What is Class Action Certification?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Class action certification is a process where a judge determines whether a suit qualifies for class action status, where suit can be brought against a class of defendants or on behalf of a class of plaintiffs. Class action suits are most commonly seen in the United States, although other nations allow this type of suit under their legal systems. When weighing the information pertaining to the suit, the judge must decide if it can be considered appropriate for a class action suit.

A judge will determine whether or not a suit is appropriate for a class action suit.
A judge will determine whether or not a suit is appropriate for a class action suit.

Several characteristics must be met for class action certification. The first is demonstrable proof that a large group of people is involved, and it would probably be difficult for all of them to bring suit independently. It must also be shown that these people have evidence and claims in common. Bringing suit as a group would allow the matter to be resolved with a single case, rather than clogging the legal system with numerous repeats of the case and creating a risk of unequal verdicts.

In a simple example of a class action suit, consumers could be involved in a products liability case, suing a manufacturer of widgets for a defective component causing injury. During the class action certification process, an attorney would have to demonstrate that numerous people have experienced an identical injury because of the same part, and the numbers of people are large enough to certify them as a class, rather than having them bring suit individually. Someone injured by a different component, or injured in a different way, would not qualify under the class umbrella because the case would be materially different.

People interested in applying for class action certification usually work with an attorney who specializes in class action suits, and they may need a legal team. The attorneys conduct research to identify as many potential members of the class as possible and to collect information about them. This information will be presented in court at a hearing where the judge has an opportunity to hear arguments. Evidence at a class action certification hearing can include testimony, written documents, and other materials related to the subject at hand.

When a judge decides to approve certification requests, the judge is required to define the class, state the specifics of the case, and provide other information about how the case will be conducted. This information is sent out to members of the public who may be part of the class, so they are aware of the legal proceedings. Interested people can join the suit and share in the settlement.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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