Class actions are an effective way of obtaining compensation for large groups of people who suffer injury at the hands of the same guilty party. Through large verdicts, they also serve as a way to provide incentives for corporations to correct bad behavior.
For most people, participating in a class action involves little more than signing up to be a class member, leaving the heavy lifting to the lead plaintiff. For those lead plaintiffs, however, it’s a different story.
Before you agree to be the lead plaintiff in a class action, there are some things you should know about the rights and responsibilities that the role entails.
What Is a Lead Plaintiff?
The lead plaintiff, also known as the named plaintiff or the class representative, is the named party in a class action lawsuit. The lead plaintiff represents the entire class of individuals who are claiming to have suffered similar injuries. There can be more than one lead plaintiff in a class action.
The lead plaintiff has a number of responsibilities beyond those of other class members. These include:
- Hiring a class action attorney
- Filing the lawsuit
- Consulting on the case
- Providing evidence, being deposed, and testifying in the case
- Agreeing to the terms of any settlement
The lead plaintiff is the only party with the authority to accept or reject a settlement offer. Any settlement agreed to by the lead plaintiff is automatically binding on all other class members.
The Benefits and Obligations of Being a Lead Plaintiff
Although the lead plaintiff hires the class action attorney, there is no responsibility for paying attorney fees. Class actions are typically brought on a contingency basis, meaning that the lawyer’s costs and fees come out of any verdict handed down by the court. Therefore, the lead plaintiff bears no financial responsibility or risk for bringing the lawsuit. The lead plaintiff will also be reimbursed for any personal expenses incurred in the course of the case.
Unlike other class members, lead plaintiffs get to be involved in the lawsuit, consulting on the case and providing evidence. They may also be allowed to participate in case strategy and decisions, having some form of control over how the case is handled. The flip side of this, of course, is that the lead plaintiffs must clear their schedules for things like trial, court hearings, and depositions. Class actions can take several years, and being a lead plaintiff can be a big time commitment.
The lead plaintiffs are the only class members with the power to approve a settlement offer. This is a big responsibility. As a lead plaintiff, you are binding all other class members to any settlement, so you have a duty to represent the interests of the class, and not just your own interests. Unlike the other class members, however, you get a say in whether you think a settlement offer is fair.
One final perk of being a lead plaintiff is that you may receive greater compensation. A court has the discretion to award lead plaintiffs a larger share of any settlement, depending on their injuries and level of participation in the case.
Hiring a Class Action Attorney
With over twenty-five years of experience handling class actions, we are here to guide you through the process and will fight to get you the maximum possible compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured and are considering filing a class action, contact us today for a free consultation to determine the best approach to getting you the justice you deserve.