How the Class Action Lawsuit Process Works in New York

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Are you suffering from a wrong that has happened to many people? Do you think a class action would be appropriate, but feel unsure where to begin?

Or, have you been identified as a class member and are now wondering how the process will unfold now that you’ve filled out the appropriate forms?

Here is everything you need to know about the process.

Class Action Requirements

You can bring a class action lawsuit at the federal or state levels, but the circumstances must meet the following criteria.

  1. Numerosity. There must be so many aggrieved people or class members that it would be impractical to require multiple individual lawsuits.
  2. Commonality. The legal and factual issues must be common to all of the proposed class members. 
  3. Typicality. The named plaintiffs, or the individuals representing the class, have claims and defenses that are typical of the class.
  4. Representation. The courts must determine that the individuals representing the class will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the entire class. 

Once a class action lawyer believes that the proposed case meets all these criteria, they submit a complaint in the appropriate jurisdiction. The court must then “certify” the class by verifying that the proposed class action meets all of these criteria. 

For example, recently, New York Courts certified a class comprised of Honda of Manhattan customers who were passed on to Manhattan Luxury Automobiles (MLA). MLA began sending them emails and text messages if they did not opt-out rather than waiting for them to opt in. 

The courts agreed that three classes of customers existed: customers who had received unsolicited or spam auto-dialer messages, customers who had registered with the National Do Not Call Registry only to have their registration ignored, and customers who were harmed by MLA’s failure to put together an Internal Do Not Call List. All three classes may now sue. 

Who is in the “class?” 

You may be part of a class action lawsuit if you believe you have suffered from the same treatment that is being addressed by the lawsuit. 

Often, lawyers will call the public to inform them that a class action exists and invite them to join the class if they feel the behavior at issue has impacted them.

A potential class member will then file some basic information with the lawyer and provide some basic evidence so the lawyer can determine that they are a valid class member. A class member essentially agrees to be represented by the lawyer, but the lawyer does not seek payment from them. Class action lawyers work on contingency just like personal injury lawyers do. 

Sometimes, the courts determine that every customer a company has is part of the class. If that’s the case, company records are used to add people to the class, and class members don’t have to do anything at all. You may have, from time to time, received a piece of mail with a small check explaining that the company was involved in a class action lawsuit and that this is your share of compensation. 

Who are the “named plaintiffs?” 

The named plaintiffs are the people filing the suit. If you think you have a class action suit to launch, this might be you. 

Sometimes, a personal injury client agrees to launch the case as a class action when they find out that others have gone through what they have gone through. 

Members of the class are known as the “unnamed” plaintiffs. 

What happens next?

In many ways, a class action lawsuit now proceeds like any other lawsuit. Both sides will conduct discovery, arrange to conduct depositions, gather as much of their own evidence as possible, and try to negotiate a settlement.

If a settlement cannot be negotiated, the case will go to trial, and a jury will determine whether compensation will be awarded and how much. Only the lead plaintiff is deeply involved in this process. Most others tend to find out what happened after the fact when they get their cut of the settlement money. 

Speak to a New York Class Action Lawyer Today 

The money you receive in a Class Action case is usually much smaller than that from your personal injury case. 

But many people who launch class actions don’t care about that. They’re out to hold a company accountable and to change that company or organization’s behavior. Forcing companies to change their behavior can be part of a settlement agreement or court order. Class action lawsuits can also create a PR hit for companies. 

Regardless of your motivations, RLF is here to help if you think you have either a class action or personal injury lawsuit. Contact us to get started today.

See also: 

Frequently Asked Questions About Environmental Class Action Lawsuits

When Do You Need a NYC Personal Injury Lawyer? 

About the Total Life Changes Class Action Complaint


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