Previously, this blog discussed the elements of product liability claims as they relate to recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“USPSC”) of various defective consumer products. Many times the circumstances associated with product liability claims spur attorneys to use a unique legal device to obtain recovery when multiple individuals have been injured.
When a sufficiently large number of people are injured by a product that was defectively manufactured or designed, the group’s legal claims may be pursued by means of a “class action” lawsuit.
A class action lawsuit is a type of legal claim that groups multiple individuals together so they can litigate their claims as one. In order to commence such an action, however, the class must first be certified by the court in which the lawsuit is filed. To be certified by the Court a class must possess four qualities:
1 Numerosity. Any class must be made up of a sufficient number of claimants. The number must be large enough that it would be impractical for each person to file an individual lawsuit.
If, for instance, three people are injured in a bus crash caused by a defective braking system, it would still be practical for each individual to file their own lawsuit. However, if the same crass injured fifty people, a class action would be the most efficient and reasonable manner in which to handle the claims.
2 Adequacy. All classes are required to identify an individual or individual(s) as the representative(s) of the class. The representative(s) must epitomize the legal interests of the other class members.
3 Commonality. A class action’s members must have common legal and factual claims. Take the bus crash example discussed above. If a number of people were injured in the bus crash, that group of individuals would have common legal and factual claims based on the facts and circumstances of a single event.
4 Typicality. The class representative(s)’ legal and factual claims must be characteristic of the claims of all the class members. Class representatives must “possess the same interest and suffer the same injury as the class members.” General Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon.
The absence of any of these four qualities will result in the reviewing court to decline certification of the class. If, however, the class is successful in obtaining certification, there are additional steps it must take before commencing litigation.
First, all potential class members must be notified as to the existence of the action and the nature of the claim. This notice has to describe the action and provide the potential class members an opportunity to “opt out", or elect not to participate, of the class. Similarly, if a settlement of the class action is proposed, all members must be advised of the terms of the settlement and again given the chance to opt out.
The qualified Miami product liability attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing groups of individuals in the context of class actions who have suffered personal injury as the result of the negligence of another. If you or someone you know has been harmed by someone else’s negligent conduct, contact the attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today