What is a Class Action?
A class action is a court device that simply allows a case involving many people who have been aggrieved or harm in a common or similar way to bring a mass case in an efficient economical manner. The class process is used, for example, in cases alleging or concerning: product defects and false advertising (consumer fraud), employment disputes such as the failure to pay overtime or illegal deductions from pay (employment), residential construction defects such as stucco defects or mass design defects (construction defect), overcharging in real estate transactions and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act violations (RESPA), and oil spills (mass tort) . In a class case, one or two named people stand in for the entire group of similarly aggrieved persons during the course of the litigation. These persons are referred to as lead plaintiffs or representative plaintiffs.
Cases also ideal to proceed as a class action are claims which amount to being monetarily too small or not economical for a person to individually retain an attorney to pursue. One such example is an overcharge at a residential closing by the realtor agency for $100.
When a class action settles, the judge presiding over the case must approve the fairness and propriety of the settlement. Potential class members usually have the option of, after receiving notice, excluding themselves from a class or class settlement, and pursuing the case on their own. The class procedure also allows individuals and small businesses to collectively prosecute meritorious cases that would have been too expensive and insufficient to litigate individually.
What kinds of cases are litigated as class actions?
Class action law is used to seek money damages and other relief arising out consumer fraud, false advertising, overcharging in real estate transactions and RESPA violations, insurance fraud, mass residential construction design defects, employee benefits and employment disputes, and environmental and mass torts. DeNittis Osefchen, P.C. has been instrumental in the use and development of the class action device in all of these areas.
If I choose to be involved in a class action, is there risk or expense for me?
No. In most cases you need to take no steps of your own to join a class action. Indeed, usually only those who wish to exclude themselves from a class need to do anything. By participating in a class case, you accomplish several objectives. You may receive compensation for a wrong, injury, or loss you have sustained, i.e., compensation that may not have been available to you in any other forum. As a member of a class of similarly harmed persons, you help to demonstrate to the court that the alleged harm done was substantial and affected a large number of people, increasing both the likelihood of a recovery and its size.
Moreover, the only cost to you will be drawn from any settlement or judgment upon successful resolution of the matter. In class actions, DeNittis Osefchen works on a contingency fee basis and is paid upon a successful resolution of the matter as awarded by the court. Our firm pays all expenses and costs in prosecuting class cases and, if successful, seeks reimbursement of those costs and expenses from the wrong doer or from a common fund of money, if obtained.
How are attorneys paid in class action cases?
The plaintiff’s attorneys are usually paid pursuant to an order from the court overseeing the case. The judge responsible for the class action reviews a submission made by the attorneys, called a “fee petition.” This petition sets forth in detail the work the attorneys have done on behalf of the class. After consideration, the court enters an order fixing the amount of the fees to be paid to the attorneys from the case’s judgment or settlement fund. The amount of the fees awarded is based on a number of factors, including the quality of the work, the difficulty of the case, the nature of the result, the amount of time spent on the case, and the risks involved. As a percentage of the gross settlement or recovery, the fee amount can vary greatly within a wide range depending on the factors the court takes into account and the weight it attaches to each of them.
Why should I pursue a class action?
If you have been aggrieved or harmed in some way often times the only way to be made whole is to pursue a class action especially where the wrongdoer fails to acknowledge or accept responsibility for its actions. If you pursue a class action as a lead plaintiff or representative plaintiff you are the person championing the cause. In such instances not only do you have the ability of recovering what you have lost, you also have the opportunity to recover an incentive award. At the successful conclusion of a class action Courts will routinely award an incentive award to the lead plaintiff(s). We have been successful in obtaining incentive awards for clients in amounts of $500 to $25,000. Courts recognize the public benefit of individuals coming forward to pursue a class action which may provide a benefit to hundreds and thousands of others. Courts also recognize that if not for the lead plaintiff many mass public wrongs would go uncorrected.