The Benefits of Suing Independently vs. Class Action Suits
Let’s look at a hypothetical. You work at the local branch of a multistate organization. You feel you are being discriminated against because of your race, sexual orientation, or another protected characteristic, so you consider reporting it and taking legal action. However, you find others in your same branch who feel the same way.
This brings up a legal fork in the road. What if employees in other branches are experiencing the same discrimination? Should you attempt to mount a class action lawsuit to cover everyone who is being discriminated against, or should you just seek redress on your own?
There are benefits and challenges to both approaches. If you go it alone, you can work directly with your attorney to fashion the strategy, but if you choose the class action route, you can lose that one-on-one aspect. There are several other considerations to take into account when choosing the course you will take.
Class action lawsuits aren’t just restricted to work situations, of course. Many other such lawsuits concern consumer products, shareholder rights, medicines, medical treatments, and more.
If you feel you have a legitimate reason to seek redress of a wrong, or if you are being sued for something your business is accused of, and you’re in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, contact the Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC. to determine the best course of legal action to take and to understand the pros and cons of each approach.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
The largest class action lawsuit undertaken and won was initiated by 52 states and territories against the tobacco industry in 1998. Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and two other tobacco companies agreed to pay $206 billion to settle the lawsuit, but the money went to the government bodies, not to individuals.
That same year, the Dow Corning Corporation agreed to pay out $3.2 billion to 170,000 women who sued for injuries and illnesses resulting from silicone breast implants. Shareholders in the Cendant Corporation also won $3.2 billion in 1998 for accounting irregularities.
In short, a class action lawsuit brings together many people, called a class, who have suffered similar injuries or financial losses. They are often filed against a large corporation, and because the lawsuits are broad-based, they assert more pressure on the defendant to settle.
Benefits and Challenges of Filing Independently
If, using our earlier example, Employee A decides to file a lawsuit on his or her own, the benefits are several, including control over the process and working closely with an attorney and that person’s legal team. This means that every move taken in the litigation likely will be run by the employee who is suing.
Of course, the other benefit is that, should there be a settlement or jury award, Employee A will be the sole recipient. On the flip side, Employee A will be responsible for all legal expenses unless the attorney agrees to “no fee unless we win.”
Benefits and Challenges of Filing a Class Action Lawsuit
The first major challenge of mounting a class action lawsuit is to find enough people similarly affected that you can mount a joint action. There is no specific number of how many people need to be involved, but generally, it is usually a few dozen. The legal requirement for the number of class members is that they may be “so numerous that the joinder of all members is impracticable.”
A major benefit is the defendant might be more willing to settle when faced with a larger number of plaintiffs. Also, on the financial front, the attorney or attorneys mounting the class action lawsuit will look to receive their compensation from the award or settlement, so the class members themselves will not be responsible for any legal fees.
Again, on the flip side, the class will have no control over the legal proceedings themselves. The attorneys will decide the proper course of action on their own. Also, since the final settlement or court award will be divided among all the members in the class, minus the attorneys’ shares, it might well be lower than winning an individual lawsuit.
Legal Guidance You Can Trust
The Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, INC. is experienced in all aspects of business law and can help you decide on the best course of action – individual lawsuit or class action lawsuit – and will then aggressively mount your case and represent you. On the other side, if you are facing a lawsuit, whether individual or class action, we stand ready to aggressively defend your rights and interests.
If you’re in or around San Francisco, California, or in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Jose, Oakland, or Alameda County, reach out with all your business-related questions and concerns.