Class Actions

The class-action device is an ideal mechanism for recovering damages when the amount of harm to individual class members is relatively small and where individuals have neither the resources nor financial incentive to bring their own claims.

Our firm has brought many class actions on behalf of consumers and others who are harmed by practices of various businesses.

Class actions are a way for persons with small claims to obtain relief by combining all of their claims in one case. Usually the case is brought in the name of one or more plaintiffs, called the class representatives, who bring the complaint on their individual behalf as well as on behalf of all potential members in the class. A class action is the most efficient way, and sometimes the only way, to resolve many similar or identical individual claims. This is especially true where each claim is for a relatively small sum of money but the defendant is accused of violations involving thousands of individuals.

Under state and federal law, persons with claims that are typical of a large number of potential claimants can bring a class action. The case can be “certified” as a class if the claims are numerous, there are common issues among all the claimants, the class representatives are typical and they and their counsel are adequate representatives of the class. If a class is certified, it means that all potential claimants will be part of the action and bound by its result. Claimants who do not wish to participate can request exclusion, or to “opt out” of the class.

Class actions are brought in a wide variety of situations. Examples include claims for violations of the Washington State Automatic Dialing and Announcing Device statute with autodialed calls, the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act with autodialed calls, text messages and calling numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, as well as claims for improper escrow charges, bank fees and failure to pay overtime, among many others.

A class can accomplish a public good by changing entire industry practices.  A class action can also help other consumers by extending the claims period. When a class action case is filed, usually the “statute of limitations” period for class members stops running until further developments in the case. That means that other consumers, whose claims might be lost if they filed them too late, can potentially be protected.

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