Class action lawsuits permit one or more plaintiffs to file and prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group. The class members have suffered the same wrong at the hands of the defendant or defendants but are too numerous for the court to adequately manage if each were required to be named plaintiffs.
Class action lawsuits do more than simply address the situation of too many plaintiffs to litigate a case manageably; the justifications that led to the development of the class action include the protection of the defendant from inconsistent obligations, the protection of the interests of absentees, the provision of a convenient and economical means for disposing of similar lawsuits and the facilitation of the spreading of litigation costs among numerous litigants with similar claims. Moreover, it saves the resources of both the courts and the parties by permitting an issue potentially affecting every class member to be litigated in an economical fashion.
To proceed as a class action, district courts must make the following findings: (1) The number of class members renders it impracticable to join them in the action, (2) the class members’ claims share common questions of law or fact, (3) the claims or defenses of the proposed class representatives are typical of those for the rest of the class, and (4) the proposed class representatives will adequately protect the interests of the entire class.
Furthermore, in addition to the numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation requirements, the district court must make at least one of the following findings: (1) Requiring separate actions by or against the class members would create the risk of inconsistent rulings, or a ruling with respect to individual class members may be dispositive of other class member claims, thereby substantially impairing or impeding their ability to protect their interests; (2) the party against whom the class seeks relief has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to the class so that injunctive or declaratory relief as to the entire class would be appropriate; or (3) common questions of law or fact common predominate over class-member–specific questions, and that proceeding by way of class action would be superior to other available methods for resolving the dispute.
Last Update: Oct. 2, 2008
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