How Is a “Class” Defined?

Like many people in California, you may hear news of a class action lawsuit occurring and simply define it as a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of people (as opposed to an individual plaintiff). While that assumption may be true in a general sense, there are specific criteria a group must meet in order to bring such an action. 

Should you find yourself having a common complaint against a business entity, then it may make sense to band together with others who share your grievance. Yet before pursuing this course of action, you will want to know exactly how the law defines a “class.” 

Starting with a “live” claim

Classes can be quite large, so in a class action, the group selects class representatives to speak for the collective when arguing the case. According to the American Bar Association, in order to initiate a class action, at least one of those chosen to be a class representative must have a live claim against the proposed defendant. This means that at least one class representative must have already initiated an individual claim, with that claim remaining active up until the point that the court certifies the class. 

Meeting class criteria

In addition, the ABA states that a class must meet the following criteria: 

  • It must have at least 40 members 
  • The class members must have common questions (which common remedies may address) 
  • The class members must have a common claim 
  • The class must have adequate representation (with no conflicts of interest present) 

In addition, the class must show that either the defendant demonstrated incompatible standards of conduct, that the court can allocate funds from any potential settlement equitably, that the defendant acted (or failed to act) uniformly towards the class, or that the classes issues predominate those of each individual member. 

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