People in Lake Charles likely hear news of class action lawsuits quite frequently. Yet even with the publicity that such lawsuits generate, many may know little about them other than the fact that they are brought by multiple plaintiffs. This may lead some to mistakenly believe that any case involving more than one complainant qualifies as a class action lawsuit.
Information shared by the American Bar Association states that in order to initiate a class action, one must first have an adequately defined class whose purposes are precise and unambiguous to the point that the court can feasibly determine who its members are. Furthermore, the definition of one’s class cannot be so broad that it allows for inclusion of parties that could not have been harmed by a defendant’s conduct. Those wanting to form a class must also show that there is an ascertainable way to identify members using objective criteria.
Defining a class is only the first step a group of complainants must take. They then have to the meet the four threshold requirements for certification. According to the Federal Practice Manual for Legal Aid Attorneys, these are:
- Numerosity: The class is large enough that a joinder of plaintiffs is impossible.
- Commonality: The legal challenges are common amongst class members.
- Typicality: The claims of class representatives are typical of all its members.
- Adequacy: Class representatives will adequately represent the interests of its members.
Beyond that, class representatives must also show that their claims meet the requirements of at least one of the standards set by Rule 23(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. These are that separate actions would produce inconsistent rulings, that the defendant’s actions apply to all members of the class, or that the common questions of law of the class supersede any individual member’s claim.