Class action lawsuits have had a tremendous influence on the lives of many Americans. In a class action lawsuit, one plaintiff represents a large group of people who are not required to appear in court. Both the courts and plaintiffs can benefit when a single lawsuit is brought forth instead of a large number of similar lawsuits, as a personal injury lawyer Phoenix AZ can count on. It’s a win-win because the courts aren’t clogged with hundreds or thousands of lawsuits while each plaintiff is spared the burden and cost of filing a separate lawsuit.
The History of Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits have been part of the English legal system since the 1200s. However, the rise of corporations and other societal issues led to a general distrust of class action lawsuits. By 1850, litigation as a group effort was essentially dead in England. Fortunately, the right to pursue legal action as part of a group has become an integral part of the U.S. legal system.
There are three class action lawsuits that made the news in a significant way in America over the years.
- Wells Fargo. Bank and securities fraud has sparked many class action lawsuits. Wells Fargo made the news when it was learned that employees had been instructed to set up fraudulent accounts, allowing the bank to collect millions in fees from the unauthorized accounts. In March, 2017, customers settled for $110 million in one class action lawsuit.
2. Comcast, Charter Communications and Time Warner.Workers’ rights have been the focus of many class action lawsuits. In recent years, there have been a number of lawsuits filed on the issue of unpaid wages and overtime. Comcast, Charter Communications and Time Warner had to pay hefty settlements to installers and other employees. As a result, across the nation, companies closely reviewed their own overtime policies which benefited many additional employees.
3. Pacific Gas and Electric. Julia Robert’s role as Erin Brockovich made this environmental class action lawsuit famous. Illegal dumping by Pacific Gas and Electric contaminated the drinking water of a small southern California town. Their actions resulted in many serious illnesses and deaths. In 1996, Pacific Gas and Electric settled the case for $333 million. This was the largest settlement amount in US history at the time.
Class action lawsuits can benefit not only those involved in the action, but people who never knew about the lawsuit, including those not yet born. Few individuals will have the resources to fight a huge corporation, but they can do so successfully as part of a group. Class action lawsuits can protect the rights of everyone, not only the parties involved in the legal action.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Lorona Mead for their added insight in personal injury practice.