Expert Advice from a Seasoned Class Action Attorney

James Lowe, class action attorney at Lowe Eklund Wakefield Co., LPA, discusses the ins and outs of class action lawsuits as well as who you should have as your representation.

What’s the definition of a class action lawsuit?

Class actions lawsuits can be, by far and away, the easiest kind of lawsuit for people to be involved in if they have the right kind of case. It involves the least expense, the least effort, the least involvement, and while they take a long time to get resolved, it often results in a result that they otherwise would never have been able to achieve on their own.

Is it better for me to be in a class action case or file a claim as an individual?

If you are qualified to be in a class action, if you have a claim just like everybody else’s claim and your claim wouldn’t be worth a lot by itself, there’s strength in numbers, and so sometimes you actually have a much better chance of getting compensation when you are entitled to it with a group of other people who have the exact same claim as you do.

How can I tell if my case is strong enough for class action litigation?

It’s not so much a matter of whether it’s strong. It’s whether it’s typical. If your case is just like the kind of cases that the lawyers are considering bringing as a class action, all you have to do is ask a lawyer to let you be a class representative. There are advantages to it, because you get actually a little better compensation generally. And there are disadvantages. You’re likely to be the person whose deposition is taken. You’re likely to be the person whose cross-examined at trial. So there are some disadvantages in terms of time and perhaps stress in being a named plaintiff, but there are some advantages as well.

Is there a successful class action litigation you’ve been involved with?

We had a class action suit in which we represented a number of truck dealers against Ford Motor Company. They were franchised dealers, and they all had been taken advantage in their contract relationship with Ford, and so all of them were caused to suffer some expense in buying trucks that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. By themselves, they probably couldn’t have afforded to bring the litigation against Ford Motor Company, but there were 3,000 dealers nationwide, and together their claims amounted to $2 billion. So we got a judgment for them in that amount.

What do I look for in finding a class action law firm?

Generally, if you want to hire a law firm to represent you in a class action, you’re looking for a law firm that has done it before, who’s been qualified by a court before. Courts don’t just let any lawyer represent people in a class action. That’s one of the issues that a court must decide as to whether or not the class will be adequately represented, not only by the plaintiff whose case it is, but also by the lawyers and the law firms that are involved. So it pays to have had some experience both in class action lawsuits and in litigation in general, and that’s what you should be looking for when you’re looking for a lawyer.

What type of cases don’t make for a good class action candidate?

The kinds of cases that don’t make a good class action are cases involving individual issues. So, for example, let’s say that a certain vehicle defect has caused people injuries, but all of their injuries are going to be very different and so you can’t have the three requirements of a class action – numerosity, typicality, and commonality. Meaning your claims, the plaintiff’s claims have to be typical of all of the plaintiffs’ claims, and all of the questions that are going to be determined by the court have to be common, common questions of law and common questions of fact. Well, if it involves a personal injury, the courts have ruled that there are too many likely differences in each case to be able to make that into a class action.

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