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Class Action Attorney
Information to Help You Find the Best Attorney for a Class Action Lawsuit
Class action lawsuits are becoming more prevalent with increasingly larger verdicts and settlement awards. Outside of the big tobacco settlements decades ago, American courts in 2022 produced more billion-dollar class action lawsuit settlement agreements than at any other point in U.S. history.
Class actions play a vital role in providing justice and restitution to large groups of individuals who have been wronged by negligence, corporate malfeasance, or other harmful actions. From the famous tobacco settlement to recent cases involving consumer products and pharmaceuticals, class action lawsuits help protect the rights of consumers and promote safer business practices.
As committed consumer advocates working to make the world a safer place, our class action attorneys understand the role that litigation can play in making change. We created this page to help people better understand the process and benefits of class action lawsuits. We also provide some example class actions and settlements to give some idea of what these cases can achieve.
On this page, you will find answers to the most common questions we get here at Wisner Baum, including who should join a class action lawsuit (and when you should opt-out of joining a class action), what kind of payouts are available in class actions, the differences between class actions and other cases, what a class action lawyer does, and much more.
Interested in learning more about your legal rights? Do you have questions about a potential class action claim? The attorneys at Wisner Baum are here to help. With more than $4 billion in settlements and verdicts, your case is in good hands. Call (855) 948-5098 today to speak with a class action lawyer.
Information on Class Action Lawsuits
A class action lawsuit is a legal procedure where one or more plaintiffs file a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group, referred to as a “class.” In a class action, the individuals within the class seek damages based on the same allegations against the same defendant(s). Instead of having many individual lawsuits alleging the same harm against the same company, a class action allows the harmed individuals to come together to pursue damages as a collective. This, in effect, streamlines the legal process for the courts and makes legal disputes more efficient than if dozens (or in some cases thousands) pursued separate cases and went to trial.
The outcome of a class action lawsuit applies to all class members and prevents them from bringing their own individual lawsuit (except under certain circumstances). Class action judgments or settlements can even apply to those who may have legal standing as a class member but are unaware of the litigation.
Anyone who suffers harm as a result of a dangerous product and suspects others may have suffered similar harm can start a class action. The first step for anyone interested in starting a class action should be to consult with an attorney who can evaluate the circumstances surrounding the case and answer questions about the process. If the attorney believes that a class action is the best course of action for his or her clients, then they begin the process of filing a complaint (the actual lawsuit filed in court).
Starting a class action lawsuit will cost you nothing up front. Class action attorneys represent clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only collect money if they successfully resolve their clients’ claims.
The only thing to consider is whether your case should be a part of a class action or filed individually. Some people may have claims for damages that exceed the losses of others in the class. If this is the case, the person may want to pursue an individual lawsuit. More on this below.
As stated above, a class action involves one or more named plaintiffs who represent a larger group (the class). Class action attorneys file the case on behalf of the named plaintiff (or plaintiffs), who remain actively involved throughout the litigation. Unnamed plaintiffs can choose to be class members, or they can try and resolve their claims independent of the class action (more on this below).
After the case is filed, the defendant company will either file an answer with the court denying the plaintiffs’ allegations and claims for damages, or the company will file one or more motions to challenge the lawsuit and force the court to rule or dismiss the case.
The next phase of class action litigation is discovery, where lawyers for both sides demand documents from one another, ask a series of questions that must be honestly answered, and take depositions. Once discovery is completed, attorneys for the class may file a motion to certify the class action while the defendant files objections.
The court will hold a hearing to decide whether or not to certify the class action lawsuit. Basically, the court must determine whether the proposed class shares a common claim (or claims), the named plaintiffs have claims that represent the entire class, and that there is a large enough group of plaintiffs to form a class. For the majority of class actions, class certification is the most significant hurdle for the plaintiffs to clear. Once classes are certified, most defendants move to resolve the matter with a settlement agreement. Some class actions proceed to trial. Regardless of how the case resolves, be it via settlement or trial, the outcome applies to all class members.
Some class actions can take as little as a few months to resolve. However, these are the exception, not the rule. Most class actions take years to resolve, in some cases three or more. The amount of time it takes for a class action to resolve depends on several factors, including:
Class certification process. These cases begin when one or more plaintiffs file the complaint. From that point, it can take months or years before a judge certifies the class. In some class actions, notices may be sent out to those who may have legal standing once the class is certified.
Prepare for trial. In addition to the above, the class action attorneys for both sides will need to gather evidence, hire witnesses, create expert reports, conduct depositions, and more as they prepare for trial. This phase of the class action lawsuit can also take some time, especially if the case is complex.
Resolution via settlement or verdict. Most class actions end in a settlement before reaching trial. Before any money is dispersed, however, the presiding judge will have to issue an order approving the proposed settlement to ensure that the defendant is compensating the victims fairly.
If no class action settlement is reached, the case may proceed to trial. In some cases, the person who initiated the class action lawsuit may be asked to testify, and expert witnesses may offer testimony regarding the facts that underpin the allegations. Remember, even if the case goes to trial, a settlement may still be reached. If not, the case will be decided by the jury.
Notifying the class. Once the case has been decided, class action attorneys will have to contact all that qualify to be a part of the case. Notifications are sent via mail, and a window of time is granted for responses. During this time, class members will decide whether to opt into the resolution (whether it is a settlement or a verdict) or opt out. This process can take a significant amount of time, especially if the class action involves tens of thousands of people. Some major class actions may require the lawyers to create advertisements so that large audiences of similarly affected people can be reached.
Most class action lawsuits are about people seeking minor compensation. An example would be a class that alleges a company deceived consumers for monetary gain, and as such, seeks recompense for the money spent on a product purchased under fraudulent circumstances. In this example, the compensation to the class would be the amount each person paid for the product (or products if class members bought several), which could end up being just a few dollars.
You may be asking yourself, “why go to the trouble if the amount of money is so small?” A lawsuit where a company pays someone back the $10 they spent on a product seems like a lot of trouble for not much return. This is understandable; if everyone had to pursue individual lawsuits to recover a small amount of money, not very many people would do it, and the company that sold the defective product would never be held accountable.
This is why class actions are so important. When you add up the many thousands of class members, the collective amount of money sends a message to the company (and other companies) that sold the defective product or engaged in questionable business practices or other wrongful corporate behavior.
Put more succinctly, a class action uses strength in numbers to hold companies accountable for their misdeeds.
If your claims for damages amount to more than being paid back for a product you allegedly purchased under false pretenses, you may be better off pursuing an individual claim. For example, if a defective product caused a catastrophic injury or wrongful death, you may be better off pursuing an individual lawsuit.
A good example of this is the ongoing Zantac cancer litigation. Many thousands of people throughout the country allege in lawsuits that they developed cancer as a result of taking Zantac (ranitidine). While the claimants all have similar claims for damages against common defendants, these cases are not part of a class action. Instead, the cases are consolidated in a mass tort, which is a group of individual lawsuits making similar allegations against the same defendant(s).
The difference between mass torts and class actions is how the court handles the plaintiffs. In a class action, everyone in the class is bound by the legal outcome. Put more simply, everyone in the class is compensated in the same way. This is not necessarily the case in a mass tort, where the compensation to each plaintiff reflects their specific damages.
Generally speaking, the risks of joining a class action are low. If the case is unsuccessful, you will not obtain compensation. We have heard of class members paying legal fees or costs in a class action loss, but this has never happened in our firm’s history.
Another small risk is not having any control over the legal outcome. The vast majority of class members (outside of the lead plaintiffs) are not involved in the legal process, so others are making all the decisions on behalf of the class.
The biggest risk may be opting into a class when your claims for damages are more than each class member’s claims for damages. That is why it is important to speak with an experienced class action attorney about your case before you decide to join.
In a class action lawsuit, the primary goal is to ensure fair compensation for all affected class members. However, the lead plaintiff, who represents the class, may receive an additional award to recognize their efforts and time dedicated to pursuing the case.
Yes. Class action settlements are beneficial for class members and for consumers. While individual recoveries may vary, participating in a class action often provides an efficient and cost-effective way to seek compensation for damages and hold negligent corporations accountable for the harm they cause. By joining forces with others, class members increase their chances of obtaining compensation without incurring excessive financial burdens or prolonged litigation. Remember, joining a class will cost you nothing. Class action attorneys only make money if they are successful in obtaining a settlement on behalf of the class.
Moreover, class action settlements can implement injunctive relief, forcing defendants to change their practices, improve product safety, or modify policies to prevent similar harm in the future. This additional protection benefits both current and future consumers.
H&R Block RICO Class Action: In September of 2023, attorneys from Wisner Baum filed a RICO class action lawsuit against H&R Block, Meta (Facebook), and Google. To our knowledge, this is the first class action lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act alleging H&R Block, Google, and Meta violated taxpayers’ privacy rights by illegally collecting and sharing sensitive tax data without consent to maximize profits from targeted advertising.
In a civil RICO case, the plaintiff(s) must prove, among other things:
- The defendant(s) committed any of the enumerated RICO crimes, which can include mail fraud or wire fraud.
- A pattern of at least two crimes. The pattern is required to be either related in some way (same victim, same methods of committing crimes, same participants) or continuous (the crime was committed for a year or more).
A civil RICO class action is different than other class actions in that it allows for treble damages. This means that plaintiffs harmed by a RICO violation who bring a successful suit can receive triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages.
Actos RICO Class Action: Class action attorneys from Wisner Baum obtained class certification in a civil RICO case against Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and Eli Lilly and Company. The class action lawsuit alleges Takeda and Eli Lilly and Company conspired to hide the risk of bladder cancer associated with Actos (pioglitazone) because they knew that many prescribers and patients would not use the diabetes drug if they knew the truth. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert on the bladder cancer risk, Actos sales fell by 80%, and the costs of those excess sales were born by third-party payers.
The class action lawsuit, Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 Health Care Fund v. Takeda Pharmaceuticals Co. is the first non-settlement national RICO class action lawsuit certified against Big Pharma. Experts say the damages in this case could reach $7 billion or more.
Phillips CPAP Class Action Settlement: In 2021, Philips Respironics announced a recall for sleep apnea machines that may increase the risk of developing cancer. Attorneys filed a class action lawsuit alleging Philips knew before the recall about the risks associated with these devices and that consumers have paid and will continue to pay thousands of dollars to replace their machines.
In September of 2023, Philips Respironics agreed to a partial class action settlement worth approximately $479 million, which exclusively covers monetary reimbursements to CPAP users and vendors that financed replacements for consumers. The economic claims amount is uncapped, which means that other device users may apply for compensation. The tentative CPAP class action settlement does not resolve personal injury lawsuits filed by individuals who allege the flaking foam and gasses emitted from CPAP machines caused health problems, including respiratory illnesses and cancer.
Google Class Action Settlement: In June of 2023, Google agreed to a settlement worth $23 million resolving allegations that it shared or otherwise made accessible web search information with third party companies without obtaining user consent. The Google class action settlement benefits anyone who used Google Search and clicked on a search result in the U.S. between Oct. 26, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2013. Per the terms of the settlement agreement, members of the class can receive an equal share of the net settlement fund, which is estimated to be around $7.70 per person. The actual class action payout in this litigation may end up higher or lower than the projected amount above depending on the number of people who opt-in to the class.
Meta Class Action Settlement: A settlement has been reached between plaintiffs and Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook) in a class action lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (In re: Facebook, Inc. Consumer Privacy User Profile Litigation, Case No. 3:18-md-02843-VC). Meta agreed to pay $725 million to resolve allegations that Facebook shared or otherwise made accessible to third parties Facebook user data and data about users’ friends without obtaining user consent. The class action further alleged that Facebook did not sufficiently monitor and enforce third-party access or use of the data. The Facebook settlement applies to all Facebook users in the U.S. between May 24, 2007, and Dec. 22, 2022.
Illinois Facebook Class Action Settlement: This Facebook class action litigation began when Facebook users in the state of Illinois filed lawsuits alleging that Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature and other features involving facial recognition technology violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (or “BIPA”). That law says companies cannot collect, store, or give out “biometric data,” which includes face or fingerprint scans, without first giving notice and getting consent. According to the allegations Facebook used facial recognition technology to create unique face templates that can be used to identify users in photos. These templates are covered by BIPA, the class action alleged, and Facebook did this without proper notice and consent.
Juul Class Action Lawsuit Settlement: Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Juul Labs, Inc. alleging they paid more for Juul e-cigarettes and other products than they would have paid if they had been given accurate information about the addictiveness and safety of these products. The Juul class action further accuses the company of unlawfully marketing e-cigarette products to minors. Juul Labs agreed to pay a $255 million settlement to resolve the class action allegations. The “Settlement Class” includes anyone who purchased Juul products from retail stores or from the company directly before December 7, 2022.
The class action litigation against the tobacco companies is probably the most famous. Initially brought in 1994, the litigation sought compensation for individuals who had suffered from smoking-related illnesses due to the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing practices. Eventually, the litigation culminated in the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998, a landmark settlement under which tobacco companies agreed to pay over $200 billion to various states over 25 years as restitution for healthcare costs incurred due to smoking-related diseases.
The Big Tobacco settlement stands as a reminder of the power of collective action and the importance of holding industries accountable for their actions in the pursuit of public health and wellbeing. The litigation profoundly impacted public health initiatives, provided compensation for healthcare costs, imposed stringent regulations on the tobacco industry, and shaped public perception. The financial resources and regulatory changes resulting from the settlement significantly contributed to reducing smoking rates, preventing tobacco-related diseases, and protecting future generations from the harms of smoking.
Other famous class actions include:
BP Oil Spill Class Action Settlement: The 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion caused significant environmental damage that led to a class action. In 2016, a federal judge in New Orleans approved a settlement worth approximately $20 billion to resolve civil claims.
Volkswagen Emissions Class Action Settlement: In 2016, a federal court judge approved a $14.7 billion class action settlement to resolve allegations that German automaker Volkswagen engaged in a scheme to cheat emissions testing on its diesel cars. The settlement provided funds for vehicle buybacks at market values prior to the emissions scandal along with additional payments for nearly 500,000 diesel car owners.
Enron Class Action Settlement: In 2008, a federal judge approved a $7.2 billion class action settlement to resolve allegations that Enron defrauded shareholders before the company declared bankruptcy.
If you were injured or otherwise harmed by a defective consumer product or wrongful corporate behavior, you may be able to pursue compensation in a class action lawsuit. The first thing you should do is discuss your legal rights with a lawyer who has experience in class action litigation. While you may believe that a class action is the best recourse for your claim, an attorney will be able to evaluate your claims for damages to determine if a class action is appropriate. It could be that your case is worth more as a personal injury case than it would be as a plaintiff in a class action.
A class action lawsuit is a great mechanism for forcing large corporations to take responsibility for their harmful conduct, even if the harm to everyone is minor. Below are some of the things that a class action attorney does:
- Listen carefully to the circumstances of your case and answer any of your questions.
- Conduct a thorough investigation into your losses.
- Determine whether others may have experienced similar losses.
- Find out if legal action has already been taken, and if a class has been established.
- Retain experts and specialists to provide essential background information in support of the case allegations.
- File a lawsuit (known as a complaint) on your behalf.
- Move to certify the class action.
- Fight for compensation from the defendant in settlement negotiations or take the case to trial.
At Wisner Baum, our track record of success in class action lawsuits speaks for itself. Below are some of our class action settlements and verdicts:
Paxil Pediatric Class Action | $63 Million Settlement
Third-Party Payer Class Action | $40 Million Settlement
Celexa-Lexapro Class Action | $10 Million Settlement
$10 Million Settlement A Major Foreign Plane Crash
Wisner Baum obtained a $10 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major foreign plane crash.
$14 Million Settlement A Major US Plane Crash
Wisner Baum obtained a $14 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major US plane crash.
$17.5 Million Settlement A Major US Plane Crash
Wisner Baum obtained a $17.5 million settlement on behalf of a client who was killed in a major U.S. plane crash.
$10 Million Settlement Celexa-Lexapro Pediatric Class Action
$10 million pediatric class action re false promotion of Celexa and Lexapro. Babies born to women who have used Lexapro and other similar medications such as Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, and Symbyax are at an increased risk for birth defects.
$8.5 Million Verdict Commercial Truck Accident
Wisner Baum secured a $8.5 million wrongful death verdict against the food industry company, Tyson Foods, for the wrongful death of a young man.