Class Action / Consumer Protection / Multi-District Litigation
Class actions are lawsuits in which most plaintiffs are passive, while a representative plaintiff pursues a set of claims. In general, these actions are meant to conserve resources and forestall repetitious litigation as well as inconsistent results. At the Voelker Litigation Group, our commercial litigation lawyers defend businesses in Chicago and other areas of Cook County that are facing wage and hour and shareholder class actions. We also offer legal representation for a broad range of class action and consumer protection matters, including those that arise out of consumer fraud, employment discrimination, health care, environmental regulations, insurance practices, products liability, securities fraud, and mass torts.Requirements for Bringing a Class Action
Class actions may be brought in state or federal court, but certain causes of action can only be filed in federal court. In some cases, a defendant will move a class action to federal court on the grounds of "federal diversity jurisdiction." This can be a good move for a defendant, but a bad one for a consumer plaintiff if there is a sound basis for punitive damages.
In order for the case to proceed in either state or federal court, the class must be certified. In Illinois, the applicable rule for certifying a class is 735 ILCS 5/2-801 through 5/2-807. As in many other states, this law is modeled on the federal rules, and decisions in federal court can be used to persuade the court in connection with class certification.
Under Section 2-801, certain elements must be proved to get a class certified in Illinois:
- The class is so numerous that it is not practicable to join all members;
- Common questions of law or fact predominate over individual questions of the class members;
- The representative party will provide adequate and fair representation of the whole class; and
- The class action will permit fair and efficient adjudication of the matter.
If class certification is denied because one of these elements is not established, it may still be appropriate to coordinate the cases in multi-district litigation.
For example, if a large restaurant corporation employs many servers, they may sue the corporation if they feel that they have not been adequately paid. Or, if several shareholders believe they have been defrauded during a particular time period and suffered economic injury, they may join together in a shareholder class action. These suits are often brought in federal court under the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and the Securities Act of 1933.Requirements for the Class Representative
A class action suit is brought by a class representative. This person's suitability for bringing the suit is considered by the court. For example, the court will consider whether the plaintiff has a conflict of interest with the class, his or her honesty, and his or her suitability as a fiduciary.
Unlike federal law, in Illinois state court, the plaintiff's claims need not be "typical" of the class. His or her interest must be the same, but even if there are factual differences between the representative plaintiff's case and the other cases, this is not grounds to stop certification of the class.
The attorney for the class must also be experienced and qualified to conduct the litigation. Not all attorneys are qualified to manage the large number of claims involved in a class action, and it is crucial to have proper representation so that all class members' interests are properly protected.
Class members can be given notice at the class certification stage or before approval of a settlement or dismissal. Personal notice is not required at all stages.
The remedies sought in a class action may include compensatory damages, expert fees, costs, attorneys' fees, and in some cases, punitive damages or equitable relief. In consumer class actions against large corporations, settlements may include discounts on a defendant's product, or they may be changes to internal management, liquidation of corporate assets, or elimination of conflicts of interest.Discuss Your Litigation Needs with an Experienced Chicago Lawyer
At the Voelker Litigation Group, we use an alternative fee arrangement to help individuals, start-ups, and entrepreneurs manage their risk at a reasonable cost. We also provide a strong defense to businesses in consumer class actions or complex litigation. When you are facing an employment dispute or another complex matter, the knowledgeable Chicago attorneys at the Voelker Litigation Group are here to help you. Set up a meeting with us by calling 312-870-5430 or completing our online form. We represent clients across Cook County, including in Mount Prospect, Glencoe, and Schaumburg, as well as in Kane Counties communities like Aurora and Elgin. The Voelker Litigation Group also has undertaken litigation in other states, including Delaware, California, and Wisconsin.