Two of the most common class action lawsuits brought against companies in relation to animal law are: (1) Product Liability/Personal Injury Actions; and (2) Consumer Class Actions.
Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure controls who may bring a class action lawsuit and how the class may proceed through the litigation process. There are four prerequisites to bringing a class action lawsuit:
(1) Numerosity: class action lawsuits may only be maintained if the class is so numerous that joinder would be impractical; in order to have proper federal jurisdiction in these cases courts require that there be at least 100 claimants (the amount in controversy is also raised from $75,000 to an aggregate $5 million, and diversity is had if diversity exists between at least one plaintiff and one defendant).
(2) Commonality: a class action must present questions of law or fact common to the entire class. This prerequisite has recently been defined by the Supreme Court by stating that an issue is common to the class if the “determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in one stroke”.
(3) Typicality: the claims or defenses raised by the representative parties must be typical of the claims or defenses of the class; this is used to limit the class claims to those fairly encompassed by the plaintiff’s claims, and is usually satisfied where each members’ claims: (1) arise from the same course of events and (2) are based on the same arguments used to prove defendant’s liability.
(4) Adequacy: the representative parties must fairly and adequately protect the interests of the entire class. To test for adequacy courts will look to whether: (1) there are any conflicts of interest between the named and unnamed class members; or (2) the named plaintiffs have the ability and incentive to prosecute the action on behalf of the class.
- If these prerequisites are met the class may become certified by the court the complaint was filed in, and can proceed with the litigation of the class action lawsuit.
In order to become a class action attorney one must seek appointment from the court presiding over the issue after applying for the position. Courts will appoint counsel after considering: (1) the counsel’s work in identifying and investigating claims; (2) counsel’s experience in handling class actions, complex litigation, and claims similar to those asserted in the action; (3) counsel’s knowledge of the applicable law; and (4) the resources counsel will commit to representing the class. Courts may also consider any other facts related to the applicants ability to effectively and fairly represent the interests of the class. Counsel will only be appointed by the court if the applicant is considered adequate as stated in Rule 23(g)(2). The main concern of the courts in appointing counsel is ensuring that the interests of the class of persons suing or being sued will be most effectively represented.
Payment of attorney’s fees for class action lawsuits is covered by Rule 23(h). Courts may award reasonable attorney’s fees and nontaxable costs. Fees and costs must either be those authorized by law or by the parties’ agreement and (2) a claim for an award must first be made by motion under Rule 54(d)(2) – once the award has been given the court may then authorize the awarding of attorney’s fees or will enforce the agreement made between the parties. Class action lawsuits are an effective measure to stop illegal business practices or rectify the unjust benefits a company may have taken from innocent parties.