Requirements for a Successful Class Action Lawsuit

Learn about what are the requirements for certifying a successful class action lawsuit and how many plaintiffs are needed for it.

Requirements for a Successful Class Action Lawsuit

The size of some classes can reach millions, but it is difficult to form a group to receive certification with fewer than 20 members. A class with at least a few dozen members is preferred and you'll likely get certified and move on. It is important that members also meet the requirements, including being injured in the same way, for a class action lawsuit to be certified. There are no strict “number” rules when it comes to the actual number of plaintiffs needed to certify a class action lawsuit.

Most judges will certify a class action lawsuit if there are 40 or more plaintiffs involved. If there are 20 plaintiffs or fewer, it is likely that the class action lawsuit will not meet the numerosity rule for certifying a class action. Class action lawsuits are an important means by which plaintiffs in similar situations (sometimes numbering in the thousands) can litigate their causes of action in a single court forum. After all, a class action lawsuit cannot go too far without a clear definition of who it seeks to cover.

Class action lawsuits provide injured people with many benefits, such as allowing large groups of similarly affected people to come together and file a lawsuit against the same company. In cases like this, a class action lawsuit would avoid a situation where judges would issue different rulings regarding how the defendant should act with the people covered by the lawsuit. In situations like this, it's more appropriate for one or a few people to represent the entire group, which is the main purpose of a class action lawsuit in the first place. Once you have hired an attorney to act as a class action lawyer, you should discuss with them whether you should be the lead plaintiff.

Class action lawsuits are often lawsuits for injuries caused by harmful products, such as defective drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, and defective cars, among others. Some courts have considered that the group is “large enough” when it includes at least 40 people, but others have held that factors such as the location of the group members, the ease with which they can be identified, and the size and nature of their demands should also be taken into account. Ideally, a sufficient number of members would combine the cases of several individuals to create a court-certified class action lawsuit. While not expressly mentioned in Rule 23, an implicit requirement for class actions is that the proposed class must be clearly defined.

Issues of law or fact common to class members should predominate over those that affect only individual members of the class. Rule 23 also requires group representatives and their lawyers to demonstrate that they will “fairly and adequately protect” the group's interests. Otherwise, they will likely refer you to lawyers who specialize in this area or in a specific type of class action lawsuits, such as class labor lawsuits. In a recent example, a judge refused to certify a class action lawsuit filed by a producer of Peele's “Key &” for royalties allegedly owed to Comedy Central writers because the plaintiff apparently had access to information that other members of the proposed group didn't have.