Have you ever taken part in a class action lawsuit?
February 18, 2005 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever taken part in a class action lawsuit?

I ask because I got something in the mail this past week letting me know that I have x amount of time to get in on this class action lawsuit against Thrivent. I would actually love to stick it to them since they stuck it to me a couple of years ago. However, I don't how this type of stuff works. I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to do and frankly I am kind of worried that this may work against me financially (not sure why it would though) and end up being a big time sink.
posted by NoMich to Law & Government (15 answers total)
I just got a thing last week about one against American Express. I filled it out and sent it in. I probably should've done more research but I think the point is someone else has done and is doing all the work for you, and you just get the money, right? I hope.
posted by librarina at 7:42 PM on February 18, 2005

I got $13 or something like that from the RIAA.

I think that unless you're actually the plaintiff you don't have to do anything, but IANAL.
posted by kenko at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2005

The company will probably settle the suit and you will get $10 or something.
posted by falconred at 7:52 PM on February 18, 2005

Read the fine print on your letter. Most class actions are "opt-out," not "opt-in." The lead plaintiffs will seek to "certify" a class composed of a certain group of persons. For example, the court might certify a class of people who have bought Product X between 1990 and 1995. If you're in that class, you are bound to the eventual settlement unless you affirmatively choose to pursue your claim separately. In toxic tort lawsuits, such as asbestos litigation, opting out is sometimes not allowed as this would deplete the assets available for the class plaintiffs.

For law geeks, Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 is the federal rule of civil procedure governing class actions. As of this afternoon, most large class actions will start going to federal court, so you can expect lots more law developing in this area in the next few years.

(The hideous mug of Tom DeLay staring at you in the last link is all you need to know about the Class Action Fairness Act.)
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:08 PM on February 18, 2005

I bought two laptops from Toshiba years ago, and I received a $400 award from them for a class action lawsuit against them for hardware problems related to the laptop models.

All I had to do was sign a release and send it along with copies of receipts and serial numbers for the laptops in question.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:16 PM on February 18, 2005

Yeah, I got $13 from the RIAA too.
posted by delmoi at 9:12 PM on February 18, 2005

One day I received a class action notice about a medication I was taking, for which people had been overcharged (by some yardstick). I filled out the form and sent it in, expecting nothing. Six months later I opened my mail and found a $3000 check.

Moral: Fill out your forms -- it can't hurt! (I'm still waiting for some kind of windfall from the Microsoft permatemp suit, though, and our side won that years ago.)
posted by rwhe at 10:08 PM on February 18, 2005

I filled out the forms for the Microsoft permatemp lawsuit several years ago and am due 2 years' worth of equivalent benefits because the class won the suit. However, the actual payout is being held up in court and I'm certainly not expecting anything in the next decade or two. It may be a few thousand bucks, it may be enough to buy a nice dinner on the town - no one knows for sure.
posted by matildaben at 10:28 PM on February 18, 2005

The only reasons I can think of not to participate are if you think the lawsuit is a crock (I chose to opt out of one once for that reason -- I don't remember the details, but it was a case where I just didn't think the company did anything wrong, and I couldn't in good conscience take their money) or if you think you might want to pursue your own claim against the company. Otherwise, sign it, and some day some money may fall into your lap as a result. It won't be a time sink at all.
posted by bac at 10:36 PM on February 18, 2005

I filled out the forms for the Synthroid lawsuit years ago... and was pleasantly surprised when about 100 bucks showed up in the mail last fall. I'd literally forgotten all about it.
posted by scody at 11:54 PM on February 18, 2005

NoMich -- Mark saucy intruder's answer as "best", it's exactly right. My only quibble is that he says "most" class actions are opt-out; I would change that to "virtually all", and (I think) absolutely all at the federal level.

Saucy: you have kindred spirits at my law school :)
posted by rkent at 12:09 AM on February 19, 2005

RE: opt out vs. opt in. This is my story. I was having some problems. My employer has something called EASE counseling, and they suggested I see a psychiatrist. I made arrangements through my health plan to see a doctor. This guy sort of gave me bad vibes the whole time I was talking to him. His questions didn't seem germane to the reasons I had asked to see him. Most of my problems were lack of motivation at work, arguing with my co-workers, ennui, etc. He was asking about my sex life He decided I was bipolar and prescribed lithium and another drug, that name of which escapes me. When I left his office I thought "This guy is a putz" and I threw the prescriptions away.

Some time goes by, six months or so. I open my newspaper and see "Dr. X in class action suit for practicing without a license. I look up the lawyer mentioned in the article, call up, and tell them I was a patient and I would like to join. Time goes by, I occasioanlly get a letter updating me on the status. Motion dismissed, motion approved blah, blah, blah.

One day I get home and there is a letter from the law firm. I open it and there is a check for $5,200. I used some of it to buy this bike and put the rest in the bank.

Moral of the story: Trust your instincts, and sometimes you have to opt in.
posted by fixedgear at 2:52 AM on February 19, 2005

Thanks MeFites. I think I will join this class action lawsuit then.
posted by NoMich at 5:04 AM on February 19, 2005

Hey fixedgear, was it "Dr." Tremoglie? I'm guessing based on this law.com story and a related class-action certification I found on Westlaw. If so, I checked out the Pennsylvania class action statute, and it tracks the federal one pretty closely (although it's largely in a different order for some reason). While I think you may have to notify the law firm that you're a class member, you still are a class member unless you opt out explicitly.

What difference does "opt in" vs. "notify the firm" make? Well, if you didn't hear about the class action suit, and decided to go after the guy yourself in a seperate suit, you would be barred from doing so if you were part of the class and your interest was adequately represented in that suit. Of course there could be a reasonable difference of opinion about "adequate" representation, but that's why you're allowed to opt out and go it alone if you want. But if you don't, you're in the class and the judgment is binding on you.

Congrats on the bike though.
posted by rkent at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2005

Bingo! Interestingly, I later talked to another shrink in a social setting and I mentioned this case. He seemed sort of indignant, and said that Tremoglie was a doctor (i.e. he had been to med school) but that he just wasn't licensed. A minor technicality as far as he was concerned.
posted by fixedgear at 11:46 AM on February 19, 2005

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