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FAQs about Class Action

Stuart Eppsteiner, one of California’s leading lawyers in construction, products liability, class action and insurance law, answers frequently asked questions about class action.

What is a class action?

A class action is a type of lawsuit that combines the common claim(s) of many people and pursues them in a single lawsuit. One or just a few people bring the lawsuit in name, but the results of the lawsuit benefit all of the other similarly situated people. Class actions, because they address the claims of many people in a single lawsuit reduce the use of court resources and more efficiently resolve the individual claims of many people

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What do you call the people who are the named Plaintiffs in a class action; and what do you call the people affected by the class action, but are not named as individual plaintiffs?

First, the people who are named as plaintiffs in a class action are called class representatives.  The class representatives sue not just on behalf of themselves and to resolve only their claims, they sue on behalf of all other people in the same position as them. For example, a class representative can sue an insurance company that is systematically mis-categorizing a medical procedure to eliminate insurance coverage to have the insurance carrier pay all of its policyholders whose claims were wrongfully denied based on this improper behavior.

Second, the people who are not named plaintiffs, but who also recover money for the common injury or harm, are called class members. The “class” is the group of people who have been harmed by a common act, design, or wrong.

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Who is eligible to act as a class representative?

In a class action, anyone who has valid legal grounds for a lawsuit, and believes that many others have been wronged just like them, may act as a class representative. One or more people called Class Representatives sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. All the people with similar claims are a Class. If you are one of the anonymous people with similar claims, you are a “Class member.” One Court resolves the issues for all Class Members, except for those who exclude themselves from the Class.

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Are class representatives compensated for their service?

If a class action is successful, most courts provide class representatives with “incentive awards.” Typically judges are given broad discretion in deciding appropriateness and in setting incentive awards. Class representatives’ incentive awards can range from hundreds of dollars to over $50,000. The class representative’s involvement and the size of the recovery for the class are factors that are weighed to determine the appropriate incentive award.

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