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Class Action Lawsuits

Original air date: October 2, 2012

Interview with Val Exnicios about Class Action Lawsuits

Answering Viewer Questions about Class Action Lawsuits

Val Exnicios has represented chair of the LA Sate Bar Association on Class Action Lawsuits. Before explaining the general requirements of a class action lawsuit, he underlines the importance of an alternate mass other than the Red Mass held October 1st. The Louisiana Judicial Counsel and Judge Edwin Lombard of the Louisiana 4th District Court of Appeals decided to celebrate and the Chisom and Clark decisions that established the ability of African-Americans to sit on the Louisiana Supreme Court bench and that also created sub-districts to elect fellow African-Americans. Justice Revius Ortique was appointed to serve, and subsequently Justice Johnson was elected. By definition and statute, this position encompasses all rights and privileges of a Supreme Court judge.

As mentioned in an earlier program, Federal Justice Susie Morgan heard arguments from lawyers on behalf of Governor Jindal and on behalf of Justice Johnson. She ruled in favor of Justice Johnson. This case has brought on negative light for all embroiled in this controversy. The African-American community cries there should not be any debate. Johnson is most senior. Other justices disagree. Governor Jindal says that the justices should work it out and does not believe it is the place of the Federal Court to decide seniority.

Val then explains the generalities of a class action. A class action is a procedural device in which the court can manage people with similar type claim. A class action lawsuit must meet three criteria: numerosity, commonality, and typicality. Numerosity is defined as a sufficient number of people who have been affected by the same act. In Louisiana, the absolute minimum is 40-50. Most class actions have 1,000s to 100,000s claimants. Commonality is defined as every claimant having a common issue. For example, Hurricane Katrina homeowners who were insured by Citizens Insurance, the insurer of last resort, met the criteria of commonality by having the common issue of being insured by Citizens.

Typicality is defined as the claims of the representatives are representative of the claims of the overall class. Two other important facts to highlight are that a special set of lawyers representing all all the lawyers, named the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, will handle the litigation. The other fact is that the court requires either absolute or indirect notice of the class action lawsuit so that potential plaintiffs may participate. Absolute notice is a letter in the mail while indirect notice may be a publication in the newspaper.

Where did Class Action lawsuits come from?

Class actions came about to address the problem of a small amount of harm done to a large amount of people. For example, if an individual is unfairly charged a $5 fee by his bank, he is less likely to win his case if he were to plead alone. However, if he and other people were to be done the same amount of harm by the same bank, they are more likely to win their case by pleading together. John comments that class actions are responsible for bringing major companies to justice.

How do I decide to join a Class Action if I am afraid that I will lose too much individual control?

Individual control is not lost because individual harm is dealt with separately. Class Action determines only liability and possibly general causality. An example in favor of opting-out is the recent Discover Card or American Express Class Action settlement. While these companies collected $4.2 billion, the lawyers agreed that a $200 million payout, or $56 per person, is fair. A plaintiff may opt of the class before the opt-out deadline if he or she feels that receiving merely $56 is unfair. However, the judge, not the lawyers, ultimately defines a just payout. Thus, he or she could rule that the settlement is unfair and award the plaintiffs more money.

What is a coupon settlement?

A coupon settlement is a coupon for a certain small percentage off a product as settlement in a class action. However, the courts quickly found this method unfair in light of lawyers receiving millions of dollars in settlement fees and terminated this practice.

Next week, Shauna, John, and Val will discuss in detail the BP litigation settlement. Val explains that this case is a variation of class action named a settlement class. This case is unique and may provide so many benefits for the people of the Gulf Coast.

Visit our episode archive to view our informative episode about Louisiana gaming laws.

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