Bailey & Galyen’s Class Actions Department

by John Fabry

Have you ever received a notice in the mail that you are a member of a class action and wondered what that means? A class action is a type of lawsuit in which the claims and rights of many people are decided in a single case. They are a useful tool for consumers when large corporations make huge amounts of money by taking unfair advantage of many consumers. A large corporation might, for example, improperly charge you a one dollar fee on your monthly bill. If the company has a million customers, they have just improperly made $1,000,000. If they charge the improper fee every month for a year, they’ve made $12,000,000. Although it would be hard for you to justify filing a lawsuit for $12.00, in a class action lawsuit claims are asserted on behalf of the entire class so that everyone with the same complaint or suffering the same harm does not have to file their own separate lawsuit.

As the United States Supreme Court has said, “the policy at the very core of the class action mechanism is to overcome the problem that small recoveries do not provide the incentive for any individual to bring a civil action prosecuting his or her rights.” Filing and fighting a lawsuit can be expensive, and large corporations can afford the very best legal services. Class actions provide consumers a way to join together to fight companies ripping them off for a little bit of money at a time. U.S. Congress found that “class action lawsuits are an important and valuable part of the legal system when they permit fair and efficient resolution of legitimate claims” and “benefit society by encouraging innovation and lowering consumer prices.” The class action lawsuit can force the company to pay back money to all the members of the class, pay a penalty, and stop the unfair or unlawful conduct.

The typical class action involves a situation where a large group of people is harmed by the same conduct. Examples of consumer complaints include illegal charges on bills, illegal penalties for late payments, and failure to comply with consumer protection laws. Consumers may also make complaints if a product that they have purchased does not work the way that it should or the company does not provide the service that was expected.

Employment class action lawsuits are typically brought on behalf of workers that are being cheated out of compensation or overtime pay.

Not every law firm or attorney has the resources to handle a class action lawsuit. Many firms do not want to use their resources to fight difficult cases. Class action cases take a significant financial and time investment to investigate, consult and retain expert witnesses, obtain class certification, and to fight the case in court.

Unlike many other types of cases, plaintiff’s attorneys in class action cases are usually paid in accordance with an order from the judge presiding over the case. The judge will review a submission by the attorneys called a fee petition. The petition explains the work that the attorneys have done on behalf of the class and the amount of money that they have spent on pursuing the case on behalf of the class. After considering the fee petition, the judge will enter an order setting the amount of fees to be paid to the attorneys. In deciding the amount of fees that attorneys should receive, judges consider the quality of the work, the difficulty of the case, the nature of the result, the amount of time spent on the case, and the risks involved.

If you believe that you qualify to participate in a class action lawsuit, please contact John Fabry in our Houston office at (281) 335-7744 or jfabry@galyen.com. There is no cost or obligation to have your potential claim evaluated. This is an opportunity to hold companies responsible for their actions.

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