Consumer Protection/Class Action
Often, protecting your rights as a consumer takes the form of a class action lawsuit, rather than an individual claim. Almost any defective consumer product or service can be the subject of a class action. In general, they tend to be brought because it is important to hold the defendant accountable for wrongdoing or negligence, but the damages in an individual lawsuit would be too small to justify bringing suit. For example, residents of a neighborhood might bring a class action to stop a factory from dumping toxic, harmful chemicals into their water supply. A class action might also be appropriate to hold a toy manufacturer responsible for minor accidents caused by a defective toy. At the Dean Law Firm, our injury attorneys believe in pursuing justice for consumers in the Ocala area who have been hurt because of negligent or reckless conduct by corporations.Requirements for Class Action Lawsuits
A plaintiff who wants to represent a class in Florida courts must plead and prove certain required elements in order to turn a civil lawsuit into a class action, also known as obtaining certification. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.220 sets forth specific pleading requirements to prevent certification from resulting in a violation of due process that requires a defendant to abandon a meritorious defense and settle, just to limit liability.
Under subsection (a) of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.220, these elements must be satisfied before a consumer protection class action can be considered appropriate: numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy. First, there must be so many members that it would be impracticable to separately join them to the suit. Second, the claims or defenses of the representative plaintiff must raise common questions of law or fact among each of the class members. The representative plaintiff's claims or defenses must be typical of the class. Finally, the representative plaintiff must be able to adequately represent and protect each class member's interests.
In addition, one of the three subsections of Section 1.220, subsection (b), must be satisfied and pled by the plaintiff. The first subsection permits certification if the prosecution of individual actions by class members creates the risk of inconsistent adjudications that establish incompatible standards of conduct for the defendant. The second subsection permits certification when the class seeks injunctive or declaratory relief, rather than money damages. The third subsection permits certification when common issues of law or fact predominate over the individual class member's unique issues, and a class action is superior to other types of adjudication. For example, if there are very different damages available to different class members, the class action may be unmanageable.
Certification of a class does not relieve a named plaintiff from proving all elements of the claim with respect to each class member. When individual claims cannot be proven class-wide without bringing the members one by one before the court, the class may not be certified. Similarly, a defendant must be able to assert all its substantive defenses in the class action. If certification would preclude the defendant from presenting a viable defense, the court will not certify it.
Once a class is certified, however, the representative plaintiff must send notice of the class action to all the members of the class. The notice must be "neutral" and cannot be biased towards one party. Generally, the party that asserts a class is required to pay the cost of giving notice.Enlist an Ocala Attorney to Assert Your Rights as a Consumer
The products liability lawyers at the Dean Law Firm can guide Ocala residents through the process of bringing or participating in a class action. For a free consultation, contact us at 352-387-8700 or via our online form. We represent clients in Crystal River and other areas of Marion, Lake, Levy, Sumter, and Citrus Counties.