Class Action Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Class Action, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Class Action?

It is a kind of a representative action where a lawsuit is flied by a person or a group of people representing a class of people who have ceratin interests in common or who have collectively suffered from any damages.

History and Meaning of Class Action

Class action is a legal mechanism used in the United States to allow a large group of people to file a lawsuit against another party, typically a corporation. The main idea behind this process is to provide a more efficient way for people to seek justice, especially when dealing with cases that are too small to justify individual legal action. This concept has evolved over the years, with several landmark cases shaping the legal framework under which class action is now conducted.

The first federal class action rule was enacted in 1938, as part of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that class action lawsuits became a popular tool for civil rights activists and consumer advocates. Since then, they have been used to fight against discrimination, pollution, and other social and economic issues. Today, class action lawsuits are one of the most common types of litigation in the United States.

Examples of Class Action

  • In 1998, a class action lawsuit was filed against the tobacco industry by a group of smokers who claimed that the companies concealed the health risks of smoking. The case eventually led to a massive settlement of over $200 billion.

  • In 2016, a group of Uber drivers filed a class action lawsuit against the ride-hailing company, claiming that they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. The case was settled for $20 million.

  • In 2010, a class action lawsuit was filed against Toyota by car owners who claimed that their vehicles had an acceleration defect that caused them to suddenly speed up. The case was settled for $1.6 billion.

Legal Terms Similar to Class Action

  • Mass Tort: A type of lawsuit that involves a large group of people who have been harmed by a common product or situation.

  • Collective Action: A legal process similar to class action, but used in cases involving claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

  • Representative Action: A lawsuit in which one or more people sue on behalf of a larger group who have similar claims.