Class Action Lawsuit Attorney in STL
Every week, thousands of Americans receive notices of class action litigation and potential class eligibility. This generally means class action law firms identified you as someone potentially impacted by defective products, dangerous medications, data leaks, or unfair business practices. Not everyone who receives these notices suffered damages related to the underlying litigation, but those who did often wonder if they’re required to join the class or forfeit their financial recovery rights.
Class action litigation—sometimes confused with mass tort claims—does affect the rights of potential class members injured by the class defendants—even if they didn’t know about the litigation!
Contact the dedicated St. Louis class action attorneys at The Dixon Injury Firm immediately if you’ve heard of potential class action litigation or believe you’re one of many individuals who suffered harm due to corporate defendants.
Schedule a free legal consultation with our class action lawyers today. We represent clients in St. Louis County, St. Louis City, the Metro East areas, and elsewhere in Missouri and Illinois.
Understanding Federal Class Action Litigation
Class action lawsuits are special cases brought by one individual, or a small group of claimants, who agree to represent a larger class of similarly injured persons. For example, a group of four St. Louis employees may challenge the unfair employment practices of their national employer and demand damages for thousands of impacted employees. Class action regulations address the nearly impossible logistical challenge of litigating thousands of claims against the same defendant(s).
Defendants have the legal right to request testimony and evidence from every plaintiff, including taking depositions and bringing cases to trial. If potential claims involve tens of thousands of injured plaintiffs, corporate defendants could conceivably spend years asserting their discovery rights and delaying trials. This extensive process would bankrupt most plaintiffs’ attorneys—who work on a contingency fee basis—while leaving injured plaintiffs without any compensation.
Requesting Class Action Status and Certification
Class action cases often start as individual personal injury lawsuits, often involving products liability or environmental illness claims. After filing the initial case, state and federal laws permit the plaintiff or defendant to request class-action certification. Missouri federal courts handle most major class action cases in St. Louis.
As such, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 23 controls these claims. Under this rule, one or more persons may pursue litigation on behalf of all injured individuals only if:
- The potential class is so big it’s impractical to require all members to join the litigation
- Each individual claim involves the same or very similar legal issues and facts
- The actual legal claims and defenses apply to each class member
- The plaintiffs (and attorneys) bringing the class action litigation will fairly and thoroughly represent the interest of all affected class members
Provided the party requesting class-action status establishes the above standards, it must also show that:
- Bringing multiple, separate cases could result in inconsistent judicial rulings setting confusing standards of conduct for defendants, or
- Rulings impacting individual class members would bind or substantially impair the rights of non-parties, such as other injured claimants not involved in the litigation, or
- The requested or anticipated relief would protect the rights of all potential class members
Additionally, the court may determine that class-action status is appropriate if it’s the best way to efficiently and fairly handle similar legal and factual issues. One or more plaintiffs injured by dangerous products, drugs, or habitual abusers might work with local counsel to file litigation, undertake discovery, and certify a class.
Certifying Classes and Joining Class Action Litigation in St. Louis and Illinois
Once the court decides the case qualifies as a class-action lawsuit, the parties must define, identify, and notify all potential class members of their rights. Parties have great leeway in doing this. They must simply provide the best notice possible to all reasonably identifiable class members. This normally involves requesting sales records for dangerous products, pulling employment histories, or mailing notices to all households in affected areas.
Class action notices must include:
- A clear overview of the litigation
- The specific description of who qualifies for the class
- A summary of the legal claims, factual allegations, and anticipated defenses
- Notice that individual class members may retain personal lawyers
- Notice that potential class members may request exclusion from the class (opt-out) and file separate claims
- Notice that any decisions made in the class action bind all class members
- The time limit for responding with evidence of class eligibility
When cases involve thousands of potential class members injured after years of unlawful conduct, it’s nearly impossible to identify and connect with all potential claimants. Many class action law firms publish public notifications to catch any overlooked class members. Individuals might request the right to join the class even if the prosecuting plaintiffs didn’t specifically invite them.
Examples of Common Class Action Cases in St. Louis and the Metro East
Class action lawsuits may involve local issues impacting community members, such as challenging unfair employment practices at St. Louis universities or national issues impacting claimants throughout the United States. For example, Missouri federal courts recently awarded $75 million in damages to class members whose crops sustained damage due to dangerous herbicides that dissipated from the original spraying site. This award came after the courts transferred all related claims to Missouri under multidistrict litigation rules.
Multidistrict litigation (MDL) differs from class action cases but can include pre-certified class action lawsuits. MDL takes all cases filed against the same liable defendants with the same general issues, like damages arising from promoting addictive opioids, and puts them before one judge. This helps prevent conflicting rulings and expedite certain procedural matters. St. Louis claimants looking to join an MDL or with cases subject to MDL consolidation should consult with our class action litigators about their rights.
The following claims frequently result in a class action suit or multidistrict litigation:
- Products Liability (General) – Glancing at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall list provides an overview of current product recalls and the number of potentially affected claimants. These dangerous items range from strollers and electrical generators to dressers and nightgowns. Many of these claims involve potentially massive classes. For example, a retailer recalled nearly 500,000 children’s slap watches due to choking hazards.
- Products Liability (Medical Implants) – Medical devices – including hip implants, surgical meshes, and breast implants – have caused serious injuries due to widespread failures. These claims commonly support class certification.
- Products Liability (Pharmaceuticals) – Federal judges in Ohio are currently handling the opioid MDL filed against drug manufacturers who allegedly knew about their addictive properties. Other examples of dangerous drug class actions include the Zantac cancer claims.
- Products Liability (Auto Parts) – Most major vehicle manufacturers, including Ford, Toyota, GM, and Volkswagen, have faced class-action liability for marketing vehicles with defective parts. The infamous Ford Pinto litigation was one such case. During this lawsuit, attorneys proved that Ford knew the vehicle’s design increased the risk of fuel tank explosion but decided not to execute recalls for financial reasons.
- Environmental Hazards and Toxic Exposure – Many class actions, including the famous case dramatized in the movie Erin Brockovich, involve chemical leaks and environmental hazards causing various illnesses among community members. These cases also commonly include pesticide and insecticide (Roundup) claims.
- Anti-Trust – The recent Anthem Blue Cross settlement exemplifies class action consumer protection claims lawyers may file against national corporations.
- Employment and Government Contract – Federal laws encourage whistleblowers to come forward with evidence of widespread government contracts and healthcare fraud. These claims often involve potential class action liability, as do widespread allegations of minimum wage and overtime violations against national employers.
An experienced St. Louis class action lawyer might help potential claimants identify, join, and/or file class action litigation. These complex claims could take years to settle, but they’re essential for protecting consumers from continued abuse by powerful corporations. Alternatively, attorneys may recommend opting out of the class to pursue individual personal injury claims.
Class Actions We Handle:
Obtaining or Objecting to Class Action Settlements in St. Louis
Most viable class action lawsuits settle with corporate defendants and their insurers. However, the court must approve any proposed class action settlement even if all parties agree to the award.
Judges must determine whether the proposed settlement is adequate, fair, and reasonable. Courts consider the amount of the proposed settlement and proposed allocation between class members, the reasonableness of the attorneys’ fees, the risks and costs associated with rejecting the settlement and forcing a trial, and the treatment of class members with respect to each other.
During the settlement review process, any class member may object to the settlement or proposed distribution. They may do so personally, claiming their proposed allocations do not adequately compensate them for their injuries, for a certain subset of class members, or on behalf of the entire class. The objecting class member or members must describe in detail why they object to the settlement proposal, and courts must generally hold hearings to determine whether the objections are valid.
The court may refuse to approve the settlement after receiving multiple objections, forcing the parties to reconsider distribution. However, judicially approved settlements bind all class members. Claimants in large classes are often surprised by the difference between high-value attorneys’ fees—often 40 percent of the overall settlement—and their proposed award. Some claimants receive less than $10 after class-action lawsuits settle. It’s essential to retain private representation if you wish to formally object to any proposed settlement distribution plan.
Injuries & Illnesses Commonly Seen in Class Action Lawsuits
Civil lawsuits, including class actions, must involve some physical or financial injury. Uninjured claimants cannot join class action lawsuits even if they are potential class members.
Our St. Louis personal injury litigators frequently see the following reported illnesses and injuries supporting class action litigation:
- Respiratory illnesses
- Liver toxicity
- Birth defects
- Organ damage
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Kidney failure
Families may pursue claims on behalf of loved ones wrongfully killed by dangerous products or chemicals. Likewise, workers may confidentially discuss potential widespread financial fraud and labor law violations with our dedicated class action attorneys. Certain federal laws allow whistleblowers, whether one individual or group of co-workers, to obtain special damages for reporting systemic legal violations among government contractors and pursuing claims.
Evaluating St. Louis Class Action Claims
Some claimants take home millions following class action settlements, while others wait years before receiving $7 settlement checks. Class members suffering from serious injuries or illnesses related to the litigation might object to proposed settlement distributions that do not adequately cover their lost wages and medical expenses.
Joining or filing class-action litigation does not reduce or eliminate your legal right to seek personal injury compensation in St. Louis. Injured class members might still demand damages for their past and future lost wages, medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost earning capacity, physical pain, frustration, mental anguish, and lost enjoyment of life. Courts may reject class action settlement proposals if claimants establish their damages and show that the proposed award only offers pennies on the dollar.
Injured claimants must also consider the impact of attorneys’ fees on any proposed class action settlement. Because it takes substantial resources to identify, notify, and monitor thousands of claimants, prosecuting firms take a percentage (anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent) of the overall settlement as their fee before subtracting litigation costs. Claimants with personal counsel might also owe attorneys’ fees to their local lawyers, which can include an additional 33 percent of their recovery. Judges will consider whether the attorneys’ fees are fair in comparison to your direct financial award. Compassionate class action lawyers fight for their clients’ just compensation rights.
Class Action Lawsuit FAQs
Every week national retailers recall thousands of defective and dangerous products. Mass recalls frequently occur after consumers suffer from serious or fatal injuries due to design defects or insufficient warning labels. Class action litigation helps similarly situated claimants obtain compensation without overburdening the legal system.
Product liability claims frequently result in class action lawsuits, but claimants impacted by toxic environmental hazards or subject to unfair employment practices might all have potential class action claims. At The Dixon Injury Firm, our dedicated St. Louis litigations frequently receive the following question about class action lawsuits.
Q. What is a class action lawsuit?
A. Generally, a handful of claimants file a single lawsuit who agree to represent a larger body of individuals injured by the alleged wrongful conduct.
Most class action lawsuits involve:
- Dangerous car parts
- Defective medical implants
- Cancer-causing prescription drugs
- Widespread environmental hazards, such as toxic air or water pollution causing diseases
- Dangerous consumer products
- Systemic wage and labor violations
- Antitrust claims
Class action lawsuits generally commence when a handful of injured individuals file regular injury cases but ask the court to certify the class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 23 (or the equivalent state law). Courts may certify the class if the legal and factual issues are the same, and the sheer number of potential claimants makes it unreasonable to handle the litigation traditionally.
Q. How many people does it take to file class action litigation?
A. A class action lawsuit can start with one brave plaintiff. Once the plaintiff files his/her claims, the plaintiff’s attorney may request potential class certification based on the facts. This process involves substantial discovery and requires law firms dedicated to protecting their clients and claimants affected by unlawful behavior.
Courts may permit individual lawsuits to proceed as class action cases if the potential claimants are so numerous it would be impractical to force each to join the case. This number varies depending on the legal issues and injuries presented.
Q. What does it take to get class-action lawsuits approved in St. Louis?
A. Because class action litigation can bind objecting class members to settlements, even when lawyers do not individually represent each member in the case, judges can only approve class action litigation if:
- There’s a large potential class of plaintiffs involved, and it is impractical to involve everyone in detailed litigation
- Every class member shares similar legal and factual issues; although, damages may differ depending on the injury or loss
- The same legal claims asserted, like strict negligence based on products liability, and defenses apply to each class member
- The named plaintiffs, or the class representatives, fairly represent all affected class members
Further, the parties must show that litigating multiple cases could result in inconsistent judicial rulings or impact the rights of non-suing claimants. The requested relief, generally money damages, must also fairly compensate class members for their losses.
Q. Are class action lawsuits the same as mass tort or consolidated litigation?
A. Not exactly. When multiple claimants file similar claims, like accusations against drug manufacturers for using cancer-causing ingredients, federal courts might consolidate the cases before one judge. This consolidation creates something called multidistrict litigation (MDL), also called mass tort claims.
MDLs may include individual class action lawsuits and traditional personal injury complaints, provided they involve the same issues and defendants. Therefore, multidistrict litigation involves multiple lawsuits handled by one judge to ensure procedural and legal consistency. It might also result in joint factual rulings and admissions. A class-action case is one lawsuit filed by multiple plaintiffs on behalf of a larger class. Experienced class action attorneys in St. Louis generally handle individual personal injury cases, class action lawsuits, and multidistrict litigation.
Q. What kind of injuries and illnesses entitle claimants to class action compensation?
A. Class action lawsuits aren’t limited to one type of case. Mass torts litigation may involve major environmental disasters class such as BP’s $13 billion Deepwater Horizon settlement—childhood sexual abuse settlements from national organizations—such as the Catholic Church, USA Gymnastics, and the Boy Scouts—and products liability claims. Additionally, claimants without physical injuries may file class actions for discrimination or labor law violations on behalf of all impacted employees.
Damages entitling claimants to either file or join class action litigation in St. Louis often includes:
- Organ damage
- Respiratory illnesses
- Birth defects
- Sexual abuse
- Property loss
- Loss of business income or profits
- Underpayment of wages and/or overtime
- Statutory damages for discrimination and labor law violations
Class counsel must consider every class member’s reported damages and the pain and suffering associated with their injuries. Courts must approve any proposed settlement to ensure claimants are receiving fair distributions in proportion to their injuries and relative to each other.
Q. How can I join a class action lawsuit?
A. Once the court certifies the class, the lead attorneys must identify all potential class members and notify them of their potential right to join the litigation. This process can take years. If you received notice of potential class membership (or settlement eligibility) in St. Louis, consider discussing your options with local counsel.
The notice itself must:
- Describe the litigation
- Define who qualifies for the class, such as children suffering choking injuries from dangerous toys
- Summarize the legal claims, general factual allegations, and anticipated defenses
- Inform potential class members that they may retain personal lawyers (in addition to the lead attorneys)
- Notify potential class members that they may opt-out of the class and file individual personal injury lawsuits
- Explain that class action settlements, legal decisions, and verdicts bind all class members
- Give claimants a deadline to join the class
However, the notification process isn’t perfect. Attorneys often miss affected class members. In such cases, private class action litigators might help claimants petition to join (opt into) ongoing class-action lawsuits and recover portions of any eventual settlement. It’s important to discuss your rights with local counsel if dangerous products, drugs, or environmental hazards have injured you.
Q. Do I have the right to retain my own attorney during class action litigation?
A. Yes. FRCP 23 requires the parties to inform potential class members of their right to retain individual counsel. However, the court handling the class action will appoint class counsel to handle the litigation itself. Class counsel, generally the attorney or law firm bringing the initial litigation, may obtain attorneys’ fees in addition to individual counsel. Retaining individual counsel, however, can protect your essential right to fair compensation. Class members without dedicated representation may end up with insufficient settlements while simultaneously waiving their litigation rights.
Lawyers often recommend that claimants considering joining class actions consult with local counsel before opting in. Sometimes lawyers recommend filing individual personal injury litigation rather than joining the class. Once you opt-in, you’re often subject to the lead counsel’s requested attorney’s fees and settlement distribution.
Seriously injured claimants might not obtain needed compensation in large class action cases, as class counsel generally takes attorneys’ fees plus costs and expenses from the settlement. However, it takes little effort to participate in litigation as non-prosecuting class members. You might benefit from a settlement negotiated and directly deposited into your account without the need to attend lengthy depositions and provide detailed discovery. Private class action counsel in St. Louis can help claimants and their families determine the best options for recovering financial compensation.
Q. How do attorneys’ fees work in Missouri MDL and class action cases?
A. Federal law requires courts to review and approve proposed attorneys’ fees following class action settlements or verdicts. In many class action cases, dozens of lawyers spend thousands of hours on the case. Attorneys’ fees often vary based on the overall award, hours worked, and billable rates. However, these fees come from the financial settlement and not the claimants’ pockets.
Some major class settlements have resulted in seemingly major legal fee awards, over $500 million, that equate to less than 10 percent of the settlement. Normal contingency fees range from 33 to 40 percent of the claimant’s overall settlement, and individual attorneys may charge separate fees in certain cases. It’s difficult to calculate initial fees in class action lawsuits because every attorney must submit their fee requests and defend their work before the court.
Q. How long does it take to recover damages in a class-action lawsuit?
A. Unfortunately, it can take years to resolve major class action cases. Many class-action lawsuits proceed for 4 or 5 years before the parties reach settlements, and it generally takes another year to obtain settlement approval and allocate settlement funds. If the parties don’t reach an amicable settlement, the case may proceed to trial and through multiple appeals. Many mass tort lawsuits involve multi-billion dollar settlements and major international corporations who have the time and money to continue litigating. Injured claimants struggling to pay medical bills and cover lost wages should consider the benefits of filing personal injury litigation. Individual claims may settle with corporate insurers without necessitating class participation.
Q. Do I have to approve a class action settlement?
A. No, but the judge must. Unlike individual personal injury lawsuits that may settle between parties without judicial intervention, courts must carefully scrutinize proposed class action settlements for fairness. Individual class members may object to the overall settlement proposal or their proposed award during this review process.
Objecting claimants must explain the nature of their objection, such as they’re not receiving sufficient funds to cover injury-related expenses. Individual lawyers should prepare these objections on behalf of their clients. Courts must typically hear arguments regarding valid objections and may refuse to accept the settlement proposal. This refusal could force the parties to amend the distribution or take the claims to trial. However, class members are bound by the settlement once courts accept the proposal and consider appeals.
Q. How can I tell what amount I’ll receive from a class action settlement?
A. When the parties settle class action claims, which occurs in the majority of cases, the class attorneys must provide the courts with a tentative distribution plan. This distribution plan normally includes a proposed formula for calculating each class member’s award. Your attorney will have access to this information.
This award normally depends on the settlement/verdict amount, the number of class members involved, and your direct losses. As an example, women impacted by ruptured breast implants took home an average of $31,000 after class-action medical products litigation. Claimants with dedicated legal counsel may challenge the proposed distribution calculation before it reaches the court and object to any unfair proposals. The objection process is essential because some claimants have walked away with less than $7 after years of class action litigation.
It’s nearly impossible to calculate your potential take-home award until after the court approves the settlement and attorneys’ fees. However, claimants may generally request the same damages available following individual verdicts and settlements.
- Economic Damages: These pecuniary losses generally include medical expenses, nursing and caretaker costs, lost wages, lost benefits, and career opportunities, and funeral expenses.
- Non-Economic Damages: Also called pain and suffering awards, claimants may demand additional damages for the mental anguish, physical pain and discomfort, frustration, and lost enjoyment of life associated with their injuries.
- Punitive Damages: Many class action cases involve large corporations who knew about potential dangers, such as opioid addiction, and refused to issue warnings or recalls for economic purposes. These claims may support punitive damage awards designed to punish the offenders for extremely reckless conduct. Missouri law requires claimants to prove that the defendant deliberately and flagrantly disregarded other’s safety or caused intentional harm.
Often, due to the large number of class action claimants, most class members only recover partial economic damages and, when available, small punitive awards.
Q. What happens if I opt out of a class-action lawsuit?
A. If you opt-out of class action litigation, you retain your traditional litigation rights against negligent parties. This generally means you can sue negligent defendants in local courts. However, the defendant may request that all similar claims should go before the same judge. Multiple lawsuits involving the same dangerous products may result in multidistrict litigation, which can complicate your financial recovery. If you bring litigation after the class action lawsuit ended, previous liability determinations may control your claims. Discuss the pros and cons of participating in class action litigation with the St. Louis MDL and mass tort lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm.
Call for Your Free Class Action Lawsuit Consultation With Our St. Louis Injury Lawyers
If you’ve identified systemic wrongs in your workplace, a widely available product has injured you, or suffered from illnesses linked to environmental toxicity, discuss your legal rights with the dedicated class action litigators at The Dixon Injury Firm. Our experienced STL personal injury lawyers could help St. Louis claimants file class action litigation or join pending lawsuits. In some cases, we may recommend filing individual personal injury claims to maximize available compensation.
Discuss your potential right to recover financial damages and protect vulnerable members of similar classes with our St. Louis class action lawsuit attorneys for free by calling (314) 208-2808 or contacting us online.
The Dixon Injury Firm
9666 Olive Blvd #202,
St. Louis, MO 63132