Tag Archives: class representative

Questions and Answers about Class Actions

What is a class action?

A class action is a type of lawsuit in which one or several persons sue on behalf of a larger group of similarly-situated persons.

What is a class representative?

Class representatives are plaintiffs named in the lawsuit who assert the claims of the entire class so that everyone with the same claim or injury does not have to file his or her own separate lawsuit.

What are the duties of class representative?

A plaintiff must meet certain basic requirements in order to be certified by the court as a class representative. The representative’s situation must be typical of the situation in which other class members find themselves and the representative must be generally familiar with the litigation. A class representative must cooperate in the preparation of the case, and be present on reasonable notice for any necessary appearances. In addition, a class representative may be asked to produce documents and/or give deposition testimony throughout the litigation process.

Are class representatives entitled to additional compensation?

If a class action is successful in winning relief for the class, some courts will provide class representatives with “service awards.” Judges are typically given broad discretion in deciding whether these awards are appropriate and in setting the amounts of the awards. In deciding how much, if anything, to award to the class representatives, courts look at factors such as the amount of involvement of the class representative and the size of the recovery for the class. The duties of class representatives may require an effort deserving of a service premium in addition to any recovery the representative may obtain by virtue of his or her membership in the class. Therefore, the attorneys may attempt to recover an appropriate amount for the class representative’s service, but make no promise or guaranty that the attorneys will seek a service award or that the Court will award any service premium.

What are the costs to me?

Most class action law firms work on a contingency-fee basis. This means that, to the extent provided by law, you do not pay any costs or expenses of litigation upfront, and lawyers do not collect any fees from you unless the firms working on the case obtain a recovery on your behalf.

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What is a class representative?

The terms “Class Representative” and “Named Plaintiff” are interchangeable –  both describe the person whose name is listed on a class action lawsuit, because they are standing up for a group of plaintiffs who have suffered the same loss or injury.

A class action is usually captioned like so:  “JANE SMITH, on behalf of all others similary situated v. BADCORP INC.”  or “JANE SMITH et al. v. BADCORP INC.”

If you are thinking of being a named plaintiff and wondering “What’s in it for me?,” there are both tangible and intangible benefits.  First, and most obviously, without a plaintiff, there can be no class action.  When a person elects to become a class representative in a lawsuit against an unethical corporation, they undertake an important public service.  By bringing to light a harmful business practice, they inspire others to join them.  In this way, that first courageous named plaintiff gives voice to dozens or even thousands of people who have been wronged.  Therefore, because of the contribution of the named plaintiff, an injustice or series of injustices can be corrected.

Corporate wrongdoers often count on no one taking the time and effort to expose them; named plaintiffs in effect are the unlikely heroes, who have the power to change things for the better for a large group of people. One class action lawsuit can have a ripple effect, sending a message to other corporations or even an entire industry to clean up its act before they end up in court also.

Incentive Awards

Generally, named plaintiffs receive no more than the other members of the class.  However, sometimes there are court-approved “incentive awards.” According to an excerpt from the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Class Action Guidelines:

“Most recent decisions…have approved the incentive award payments to named plaintiffs in recognition of their efforts in achieving the results obtained. Many cases note the obvious public policy reasons for encouraging individuals with small personal stakes to serve as class plaintiffs in meritorious cases….The amounts awarded in reported cases vary widely from token payments to amounts in the tens or—rarely—even hundreds of thousands of dollars. See e.g., Fears v. Wilhelmina Model Agency, Inc., 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7961, 9-10 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (approving incentive awards of $25,000 and $15,000; noting cases approving awards as low as $336 and as high as $303, 000  most awards being in the $10,000 to $50,000 range).”

The named plaintiffs in the 2010 Extenze class action in California received incentive awards ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.

$5,000 – $10,000 Incentive Award

The named plaintiffs in the Muscle Milk class action each received $2,500.

$2,500 Incentive Award

Attorneys cannot pay people to become class representatives.  A person who purchases a product for the sole purpose of becoming a named plaintiff lacks standing and cannot represent a class.

Standing up for What is Right

If you have been harmed by a company, think of how many others also have been injured by the same unethical business practice.  On one end of the spectrum, maybe a bad medicine made you seriously ill, or caused a birth defect to your child.  On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you were charged ten cents over the price advertised.  Whatever the case, a business practice that has affected you in a negative way has likely affected many others also.

Finally, in those instances where our government refuses to crack down on unfair and deceptive business practices, class action lawsuits are sometimes the only available to “clean up” the marketplace.

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