class action

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class action,

in law, a device that permits one or more persons to sue or be sued as representative of a large group of people interested in the matter at issue. The court in whose jurisdiction a suit is brought typically has wide discretion in determining that a class will be so represented. Certain requirements must be met, e.g., the class must be so large or dispersed that actual joinder of all individuals would be impractical; there must be questions of law and fact common to all members, and these must outweigh any individual questions; and the named parties must adequately represent the interests of their class. Certain forms of notice to members of the class, e.g., by newspaper or broadcast publication or by mail, are also required. In most types of suit, all members of the class are bound by the decision, unless a member of the class opted out of the action at the beginning of the lawsuit. An absentee member may be able to contest the outcome on the basis that due process of law was not adhered to.

In the United States, federal and most state courts allow class action suits. Such suits have figured prominently in civil-rightscivil rights,
rights that a nation's inhabitants enjoy by law. The term is broader than "political rights," which refer only to rights devolving from the franchise and are held usually only by a citizen, and unlike "natural rights," civil rights have a legal as well as a
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 litigation and in other cases brought to further social and economic reform. In recent decades they have been employed notably by groups of consumers and others seeking to affix liabilityliability,
in law, an obligation of one party to another, usually to compensate financially. It is a fundamental aspect of tort law, although liability may also arise from duties entered into by special agreement, as in a contract or in the carrying out of a fiduciary duty.
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 for harm caused by various products, especially through manufacturers' negligencenegligence,
in law, especially tort law, the breach of an obligation (duty) to act with care, or the failure to act as a reasonable and prudent person would under similar circumstances.
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. Major litigation against the producers of the Dalkon shield (an intrauterine device; see birth controlbirth control,
practice of contraception for the purpose of limiting reproduction. Methods of Birth Control

Male birth control methods include withdrawal of the male before ejaculation (the oldest contraceptive technique) and use of the condom, a rubber sheath
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), of Agent OrangeAgent Orange,
herbicide used by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War to expose enemy guerrilla forces in forested areas. Agent Orange contains varying amounts of dioxin. Exposure to the defoliant has been linked with chemical acne, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease,
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 (a herbicide used as a defoliant in the Vietnam War), and of asbestosasbestos,
common name for any of a variety of silicate minerals within the amphibole and serpentine groups that are fibrous in structure and more or less resistant to acid and fire.
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 insulation has involved class action suits.

Since the 1980s such suits have been under attack, along with negligence litigation in general, with opponents, mainly conservatives and business interests, arguing that many lawsuits are frivolous and that awards are out of proportion to the offense in some juridictions. A study published in 2004 that reviewed several hundred state and federal class action lawsuits from 1993 to 2002 found that, adjusted for inflation, the average annual award in such suits varied but did not progressively increase, while the median award was relatively constant. At the same time, however, federal court data showed that the number of class action lawsuits doubled from 1997 to 2002. A 2011 Supreme Court decision on a proposed class action lawsuit concerning gender discrimination in employment tightened the requirements for determining what constitutes the common issue defining the class. Class action suits in the early 21st cent. have increasingly been limited by arbitrationarbitration, industrial,
method of settling disputes between two parties by seeking and accepting the decision of a third party. Arbritration differs from mediation in that the arbritrator does not attempt to find a compromise acceptable to the two parties, but decides in favor
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 clauses in consumer contracts that require the purchaser of a product or service to waive the right to sue or participate in a class action.

Bibliography

See study by S. Yeazell (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
References in periodicals archive ?
However, with representation from both Gmail and non-Gmail users the push for class action status may be unlikely to gain traction.
The district opposed the request for class action status, arguing that the suit should be limited to employees who read all Kehowski's e-mails, his entire Web page and all the links.
COURT'S OPINION: The Court of Appeal of California affirmed the judgment of the lower court on the grounds that nurse "unreasonably delayed" seeking class action status..
The lawsuit depends on a US judge to decide whether it can be grouped with other complaints to win class action status. Sales of iPods account for almost a third of sales.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit seeks class action status, asks for damages and demands an injunction to halt further infringements.
The suit, which seeks class action status, charges that black employees are held back because they are directed to outlets with lower profits, which sometimes denies them bonuses tied to store sales and gross profits.
Department of Agriculture, Seeking $20.5 billion and class action status for up to 25,000 black farmers whom the organization claims were denied fair loans and farm programs between 1997 and 2004.
"Although the judge did not allow the case to proceed as a class action at this time, he stated that the Perrons could return to court at a later stage and request permission for class action status. If the court ultimately finds that the Indian Act does violate the Charter of Rights, a class action may be necessary and appropriate to deal with the issue of what damages might be owing for the Charter breach."
Davis says both suits are without merit and adds that a judge denied the NAACP suit class action status in October.
A federal judge in Miami has granted class action status in a suit filed on behalf of more than 600,000 doctors against several of the nation's largest HMOs.
The first suit to be filed was by the law firm Schiffrin & Barroway, which is seeking class action status for women who were prescribed Prempro.
The lawsuit, filed with the California Superior Court in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, seeks class action status, and compensation whose amount has yet to be disclosed.