Strength in Numbers

What is a class action?

A class action is a method for bringing aggrieved people together in one lawsuit, so that their claims can be decided in a single court proceeding. Oftentimes, class actions are the only recourse for those that cannot otherwise afford legal representation. For this reason, class actions have come under heavy fire by big companies in recent years in an attempt to limit scrutiny of those companies’ unlawful practices.

There are many reasons to file class action cases. Class actions have compensated workers oppressed by unfair wage practices, citizens sickened by toxic chemical releases and consumers damaged by artificially-inflated prices or falsely misrepresented products by greedy corporations. Critics of class actions cite low average recoveries as one reason against allowing class actions to exist. They say, if the payout might be as low as a few hundred dollars per affected person, why bother? We’d say that logic is flawed and, if anything, supports the need for class actions. Class actions allow people who could not otherwise afford legal representation to recover damages–for themselves and others–on a very large scale, ensure that companies cannot “hide in the shadows” with regard to their illegal behavior and, generally, keep businesses more honest.

The claims brought through class actions are usually no different than those brought in individual cases; in class actions, only the number of people and the similarity between their claims is much greater. Many class actions are filed by one person (acting as a “representative plaintiff”) who then seeks damages or other remedies for other class members as well. Just like unions have the ability to command fair wages for groups of workers, class actions offer the power to see real change in the practices of the world’s largest companies. We know–we help make it happen every day.

What are the mechanics of a class action lawsuit?

To ensure fairness in a class action, the judge presiding over the case supervises the prosecution of the class-wide claims through attorneys appointed to represent class interests. Since the judge must approve (“certify”) cases to proceed as class actions, the labeling of any case as a “class action” when filed is really more of an intention to proceed as such, versus a guarantee that it will. Before the claims of all class members can be resolved, the court must approve the definition assigned to the class–either at some point during litigation or at the time of settlement. Without that court-approval, class members cannot be bound by any judgment or be entitled to participate in a group-wide settlement.

Do I have to pay money up front if I become a representative plaintiff?

We don’t know what other law firms do, but we always work on a “contingency fee” basis — that is, we don’t get paid unless you win. We are able to take that risk because of our lengthy and excellent track record of success in class action cases.

I know of a class action that probably should be filed. What can I do?

Filing a class action lawsuit is a decision that should be made only after answering several questions. Some of these questions include:

  • How likely is it the violations will continue if I do nothing to stop them?
  • Do those violations affect me?
  • To what extent have my co-workers and I lost time or money because of what our current or past employer has done?

Would your law firm charge me to talk about a possible class action lawsuit?

Cole & Van Note won’t charge you a penny for discussing a potential case. You can contact us by e-mail or telephone, in complete confidence. Remember, even if you choose not to pursue a case for yourself, you are likely helping others simply by talking to us.

What does Cole & Van Note guarantee?

We cannot predict the future…yet. However, our vast experience makes us an excellent source of information and extremely skilled at representing our clients. We promise to keep everything you tell us about a potential case private (unless you instruct us otherwise) and we promise to provide unparalleled legal counsel. Generally speaking, it’s our duty to help our clients navigate our confusing legal system and, in doing that, we keep the process painless for you.

Cole & Van Note attorneys are top-notch lawyers and our law firm enjoys a reputation as being one of the premier class action law practices in California. Despite that reputation, we encourage you to “interview” us–just as you would any other professional–before making a decision regarding representation. If you are not entirely comfortable with moving beyond the initial conversation, then don’t. In the end, you should be completely at ease with whatever choice you make.

This information is for illustrative and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice, the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, or as indicative of a particular outcome regarding any legal issue you might have.