
The court then decides whether the proposed class meets the requirements for certification. At this point, the judge does not consider the underlying merits of the case. He or she only determines whether the claims should be tried as a class action.1
To get certification as a class action in California, the plaintiff must establish that there is “an ascertainable class” and a “well-defined community of interest among class 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 the class; and
- Class representatives who can adequately represent the class.
Plaintiffs must also establish that resolving the claims in a class action would “provide substantial benefits” to both the courts and the litigants.3
This involves showing that a class action 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 California class action lawsuit.
The court will notify potential members of the class of the case by mailing them legal notice of the claim (usually at the plaintiff’s expense).
The notice will explain what the case is about and the rights of each member of the class.
Class members usually have the right to “opt out” of a class action lawsuit or proposed settlement in California. The opt-out procedure will be explained in the legal notice sent by the court.
A class member who opts out retains the right to file an individual lawsuit. A class member who does nothing will be bound by any settlement or decision in the class action.
If the litigation is eventually resolved in the plaintiff’s favor (either by trial or settlement) the court will notify class members how to make a claim for relief. In such a case, the defendant will usually be ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ fees and costs – including attorneys’ fees and court costs.
In California, the vast majority of certified class actions end up being resolved by settlement.5
Thinking of bringing a class action in California? Call us for help…
If you have been the victim of a wrongful act in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Call us or fill out the form on this page to discuss your individual or California class action lawsuit with a lawyer.
- Lindner vs. Thrifty Oil (2000) 23 Cal.4th 429.
- Sav-On Drug Stores v. Superior Court (2004) 34 Cal. 4th 319.
- Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 715.
- Daar v. Yellow Cab Co, (1967) 67 Cal. 2d 695; Vasquez v. Superior Court (1971) 4 Cal.3d 800.
- 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 with a certified class ended in settlement while only 15 percent of cases with no class certification ended in settlement.”