Bought a Defective Product? Here’s How to Initiate a Class Action Lawsuit
There is nothing more unpleasant than buying a defective product. But what do you do when it occurs? You can throw the product out and count your losses. You can try settling with the company via their customer service. Returns, replacements, and refunds are part of our daily commercial landscape. Nevertheless, some defective products may lead to personal injuries. If that is the case, you may have grounds for a class-action lawsuit. Provided you find others who suffered comparable damages as you did. Here’s how to initiate a class action lawsuit should a defective product caused you harm.
What Warrants a Class Action Lawsuit?
A person can initiate a class action suit in the following conditions:
- If he or she suffered a physical or financial personal injury due to the wrongful actions of a company;
- If he or she believes others have suffered similar harms.
In the case of a defective product that caused physical damages, for instance, a class action suit is the better choice if not financially viable for all injured parties to file individual lawsuits.
The Severity of the Injuries and the Type of Lawsuit You Can Initiate
In the case of a defective product, you have grounds to initiate a lawsuit if the company caused injuries to a large number of individuals. A corporation, for example, produced a medical device or an accessory that caused physical injuries to individuals across the country.
However, the severity of the injuries may determine the type of lawsuit you can initiate. In mass torts, the severity of the damage is the one that acts as a measurement for the compensation you receive.
In class actions, all plaintiffs receive equal compensation. In this context, the case of the defective earplug sold by 3M to the U.S. government is a good example. The company manufactured combat arms earplugs, which became standard issue for military personnel for 12 years. Recently, in a whistle-blower suit, the company admitted the earplugs were defective. They caused tinnitus, hearing loss, and other hearing impairments to those who used them in combat theaters or training.
While the government reached a settlement with 3M, those who used the defective earplugs can still file individual suits against the company. In other words, if one plaintiff suffered tinnitus due to the defective earplugs but another lost hearing for good, a mass tort suit will compensate the two plaintiffs differently.
If you think you may potentially have a case, a mass torts attorney can help explain to you’re the viability of your case for a class-action lawsuit. If you want to learn about ongoing class actions, check the Consumer Action Class Action Database.
Nevertheless, if you want to initiate a suit of your own, here are the three main stages of the process.
Find a Personal Injury Lawyer
Your first step is to discuss with a personal injury lawyer about the grounds you have for a class action. The attorney reviews the factual and legal issues you present and decides whether it is a viable option.
Draft and File the Complaint
The lawyer drafts a class action complaint describing the events that caused your injury. In addition, the papers will state that:
- You are the lead plaintiff.
- You seek the compensation you and other individuals who may have suffered the same harm.
An experienced attorney will do everything to make a solid case for your class action suit. Nevertheless, the courts will evaluate the filed claim and decide if you have grounds for such a lawsuit.
The Certification of the Class Action Suit
The plaintiff (you in this case) must serve the complaint to the defendant (the company manufacturing the defective product). Depending on your state, you will either have to file a motion for a court to certify the suit, or the court initiates the certification process following the filed claim.
Here is what you need to know about courts certifying a class suit:
- You, as a representative plaintiff, have to prove that you suffered the same injuries as the other members of the class;
- The judge needs to have clear information to determine who and who is not a member of your class action;
- You need to prove that it would be impractical to have all the members of the class join the lawsuit;
- All alleged injuries of the class members share the same set of facts or legal interests;
- All the claims of the class members are so similar that they can make a single case. This warrants the absence of the other class members;
- A class-action suit is the most efficient course of action and the best solution to solve the claims.
If your attorney makes a good case in court, the judge will consider the certification of your class action suit.
At this point, you can expect injury settlement negotiations with the defendant. They usually begin only after the class action received a green light from the court.
Bottom Line on how to initiate a class action Lawsuit
Class action suits can take years, and you can settle for millions (the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. case is famous). On the other hand, you can receive little money in the end. The damages split among all members of the class.
If you indeed suffered harm from a defective product, see that the court serves justice accordingly.