Litigation 101 for eDiscovery Tech Professionals: Class Action Lawsuits
May 15, 2013
** This blog series is intended to introduce new eDiscovery professionals to the litigation process and litigation terminology. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here to go to the first twenty nine posts in the series.**
In the last two posts in this series, I told you about alternatives to litigation. And that followed discussion of the litigation process, through the post-trial appeals process. We’re not done yet, though. When I discuss the litigation process with law firm technology professionals, they often ask me about different types of litigation… for example, about class action litigation, or multidistrict litigation, or antitrust litigation, and so on. In the next few posts, I’m going to describe different types of litigation so these terms will be familiar to you.
Class Action Litigation
A class action lawsuit is one that is filed by one or more individuals on behalf of a group – or class – of members who have a common grievance or have suffered a common injury. For example, a group of individuals who have had a common adverse reaction to a drug product might bring a class action suit against the pharmaceutical company. Or a group of individuals serviced by a utility company might file a class action lawsuit against that utility for unfair business practices.
Class action lawsuits can be filed in either federal or state courts. Jurisdiction is often at issue because the larger the class, the more likely that its members are geographically dispersed. The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 gives federal courts original jurisdiction for all class action lawsuits with damages in excess of $5,000,000, but, of course, there are exceptions and types of cases excluded from this act. It is commonly believed that federal courts are more favorable for defendants, and state courts are more favorable for plaintiffs. So, very often a lawsuit starts in state court and the defendant tries to move it to federal court.
Like with any lawsuit, the specific process that is followed is dictated by the governing rules of civil procedure. In federal courts (and in most state courts), after filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff files a motion to have the class certified. For a class to be certified, the court evaluates specific criteria, often referred to as CANT:
- Commonality: Do the members of the class share common legal and factual claims on which the lawsuit is based?
- Adequacy: Do the allegations and demands of the named plaintiffs adequately protect the interests of the class?
- Numerosity: Is the class large enough that individual lawsuits would be impractical, and is the class action, therefore, a better vehicle for resolving the lawsuits?
- Typicality: Are the claims and defenses typical of the plaintiffs?
Defendants who would prefer not to litigate a class action suit will usually object on the grounds that the issues aren’t appropriately handled as a class action suit or that the named plaintiffs don’t sufficiently represent the class.
Once a class is certified, there is “due process”. That is, efforts are made to publicize the action or contact class members so individuals can participate or opt out.
After certification and due process, the case moves on through the process like any other case.
In next week’s post, we’re going to discuss other types of lawsuits. In the mean time, please let us know if there are specific topics that you’d like to see covered in this blog series.Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.