What is a Class Action Settlement?
A class action settlement is reached when both parties in a class action lawsuit have decided that they no longer want to continue litigating the allegations in the class action lawsuit and want to settle the lawsuit, typically with a monetary benefit to the Class. It’s important to note that a class action settlement is not an admission of guilt on the part of the defendant. In most cases, the company facing the class action lawsuit would rather settle the class action lawsuit than go through the expense and uncertainty of going to trial.Some companies will spend months or years fighting a class action lawsuit and won’t settle the case until the Class is officially certified by the judge overseeing the class action lawsuit. Other companies will settle immediately if they wish to avoid the negative press that could come with fighting a class action lawsuit or for a variety of other reasons. Once both the defendant and the plaintiffs tell the court that they agree to the terms of the class action settlement, the judge will typically grant Preliminary Approval to the deal. Once Preliminary Approval is granted, the Settlement Administrator will start notifying Class Members, set up a website for Class Members to follow the settlement, and Class Members can start filing claims, if necessary. The class action settlement does not become effective — and awards will not be distributed to valid claimants — until the judge grants Final Approval to the deal. Final Approval is only granted if the judge determines that the settlement terms are fair and once all objections (if any are filed) are resolved.
The two parties and the judge overseeing the case will agree to a clear Class definition, which will determine who is qualified to benefit from the class action settlement. This will typically state the specific product or service at issue; the dates the product/service was purchased; the state(s) where the product/service was purchased, and any other relevant details. If you meet the criteria defined by the court, you can file a claim to receive a payout from the class action settlement.
Awards from class action settlements vary widely. In some cases, there is no monetary award, but a substantial benefit to Class Members. Sometimes the award is what is called Injunctive Relief. This is typically a promise by the defendant to no longer engage in the practice at issue. For example, if a company faced a lawsuit over labeling a product as “all natural” when the product contained artificial ingredients, the company will promise to remove “all natural” from its labels. It is not uncommon for monetary relief to be combined with Injunctive Relief.
Filing a Claim & Proof of Purchase
Typically, Class Members will be required to file a claim with the Settlement Administrator if they hope to benefit from the class action settlement. In some cases, Class Members will be required to provide proof of purchase in order to benefit or at least to receive the maximum benefit available. In some cases, the claim will only require Class Members to provide their information along with an affidavit or signature under penalty of perjury that they purchased the product at issue.
There are several important deadlines to pay attention to when participating in a class action settlement:
- Claim Form Deadline: This is the last day in which a claim can be filed online or postmarked if sending via regular U.S. mail.
- Exclusion or “Opt Out” Deadline: This is the last day in which a Class Member may exclude him or herself from a class action settlement. This may be necessary if a Class Member doesn’t agree to the terms of the settlement. If you choose to exclude yourself, you will not be bound by the terms of the settlement agreement, which means you will not receive benefits from the class action settlement but will retain your right to sue the defendant(s) in your own individual lawsuit.
- Objection Deadline: If a Class Member wants to participate in a class action settlement, but they take issue with the terms or they think the payout should be different, he or she may choose to file an objection.
- Final Approval Hearing: This is when the judge will hear arguments about whether or not the settlement should be approved.
Contact Chhabra Gibbs & Herrington PLLC today if you or your loved one need assistance in a Mass Tort or Class Action Lawsuit.
Free Case Evaluation
Contacting the firm is free. We understand that the disputes facing you and your family can seem daunting.