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Ryan R. Bradley
Ryan R. Bradley
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Class Actions Broken Down, They Existed before Syngenta Corn Litigation

Koester & Bradley Illinois Corn Lawyers

The Syngenta Class Action raises Questions About the Process

With the announcement of the class action lawsuit against Syngenta announced late last year (a class action that is totally inappropriate) and the impending doom of Volkswagen at the hands of numerous impending class actions sneaking into the headlines, it is appropriate to break down exactly what the heck everyone is talking about when we refer to class actions.  Hopefully after reading this brief post you can impress your friends at the next cocktail party or at the very least know what to do when you get a notice in the mail.

The Basics on Class Actions

We have all received the notice in the mail informing us that we are part of a “Class Action.”  Further, thanks in large part to John Grisham, we have all heard stories about shady and wealthy lawyers who file “Class Action Lawsuits.” Hiding somewhere in between is the truth and the following is a breakdown of what a class action is, and some common class action cases.

A class action is a lawsuit by one or a few plaintiffs on behalf of a large group that has been similarly mistreated by a defendant. Through a class action, it becomes economical to bring a suit that otherwise could not be brought. Where a defendant has improperly obtained a small sum of money from a large number of people, a class action allows a method by which all of the people may receive their money back.

Essentially, it would make no sense for hundreds, or even thousands of people to pursue individual actions across the Country.  Litigation, even for small sums of money, is expensive, and class actions allow for the prosecution of actions in a manner that is efficient and fair.  The perfect example is a defective dishwasher part.  All the damages are the same, so the cost of the repair and the replacement part are the same for everybody.  All people with the same defective part can be represented by one plaintiff and one attorney.  Contrast this with the Syngenta Corn Litigation that is pending across the country.  In this case, the damages of each individual farmer are different and a class action would be inappropriate.  The appropriate method to handle Syngenta Claims is through a mass tort or collective action process and the filing of individual claims.

In such cases, there is no fee if there is no recovery. If there is a recovery, the court determines the amount of the attorney’s fee and orders that it be paid from the recovery or as an additional payment by the defendant.  It is important to understand that with class actions, the attorneys and class representatives are compensated no matter how many people opt-in or opt-out of the class. Further, the plaintiffs who serve as class representatives may be awarded a class representative’s fee as determined by the court. The class representatives also receive the same money and other relief that all of the members of the class receive.

Types of Class Actions Pursued in Illinois

While the subtleties of class action law are often overwhelming, from a practical standpoint, all class actions are either “opt-out” or “opt-in.”  As you may have guessed, an “opt-in” class action is one that requires the class members to explicitly consent to, and choose to become involved with, the case, while an “opt-out” class action automatically includes the class members in the action unless they explicitly choose not to take part or “opt-out.”  This is why defendants tend to favor opt-in class actions as it will generally mean that they will have to pay less in a potential settlement.  This is one of the reasons that the Syngenta class action is so suspect.

Now that we understand the basics, here are examples of quality class actions:

Shareholders’ Actions – class actions by shareholders of corporations in regard to losses suffered by shareholders as a result of corporate malfeasance seeking damages for loss in stock value and seeking orders directing the corporation to adopt measures to minimize losses in the future.

Motor Vehicle Insurance – class actions against various insurance carriers concerning such conduct as the companies’ specification of non-original equipment body parts in repairing their insureds’ vehicles and the failure to pay for the diminished value of their insureds’ vehicles after repair.

Telephone Service Provider Practices – class actions against various telephone service providers concerning conduct such as “cramming” (improperly billing customers for services that have not been ordered), unrequested in line wire maintenance programs, “slamming” (unauthorized changing of long distance service providers) and “bait and switch” (deceptive offers to obtain new customers). These actions are now prevalent with cell phone providers.

Health Insurance Co-Pay Litigation – class actions against certain health insurance carriers concerning deceptive and improper practices involving, among other things, the calculation of their insureds’ co-payment obligations. Several of these cases have been completed resulting in millions of dollars in refunds to consumers.

Force Placed Insurance Litigation – class actions against lenders concerning deceptive practices in the placement of collateral protection insurance (property insurance). Several cases have been concluded resulting in millions of dollars in refunds.

Motor Vehicles – the firm is presently involved in the litigation against Ford Motor Company concerning the design of the Explorer Sport Utility and against Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone in regard to the tires used on the Explorer.

Truck Bed-liners – the firm was lead counsel in litigation compelling truck bed-liner manufacturers to give warnings and fund an educational campaign concerning the dangers of static electricity causing a fire when flammable liquids are handled under certain circumstances in a truck equipped with a bed-liner.

Insurance Practices – class actions against insurance carriers concerning sales, underwriting, reinsurance and advertising practices.

Improper Billing Practices – involving the intentional adding on of false or improper charges or overcharging for goods or services.

Cruise Line Litigation – class actions against large cruise lines alleging deceptive practices in the course of billing of passengers for “port charges.”

Deceptive Sales Practices – class actions against various businesses alleging deceptive trade practices in regard to the sale of such products as gasoline and pharmaceuticals.

Collection Practices – class actions against lenders and collection agencies concerning improper collection activities including violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, and if you keep your eyes out, you may find that you are part of one.  If you receive a class action notice, or think that you may have uncovered a class action, contact an attorney with experience in the manner.

Finally, remember that the next major class action is waiting to be discovered, so always be on the lookout!

If you have any ideas, or just want to comment, feel free to get a hold of us.

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Illinois Plaintiffs Lawyer by Koester & Bradley