Class Actions & Mass Tort

Leesfield & Partners has extensive experience handling and litigating class action lawsuits. A class action is a procedural device used in litigation to determine the rights of and remedies, if any, for large numbers of people whose cases involve common questions of law and fact. Our trial attorneys will aggressively pursue the maximum compensation provided by law.

The firm has distinguished itself in efficiently and aggressively represent its clients until a successful resolution is reached either through trial or through an out-of-court settlement. Our class action practice involves prosecution of statewide and nationwide class actions in such diverse subject matters as insurance, banking, securities, workers' rights, maritime and unfair trade and consumer protection matters.

A class action lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that is brought by one person or a few people on behalf of a larger group of people who have suffered similar harm or have a similar claim. Class actions can be brought in either federal or state courts, though a recent federal law, the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, makes it easier for defendants to move class action lawsuits from state to federal courts.

Class actions are generally used when too many people have been affected by the subject of the claim for each of them to file a separate lawsuit. For example, class action suits are frequently used for claims of injury from hazardous products including pharmaceutical products and dangerous drugs. Successful class action cases have involved tobacco, asbestos, Agent Orange, breast implants, and a contraceptive device. Class actions are also frequently used in securities cases (such as fraudulent financial statements and practices like releasing false information about stocks and other forms of market manipulation); in employment cases (such as mass dismissals and violations of wage/hour laws); and to stop illegal or harmful practices like oil spills, manufacturing pollution, or violations of state or federal constitutional protections.

A lawsuit becomes a class action when one or more plaintiffs, often called Lead Plaintiffs, file a lawsuit claiming some kind of harm. The plaintiff(s) can then ask the court to certify the case as a class action. To have the case certified, the Lead Plaintiff and class action attorneys must show that the case meets several criteria:

  • There is a legal claim against the defendant(s).

  • There is a significantly large group of people who have been injured in a similar way and the cases of members of the class involve similar issues of fact and law as the case of the Lead Plaintiff(s). Class certification might be denied, for example, if people have suffered different kinds of side effects from a defective drug. The differences in injury would require different evidence for many class members.

  • The Lead Plaintiff is typical of the class members and has a reasonable plan and the ability to adequately represent the class. The Lead Plaintiff must also have no conflict with other class members. A Lead Plaintiff who seeks money damages for him or herself, but is willing to agree to coupons for all the rest of the class, is probably not adequately representing the class.

If a lawsuit is certified as a class action, the court will order that the class of people affected be notified, which is done through direct mailings as well as through the media and Internet. Class membership is automatic in all but a very few cases. Everyone affected by the action or product complained of will be part of the case unless they choose to opt out. Class members do not take part in the case directly unless they have evidence to offer, and they are not involved in the decision of whether or not to accept a settlement offer. The Lead Plaintiff consults with the class action attorneys to plan the strategy of the case and to accept or reject settlement offers. Other class members have only the option of opting out of the settlement.

The court decides how to divide any recovery at the end of a class action suit. The attorneys are given costs and fees, often calculated as a percentage of the entire recovery, the Lead Plaintiff(s) receive an amount partly determined by their participation in the lawsuit, and the rest of the recovery is divided among the class members.

In a class action, the plaintiff seeks court approval to litigate on behalf of a group of similarly‑situated persons. Not every plaintiff looks for, or could obtain, such approval. As a procedural alternative, plaintiff's counsel may attempt to sign up every similarly‑situated person that counsel can find as a client. Plaintiff's counsel can then join the claims of all of these persons in one complaint, a so‑called "mass action," hoping to have the same efficiencies and economic leverage as if a class had been certified.

Because mass actions operate outside the detailed procedures laid out for class actions, they can pose special difficulties for both plaintiffs, defendants, and the court. For example, settlement of class actions follows a predictable path of negotiation with class counsel and representatives, court scrutiny, and notice. There may not be a way to uniformly settle all of the many claims brought via a mass action. Some states permit plaintiff's counsel to settle for all the mass action plaintiffs according to a majority vote, for example. Other states require each plaintiff to approve the settlement of that plaintiff's own individual claims.

Our attorneys were successful in settling a class action lawsuit for $32,000,000. We were able to certify and settle a nationwide class action in the Tennessee state courts in the matter of Limor v. United Presidential Insurance Co. This case involved 50,000 class members asserting a breach of contract claim for unauthorized cost of insurance increases and interest rate reductions on a select group of universal life insurance policies within UPI. The firm was successful in persuading the Circuit Court of Davidson County to certify a nationwide class over the objection of the defendant. Class counsel believes that this was the first time a nationwide class was certified, over the objection of the defendant, in a life insurance case. Following class certification, the Limor matter settled with benefits valued at $32,000,000. For a complete list of the firm's representative results, go to our Verdicts and Settlements section.

To contact one of our experienced trial lawyers call our Miami law office today at 800-836-6400 or click here for a free and full case evaluation.