A class action is a type of lawsuit in which a group of individuals (the plaintiffs) sue one or more people or parties, businesses or organizations (the defendants) for some type of harm they reported experiencing. Typically only a few representative plaintiffs appear in trial to argue their case with the help of their attorney. If they win or settle the case, any monetary compensation or other awards are distributed among all plaintiffs in addition to a large percentage typically paid to the plaintiff’s’ attorney. These actions can be filed in state or federal court. In order for a lawsuit to be approved as a class action, a court must certify that the number of people in the class is sufficient, the claims and interests of the plaintiffs appearing in court are typical of and representative of the entire group or class, and that there are underlying legal issues common to plaintiffs and class action members involved in their lawsuit against the defendant.

The Foundation has argued against the court approval of class actions lawsuits in many cases particularly when it involves uninjured plaintiffs. Class actions often result in large fees for attorneys while small if any monetary awards go to class members. (If you ever received a check for a few dollars or less from Verizon or another company with an accompanying note about a class action settlement, you understand this all too well.) Representative plaintiffs, on the other hand, may receive a much larger settlement at the expense of class members who may be prevented from seeking any compensation of their own for specific harm done. Additionally, class actions can be difficult to manage if applied to the wrong types of cases. For example, separate evidence may need to be presented with respect to each class member. Defendants may be forced to settle to avoid the high costs of litigation, depriving plaintiffs of a verdict that may prevent future incidents.

Read about these Foundation legal actions and more in our Amicus Briefs below.

Case Name:
Philip Morris USA v. Williams
Date Filed:
07/28/2016
Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Foundation Action:

In this case, AEF argued that a previously awarded $79.5 million dollar punitive damage award is constitutionally excessive when it bears no reasonable relation to the amount of actual damages. We partnered with Washington Legal Foundation on this action.

Verdict:
Loss

Case Name:
Comcast Corp. v. Behrend
Date Filed:
08/24/2015
Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Foundation Action:

AEF argued here that six cable subscribers in Philadelphia intent on suing Comcast for violating high cable TV bills and antitrust laws should not be allowed to pursue a class action suit as common issues of fact and law predominated across all 650 Comcast franchise areas involved in the lawsuit. We partnered with Washington Legal Foundation on this action.

Verdict:
Victory

Case Name:
Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles
Date Filed:
10/29/2012
Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Foundation Action:

In this case, AEF argued that class action members that are not present in the courtroom cannot be binded to a verdict simply because damages fall below a jurisdictional threshold. We partnered with Washington Legal Foundation on this action.

Verdict:
Victory

Case Name:
Prometheus Real Estate Group v. Superior Court.
Date Filed:
07/14/2012
Court:
U.S. Supreme Court for the State of California
Foundation Action:

We argued that the lawsuit of four residents living in an apartment building who sought millions of dollars of damages due to renovation noise should not be entitled to a class action certification since residents who lived far away from the construction may not have experienced any disruption, among other reasons. We partnered with Washington Legal Foundation on this action.

Verdict:
Loss

Case Name:
West Virginia v. CVS Pharmacy
Date Filed:
06/10/2011
Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Foundation Action:

Here, the Foundation argued that lawsuits that are functionally equivalent to a class action should be protected by the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, and out-of-state defendants should not be imposed additional obstacles to moving their lawsuits from state to federal court. We partnered with Washington Legal Foundation on this action.

Verdict:
Loss

Case Name:
Thomas v. Alcoser
Date Filed:
05/02/2011
Court:
U.S. Supreme Court
Foundation Action:

The Foundation argued here that in class actions the plaintiff must present evidence that each class member is entitled to recover damages and that not doing so would violate the due process rights of defendants by depriving them of a meaningful opportunity to contest all elements of liability. We partnered with Washington Legal Foundation on this action.

Verdict:
Loss