A class action lawsuit in is a court case where one or more class members represent the interests of numerous other class members in one lawsuit. The group of class members are called the “class.” One or more class members that represent the class are called “class representatives.” The attorneys that represent this class are called “class counsel.” The “class period” is the timeframe in which the violation must have occurred and is often controlled by a statute of limitations.
The idea of a class action is to make it financially feasible to hold corporations accountable for their wrongdoing. When corporations wrongfully profit from individuals, in relatively small amounts, it is often not financially feasible for those individuals to bring a individual lawsuit against the corporation. Because the amount of damages is relatively small, it would often cost the individual as much as, or more, in attorney fees to recover his or her damages. The class action lawsuit is well suited for addressing this type of scenario. By pooling together the damages of a class of individuals into one lawsuit, the case can be financially feasible. Without class actions, corporations would be financially incentivized to unlawfully profit from individuals, with little or no possibility of being held accountable, because it wouldn't be cost effective for individuals to have their day in court.
Class actions are more technical than a normal lawsuit. The lawsuit is initiated by the filing of a complaint. The complaint is filed by an individual or individuals and may contain both individual and class claims. Any individual claims would serve to benefit the individual or individuals named as Plaintiffs in the complaint. Whereas, class claims would serve to benefit a defined class. The class must be defined in such a way that a court will be able to determine who qualifies as a class member and who doesn't. There also may be one or more sub-classes. A sub-class is a sub-set of the class. For example, a class could be a group of people who weren't provided with a notice that the corporation was required to provide by Ohio state or federal law. If the law provides for a specified damages amount and that damages amount was amended during the class period, then one sub-class would be entitled to damages under the original damages provision and the other sub-class would be entitled to damages under the new amended damages provision. The complaint typically contains a class definition, which is not necessarily the definition that would be used by the court. After the complaint is filed the Plaintiff or Plaintiffs will file a motion to have the class certified. If the class is certified, it may be certified as defined in the complaint or the court may amend the class definition. Additionally, as more information is learned, the class definition may be amended after certification.