A class action suit is one in which the plaintiffs form a class of people or organizations who claim that the defendant caused them similar harm in similar circumstances. Often, a single class action lawsuit can take the place of hundreds or thousands of individual lawsuits, many of which would never reach court due to low-value damages. Filing a class action suit requires some research into violations, applicable laws, and attorneys best prepared to handle the suit.
Before filing a class action suit, it is important to determine if enough violations have occurred to create a “class” of injured parties. For instance, if a movie theater overcharged one person's credit card by $10 US Dollars (USD) and refused to rectify it, he or she might have a justified complaint. If the movie theater had applied this charge to hundreds of transactions by different customers, it would likely be considered grounds for a class action lawsuit. To determine if others have been harmed by the same issue, it is important to do some detective work to find if friends, family, local patrons, or even strangers have suffered identical problems from the same source. In addition to simply asking other people, it may be useful to do Internet searches or post on community forums, seeking other victims.
The discovery period may be simplified by contacting a lawyer who specializes in class action lawsuits. This is an area where research is vital to future results, since not all class action lawyers are equally skilled and reliable. Read online reviews or search the trial and verdict history of candidate attorneys to find one with a history and record that may be beneficial to the case. Once choices are narrowed, plaintiffs may request a consultation with the attorney to present their findings and suspicions and see if there is a way forward for a class action suit. Many attorneys will agree to do a free or low-cost consultation to determine if a reasonable case exists.
After hiring a lawyer, the next step involves filing the class action suit with the appropriate court. Generally, the attorney's office will handle the filing of all paperwork, but client input may be required to write the specific claim. If the case is accepted, the plaintiff and his or her lawyer will need to see that a court summons is served to the defendant in the case, notifying him of the date and time of the first hearing.
During this time, the attorney and the court will likely be making efforts to determine how many victims will be represented by the primary plaintiffs in court. This number is important, as it can determine the limits of the settlement should the case be found for the plaintiffs. Sometimes, plaintiffs and lawyers in a class action suit will publish public advertisements or even television commercials seeking other victims of the same wrong to come forward to assist the case. With each verifiable additional member of the class, the amount of the total damages awarded may rise accordingly.