Last month, this blog discussed the elements of product liability claims following issuance of a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission press release. That story revolved around the recalling of BlueStar wall ovens due to safety concerns over improperly installations and damaged gas appliance connectors that caused potential fire hazards.
Often, the facts and circumstances underlying product liability claims will give rise to the need to employ a specific legal mechanism to ensure adequate recovery for all the injured individuals. When a large group of people is injured by the actions of a person or company that has designed or manufactured a defective product, it may be in the injured parties' best interest to pursue their legal claims by means of a class action.
A class action is a type of lawsuit that aggregates a number of individuals so that they can litigate their claim or claims as a group. A class must be certified by the court in which the action has been commenced, and, in order for a class to be certified, it must have a set of four articular qualities:
1 Numerosity. The class must be comprised of a number of individuals large enough that it would be impractical to pursue individual lawsuits on each person's behalf. For example, if seven people had been injured by the improperly manufactured ovens discussed above, it would be reasonable to file individual lawsuits for each of them. On the other hand, if seven hundred people were injured by those same ovens, a class action would be necessary to dispose of all the claims in the most efficient manner.
1 Commonality. The members of a class action are required to have common, or similar, legal and factual claims. For instance, if a passenger train crashed and a large number of people were hurt, those people would have common legal and factual claims.
1 Adequacy. A class must designate a person or person to be representative(s) of the class as a whole. These representatives must adequately embody the interests of all the class members.
1 Typicality. The claim or claims of the class representatives must be typical, or characteristic, of the claims of all the members. The Supreme Court determined in General Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147 (1982) that class representatives must "possess the same interest and suffer the same injury as the class members."
If any of these four factors is not present, the court can decline to certify the class and litigation, at least as a class, cannot be pursued. Further, before litigation of a class action may begin, all potential class members must be notified. The notice must explain the class action and provide potential class members the chance to "opt out" of the class. Later, if a settlement of the lawsuit is reached, the class members must be notified of the terms of the proposed settlement and given an opportunity to opt out of the settlement.
The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by defective products. If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective product, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.