A class action is a court procedure that allows one or more plaintiffs in court to bring claims on behalf of the plaintiff(s) as well as other persons not in court who have similar claims. By aggregating claims it becomes economically practical to bring the lawsuit that would otherwise be too small to bring as an individual action or to make the action economically practical. In the federal court system the procedure is governed by Rule 23. Almost all states have similar rules although they differ in detail. The plaintiff who brings the action must be aware that not only does the plaintiff represent him or herself. The plaintiff also represents the outside class members. Accordingly the plaintiff not only must pay attention to his or her own interests. The plaintiff must only represent the other class members. The courts say that the class representative owes a fiduciary duty to the class members.
Class Action Expectations
A plaintiff with a claim should not go into a class action thinking that a settlement will come quickly or that it can be used as a pressure point to get a better deal for the plaintiff. Once the case is filed, both the plaintiff's lawyer and the plaintiff undertake responsibilities for the members of the lawsuit who are not in the courthouse. A business that is the subject of unfair competition, for example, may lack the resources to prosecute an action on its own but may be able to be a class representative for other business subject to the same unfair practices.