Class Actions FAQs
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action is a lawsuit where multiple individuals seek justice for an injury done to them by the same defendant. Instead of filing multiple individual lawsuits, the claims are consolidated into a single class action through a legal process known as certification.
Injuries in class action lawsuits may be physical in nature – such as bodily harm, new or worsening illness, or death – or economic. Economic injury may involve violations of consumer rights, loss of wages and benefits, and breach of private and sensitive information.
Klein Lawyers has extensive experience in class action litigation. Our lawyers have handled class action lawsuits involving:
- Defective Products
- Wage and Hour Violations
- Dangerous Medications and Medical Devices
- Mishandling of Pension and Benefits Plans
- Institutional Abuse and Negligence
- Data Breaches
- Breaches of Fiduciary Duty
- Anti-Competitive Employment and Pricing Practices
- Deceptive Marketing and Advertising
- Foodborne Illnesses
- Securities Fraud and Misrepresentation
- Competition Law Violations
- Environmental Disasters
- And More
Class action litigation is a complicated area of law. Each province has different rules and procedures for bringing a class action lawsuit. Furthermore, these lawsuits often involve going up against major corporations and institutions with the finances, resources, and power to defend themselves aggressively.
It is important to recognize that a successful class action lawsuit doesn’t only result in fair compensation for victims in the class. A favourable outcome can lead to positive changes for society as a whole.
How Can I Find Out If I Have a Viable Class Action Claim?
Most class action lawsuits start with the lawyers researching the underlying causes of their clients’ injuries. If the cause of the injury is the same for multiple plaintiffs, the claims may be certified as a class action lawsuit. People are often unaware that they may be part of a class until they are notified of the class action proceedings. The action you need to take at that stage may be limited to opting in, opting out, or participating in any settlement.
The process varies by province. For those living in British Columbia and Ontario, for example, members must take action to opt out of the class; failure to do so means that the class member is bound by the results of the class action lawsuit.
If you believe that you suffered a physical or economic injury and you think there may be others facing the same situation, you should contact Klein Lawyers for a free consultation. Our lawyers can review the facts of your case and determine whether a class action proceeding is appropriate.
How Do I Start a Class Action Lawsuit?
Your lawyers will assess whether the facts demonstrate that multiple plaintiffs suffered injury as a result of the same defendant’s negligence. If this is the case, your lawyer can file the suit and then apply to the court for certification of the lawsuit as a class action.
Every legal claim has to start somewhere. Whether your case proceeds as an individual lawsuit or as a class action, it is always in your best interest to speak to a lawyer if you or your family has suffered injury and damages as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing.
British Columbia, Ontario, and most other provinces in Canada have a 2-year limitation period for most types of claims that are brought as class action lawsuits, though some limitation periods are shorter and some are longer. If too much time passes after your injury, you may lose the right to sue for compensation. Therefore, it is crucial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
How Does a Class Action Work?
Class action lawsuits generally proceed according to the following steps:
- The class is identified. The class must be defined to encompass only those individuals who may be affected by the wrongdoing. Potential factors in identifying the class may include:
- Is the underlying cause of the claim the same or similar for all plaintiffs?
- Did the plaintiffs suffer similar injuries or damages?
- Are the cases of injury bound by the same time period?
- A representative plaintiff is chosen. The representative plaintiff is the “face” of the class action and acts on behalf of the class.
- A Statement of Claim is filed in court. The Statement of Claim summarizes the facts of the case according to the plaintiff and specifies the amount of compensation sought.
- The court must certify the case as a class action. The court will review a host of factors to determine whether to certify the lawsuit as a class action (see below). Once the case is certified, the lawsuit can move forward to trial.
Class action litigation is a means of “streamlining” the legal process for claims that would otherwise have to be tried individually. This reduces the time, cost, and effort required for plaintiffs to bring a claim against the defendant, providing an opportunity to pursue fair compensation to those who might have difficulty bringing a claim on their own.
How Does a Class Action Become Certified?
Certification is granted where the court is satisfied that:
- There is a lawful claim against a defendant.
- There is an identifiable class of affected persons.
- There are common questions of fact or law among the class members.
- There is an appropriate person to represent the class.
- The class action procedure is preferable to other procedures available to claimants.
A lawyer for the plaintiff will need to petition the court and submit materials in support of a motion to certify the lawsuit as a class action. The threshold for certification is relatively low, requiring the representative plaintiff to prove that each of the elements above has been satisfied.
What Is a Representative Plaintiff?
A representative plaintiff is a class member who agrees to act on behalf of the class. The representative plaintiff may be the person (or one of the persons) who filed the lawsuit against the defendant. Or, in some situations, it can be someone else the court decides to appoint to represent the class.
In a class action lawsuit, the representative plaintiff is the individual whose name appears on the case. The representative plaintiff works with the lawyers to ensure the interests of the class are fairly represented and diligently pursued. This may involve:
- Ensuring that qualified legal counsel is obtained to represent the class
- Understanding the essential facts at issue in the case
- Reviewing motions and affidavits
- Attending certain court hearings, discovery proceedings, examinations, and trials
- Collaborating with counsel on strategy, evaluating settlement offers, and more
Class actions cannot move forward without a representative plaintiff. Therefore, having a plaintiff who is willing to be at the centre of litigation is critical for the lawsuit to move forward.
How Do I Become the Representative Plaintiff?
The proposed representative plaintiff is usually selected prior to certification. No special skills or qualifications are required to serve as a representative plaintiff, although the individual will need to be (a) comfortable communicating with counsel about the case and (b) capable of representing the interests of fellow class members.
Because of the issues involved and the number of people who may be affected, class action lawsuits have a greater likelihood of entering the public eye. Depending on the circumstances, the representative plaintiff should also be comfortable being the subject of media attention.
What Advantages Does a Class Action Have Over a Regular Lawsuit?
Class actions have many advantages over conventional lawsuits:
- Class actions allow people to file a claim as a group, when individually they might not be able to afford to do so.
- Class actions create strength in numbers.
- Class actions force large corporations, institutions, and other entities to be held accountable for wrongdoing.
- Class action certification may extend the limitations period before which an individual claim must be filed.
- Class actions place fewer obligations on individual class members than conventional lawsuits.
- Class actions are cost-effective and increase judicial efficiency because they unite multiple plaintiffs in one case.
- Class actions run on contingency fees. That means the lawyers receive a portion of any settlement or judgment awarded and class members are not required to make any payments unless the case is successful.
- The more your lawyers win for you, the more they get paid. It is in their interest to gain the best settlement possible.
If you are curious about the benefits of a class action lawsuit compared to bringing an individual claim, you should speak to a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. You may be part of a class already. If you are part of a class action but don’t want to be, you might have the option to opt-out of the class and pursue a claim on your own. Regardless, you need to know the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
How Do I Know If I Am a Class Member?
Class members may become aware of a class action lawsuit in different ways:
- Class members are identified based on records. Customers, employees, and patients of an entity (to name a few examples) can be identified through records usually maintained by the defendant. These records may include contact information as well as the date of service. Drawing on these records, the parties in the case can notify class members of the lawsuit and the criteria to join the proceedings.
- Class members bought a particular product or used a particular service. In class action lawsuits about matters such as product liability and consumer rights, members of the class are more difficult to identify. In these situations, class members often become aware of the lawsuit through media coverage as well as advertisements.
Ultimately, the only way to know for sure if you (a) are a member of a class action and (b) qualify for compensation is to contact a class action lawyer as soon as possible. Klein Lawyers provides class members with the option of speaking to our Class Action Support Team by phone or contacting our firm online. If you think you might belong in one of the class actions Klein Lawyers is currently handling, choose the appropriate class action on our website and read the information provided. If you think you qualify to be a class member, complete the relevant ‘Do You Qualify’ form. If you have any questions, there are contact details associated with each class action.
If I Am a Class Member, How Do I Join the Class Action Lawsuit?
Generally, class members do not have to take any action to become a member of the class action lawsuit. That said, we do recommend completing the ‘Do You Qualify’ form for the relevant class action or contacting Klein Lawyers as soon as possible.
By completing these steps, Klein Lawyers can update you on the progress of the case – including when a judgement is obtained or a settlement is reached and how you can file a claim for compensation. Depending on the nature of the particular class action, you may also have rights that allow you to opt-in to the class or opt-out of the class. These rights are time-limited. As such, it’s important to contact us as soon as possible.
As a Class Member, What Are My Responsibilities Once the Action Is Started?
Class members may be required to opt-in or opt-out of the class action once the lawsuit is certified. If a settlement is reached and approved by the court, individual class members are responsible for filing their claims.
You may need to submit documents that prove your eligibility for compensation as well as the amounts you may be entitled to recover. The sooner we hear from a class member, the sooner we can begin work on their individual claim within the class action.
How Much Will a Class Action Lawsuit Cost?
One of the major benefits of a class action lawsuit is that class members are not required to pay any upfront fees or other costs associated with the case. Class actions are handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyers for the class only get paid if the lawsuit is successful (i.e., if a settlement is reached or a favourable verdict is achieved at trial).
Lawyers representing the class will be paid a portion of the recovery. The terms of payment, fee structure, and other matters must be in writing and mutually agreed upon by the class counsel and the representative plaintiff. Court approval of the agreement is also required.
How Long Does a Class Action Lawsuit Usually Take to Settle?
Class action lawsuits are often brought against large corporations and established institutions. They can also raise complex and sometimes novel legal issues. As a result, it can take years to reach a favourable settlement or trial verdict.
Except for the representative plaintiff, the time it takes to resolve a class action is essentially just a waiting game. Class members typically have little to do until a settlement is reached or a judgement is rendered on the common issues. So, while it is important to stay informed, little action is required until the lawsuit is concluded.
How Do I Choose a Class Action Lawyer?
Experience matters no matter the type of legal claim. This is especially true of class action lawsuits, which involve complex rules, taking on large and powerful defendants, and – in some cases – handling litigation in multiple jurisdictions.
Klein Lawyers is a pioneer in the field of class action litigation in Canada. Our lawyers served as class counsel in some of the very first class actions in several provinces. Founder and managing partner David Klein is recognized as one of the top class action lawyers in Canada.
Results matter, too. Klein Lawyers has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of clients in a wide range of class action lawsuits. We have a reputation as fierce litigators committed to achieving fair compensation for classes encompassing hundreds or even thousands of people.
Finally, the most successful class action lawyers are resourceful and strategic in their handling of these lawsuits. Success in class action litigation depends on prompt investigation, thorough collection of evidence, and hiring the right experts, as well as preparing these elements to make a strong case in court.
Klein Lawyers does not shy away from the challenges of class action litigation. We believe that class action lawsuits help multitudes of people achieve fair compensation and justice without the uncertainty or cost of going to trial on their own. Our passion for these cases fuels our success and reputation as leading class action lawyers in British Columbia, Ontario, and throughout Canada.