In a six to three decision on Jan. 20, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when a company in a class action lawsuit offers to settle with the lead plaintiff, that does not end the litigation.
Consider it a win for the “little guy.”
A class action lawsuit is one in which many individuals who have suffered similar harm band together and sue for just compensation. The personal damages may be relatively small, so it would be unrealistic for the individuals to pursue each claim in court. But when hundreds if not thousands of individuals aggregate their losses in one legal action, they gain legal leverage against huge irresponsible corporations.
For example, Gray, Ritter & Graham attorney Don Downing represented Missouri consumers in a class action lawsuit against the maker of Vioxx, claiming the company hid known safety risks of the drug, such as heart attacks and strokes. The action resulted in Missouri purchasers of the drug receiving as much as $220 million.
What is the Recent Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Class Action Lawsuit Plaintiffs?
In this recent case, a 40-year-old man received a text message on behalf of the U.S. Navy, which was sent to over 100,000 men and women total. The text, the work of a large U.S. advertising agency, was seeking recruits.
The man was well past recruitment age and the text was unsolicited. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, those who receive unsolicited texts like the one in question can receive up to $1,500 per offending text. The individual filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and all those who received the unwanted communication. He became the lead plaintiff.
The advertising agency offered to settle with him for what he was asking, known as complete relief. In doing so, the advertising goliath claimed the complete relief offer effectively ended the litigation, even though the lead plaintiff never responded.
The Supreme Court had the final say, ruling the class action lawsuit could proceed. The majority argued that the company was trying to sink the legal rights of all who received the negligent Navy text and save itself a great deal of money.
Class Actions Can Stop Bad Corporate Acts
Class action lawsuits can prevent future negligent corporate actions by assessing a sizeable financial award for all who were hurt. If the Supreme Court had ruled differently, this benefit to consumers may have been lost.
If you’ve been wronged by a large corporation, you may want to visit with an attorney experienced in class action lawsuits. You have a legal remedy to right your wrong – and those of so many others in your same situation.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.