A class action is a type of lawsuit in which one or more people sue on behalf of a group. These lawsuits are filed when there is a large number of people who have suffered injury or harm against the same defendant. Many times, a single claim may be too small for its own lawsuit but can be filed when joined with a number of other claims. This is often the reason to file a class action lawsuit. Other names for lawsuits brought by a number of people who suffered similar harm or losses are “mass tort litigation” and “multi-district litigation” (“MDL”).
Our class action lawsuit lawyers can help you demand compensation.
Why Are Class Action Drug Lawsuits Filed?
Class action lawsuits are often filed for cases involving dangerous drugs and defective medical devices. While every case is different, there are generally two factors in every class action:
- The issues are common to all members of the class, and
- There are such a large number of claims that it is not practical to bring each claim in a separate lawsuit.
A class action lawsuit is usually started by a single person who files a lawsuit (often with the help of an attorney) and asks the court to certify the case as a class action. Cases are often filed against pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers by people harmed from using the drug or device. If the case is certified, then you may be automatically included in the case and can only “opt out” to file your own suit. In other case, you must send in a claim form to be included in the lawsuit.
In most dangerous drug class action lawsuits, you are bound by the outcome of the case. The judge must approve the settlement. You are provided written notice by the judge and can go to court if you object to the settlement. Your settlement share is determined by the Court. You receive your share from the total settlement amount.
How Many People Do I Need for a Class Action Lawsuit?
Only a single person is needed to start a class actions lawsuit. However, there has to be a good faith belief that a large number of other people were injured or harmed by the same drug or medical device. Further, the other people must have the same, or very similar, injury as the person who filed the lawsuit. A case cannot be filed claiming that a product was simply dangerous to everyone, but rather it must allege that a group of people suffered a signature type harm from the same drug or device manufactured and sold by a single company.
How Do I Start a Class Action Lawsuit ?
The first step is to contact an experienced law firm that specializes in class action lawsuits. These lawsuits are very time intensive and expensive to pursue due to litigation expenses so you will want an attorney who specializes in class action lawsuits to screen your case. Most of these lawsuits are handled on a “No Win, No Fee” basis so a top-rated lawyer will give you an honest answer whether there is a likelihood of winning your case.
Many times, you may be the first person to approach a law firm about a specific dangerous drug or defective medical device lawsuit. If the case seems interesting to the firm and one that might include a large number of claimants, the attorney will conduct extensive to determine if the case can be supported by medical literature and scientific research. Medical experts are required to support the issues in the case.
What are the Steps to File a Class Action Lawsuit?
After a lawyer has determined that you have a meritorious claim, the next step is to file the class action lawsuit in the appropriate state or federal court. The person who files the case is known as the “representative plaintiff,” because he or she is bringing the case for the potential members of the class action. The lawsuit must then be served on the defendant.
The next step is to request that the judge certify the case as a class action. In some courts, the judge will initiate the process to determine if class certification is appropriate. In other courts, the plaintiff files a motion asking the court to certify the matter as a class action. For the judge to certify the case as class action, the representative plaintiff must prove:
- the representative plaintiff has suffered the same alleged injuries as the proposed class. The allegations are assumed to be true for the purposes of certification (since the trial has not started)
- the class can be defined clearly enough to determine who is and is not a member
- the number of class members makes joining all of them to the lawsuit impractical
- a common set of facts or legal interest underlies all of the members’ alleged injuries
- the representative plaintiff’s claims are so similar to the class members that litigating the representative plaintiff’s case will adequately decide the absent class members’ cases, and
- a class action is the best and most efficient way of resolving the claims, either for the plaintiffs or for the defendants.
The judge ultimately makes the determination if a case is allowed to proceed as a class action. Many times, the decision making process is very involved and takes substantial time for the court to decide. If the judge determines that the case should not be filed as a class action, the case will be dismissed. This does not mean that the case is not legitimate, but rather only that the it does not meet the criteria for certification.
How Do I Join an Existing Class Action Lawsuit?
For an existing class action lawsuit, you may be automatically included in the suit even if you did not file a claim or contact an attorney. You might simply receive a letter in the mail notifying you that you are member in the case because records showed that you used a specific product.
For most drug and device lawsuits, you will want to directly contact a law firm who will assist you in filing your claim so that you have your own legal representation in the class. This will assure you that your claim will not be overlooked and that you will receive the best possible settlement at the conclusion of the case. The lawyers will determine if you are eligible to join the case and file the necessary paperwork for you.
How Are Settlement Amounts Determined in Drug & Medical Device Class Action Lawsuits?
Once a class action lawsuit is filed for a large group of individuals, the next step is for the attorneys to litigate the case. This is usually a lengthy process to see if the case can be proven by the representative plaintiff.
The plaintiff must prove a number of factors to establish liability of the manufacturer, such as whether there was a failure to properly warn the public about the risks of the product or whether the product was dangerous when it was placed on the market and sold to consumers. This part of the litigation involves depositions of the parties, discovering corporate documents, and taking depositions of medical expert witnesses.
After this part of the process, the next step is often a Bellwether Trial where a jury hears the evidence and renders a verdict. These verdicts often serve as a predictor of the value of each claim and the likelihood of winning future lawsuits. Many times, there may be several Bellwether Trials for a single drug or medical device and the results are used to determine whether the class action as a whole will be successful.
Once a pharmaceutical company or medical device maker realizes that it has an uphill battle and that it will ultimately have to pay out settlements, there is often a grid or payment schedule created with specified settlement amounts designated to each claimant based upon the specific criteria of the schedule. For example, one claimant might receive a certain dollar amount if the medical complication resulted in a permanent disability and another claimant may receive less if the damages were not as serious as other class members.
Who Is Eligible to Join a Dangerous Drug Class Action Lawsuit?
If the judge certifies a case as a class action, there will generally be criteria for people to join the lawsuit. In dangerous drug and defective device cases, the person might be eligible only if the product was used over a certain period of time and resulted in a very specific type of injury or medical condition. The criteria is often very strict to limit the class members to a very specific group of plaintiffs.
Our class action lawsuit attorneys will review your claim to determine if you are eligible to file or join a lawsuit. You may have been harmed by a drug but do not satisfy the requirements for participating in the suit.