About Class Actions

What are Class Actions?  

A class action is a type of lawsuit in which one or several persons sue on behalf of a larger group of persons.

While the subject matter of class action lawsuits can vary widely, two factors are almost always present for every class action:

1.    the issues in dispute are common to all members of the class, and

2.    the persons affected are so numerous as to make it impracticable to bring them all before the court.

Many class action lawsuits are often started as the result of complaints by one or a handful of persons that affect many other persons. If you have been harmed by a fraud or deceptive practice, please feel free to contact us.

What are some examples of class action lawsuits?

Examples of class action lawsuits include claims by:

  • employees of a corporation who have suffered from a pattern or practice of racial, age or gender discrimination;
  • homeowners and residents affected by a toxic spill or an environmental injury to their neighborhood;
  • consumers who purchased the same defective product or were harmed by similar unfair business practices committed by a corporation;
  • patients prescribed a medicine with undisclosed, dangerous side-effects;
  • merchants and consumers who pay inflated prices for products caused by the anti-competitive activities of large corporations; and
  • investors who are victimized by fraud committed in connection with the purchase or sale of stocks and other securities.

What are the public policy reasons supporting class action lawsuits?

Class action lawsuits are designed to advance several important public policy goals. A class action is often the sole means of enabling persons, even those with serious injuries, to remedy injustices committed by powerful, multi-million dollar corporations and institutions. As stated by former United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, "The class action is one of the few legal remedies the small claimant has against those who command the status quo."

In other situations, each person within a large group may have suffered only limited damages and the cost of individual lawsuits would be far greater than the value of each claim. The total damages, however, to the class could be quite large. The wrongdoer would have the incentive to continue its fraudulent conduct but for a class action.

"In the age of mass production and mass marketing, class actions are necessary to allow individuals to take on multi-national corporations, where expenses of litigating would be otherwise prohibitive. The class becomes a de facto corporation for the purposes of suit, allowing individuals to band together and be equally matched against corporate defendants," observed Lieff Cabraser our US affiliate Law Firm

Finally, where the defendant has engaged in a pattern of wrongdoing, a class action can provide an effective remedy for the group without incurring the costs of thousands of separate lawsuits and risking inconsistent decisions by the courts.

Are class action lawsuits controversial?

Increasingly the public sees the lawyers, both the defence counsel who work for hourly fees regardless of the outcome and plaintiff's counsel who stand to obtain contingency fees if the class prevails, as the only winners in such a system.

This image of class actions, however, is often advanced by organizations and large corporations seeking to undermine the ability of consumers and small and mid-sized business owners who would otherwise be unprotected against corporate misconduct. "Without private enforcement, a lot more governmental regulation would be required, something the business community and taxpayers would not likely favour," stated Lieff Cabraser.

Before any class action settlements may occur, the judge presiding over the case must give notice of the settlement to the class, allow all who wish to be heard to state their positions and/or objections, and approve the settlement, including the attorneys' fees, only if the settlement and fees are fair and reasonable.

For more information concerning the importance of class actions in the American and Irish legal systems, please contact Brian O’Reilly at (01) 4525211 [International +353-1-4525211]

Important note about the information on this page:

This summary of class actions is intended to give lay persons a basic overview to class actions. It is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Nor is this summary intended to create, and receipt does not create, an attorney-client relationship.

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