Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Class Action Definition:

When different persons combine their lawsuits into one opposed to a common defendant, because the facts are sufficiently similar.

Related Terms: Commonality, Community of Interest, Certification, Carriage Motion

When different persons combine their lawsuits because the facts and the defendant are so similar and where a single litigant's case is heard by the court as representative of all (together, called a "class").

In the Report of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Class Action Reform (1990), a class action was defined (as):

"... an action brought on behalf of, or for the benefit of numerous persons having a common interest. It is a procedural mechanism that is intended to provide an efficient means to achieve redress for widespread harm or injury by allowing one or more persons to bring the action on behalf of the many."

Class actions are designed to save Court time and to allow one judge to hear a representative case(s) once and to make one decision on the representative case which is binding on all the plaintiffs grouped in the class.

Class Action movie posterClass action lawsuits would typically occur after a plane or train accident where all the victims would sue the transportation company together in a class action suit; or in the event of a defective product purchased by many, such as an automobile as in the plot of the 1991 movie entitled Class Action (pictured, left).

For example, in Pennsylvania (Rules of Procedure), the process is known as class action and where, generally, the merger of all the individual causes occurs if:

  • The class is so numerous that adding all members as plaintiffs is impracticable;
  • There are questions of law or fact common to the class;
  • The claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class;
  • The representative parties will fairly and adequately assert and protect the interests of the class; and
  • A class action provides a fair and efficient method for adjudication of the controversy.

Also known as class proceedings as in Class Proceedings Act of British Columbia at qp.gov.bc.ca/statreg/stat/C/96050_01.htm, the Class Proceedings Act of Ontario at canlii.com/on/laws/sta/1992c.6/20070813/whole.html. Click here to see a sample class action filed in British Columbia (2014). See also Duhaime, Lloyd, World's Greatest Workers' Compensation or Tort Claim? Do Cellphones = Increased Risk of Brain Tumor?)

These CASES are typically very lucrative jobs for lawyers as their take an be exponentially larger than with a single persomal injuey plaintiff/client.

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