What can plaintiffs, in California, do if they have been wronged, but have only suffered a minor loss or do not have the funds necessary to file a claim? For example, if a bank has been wrongfully charging their clients fees for a year, and each client has suffered a loss of about $100, what options do these clients have? It would not be feasible for each client to file a claim against the bank because the costs would likely outweigh their potential award. In this case, the wronged clients have the option of filling a “class action” suit.
California Civil Code § 1781 describes class action lawsuits, and the requirements to receive certification. “Any consumer entitled to bring an action under Section 1780 may, if the unlawful method, act, or practice has caused damage to other consumers similarly situated, bring an action on behalf of himself and such other consumers to recover damages or obtain other relief . . . .” Cal Civ Code § 1781. In order to obtain a class action certification, the court must first find that it would be impracticable for all the members of the wronged class to be brought before them. Id. Second, the issues or facts that are common to the class must be “substantially similar” and must predominate any other issues that affect the individual members of the class. Id. Third, the claims or defenses of the parties representing the class must be typical of the class itself. Id. And lastly, the representing party must fairly and adequately represent the class as a whole. Id.
If a class action suit is certified, members of the class must be notified about the suit. Id. Notifying class members about the suit is important because all members of the class will be bound by the judgment, whether it be favorable or not. Id. If a class member wishes to not be bound by the judgment in that particular suit, they must request to be excluded by the dates specified. Id. Class members who have been notified of the suit, and have not requested exclusion, will be notified if the suit is dismissed, settled, or compromised. Id.
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