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  • 14 Sep 2018

How Long Does a Class Action Lawsuit Take?


There is no fixed timeline for any kind of lawsuits. Any lawsuit can take from months to years depending on the complicacies and number of parties involved. A class action lawsuit is no different in this regard. It can take less than a year to up to three or more years to get settled depending on the intricacies of the case and the number of parties involved with it.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is a kind of litigation where one of the parties consists of a group of people. This group of people is called a “class” in the class actions lawsuit.

A class action lawsuit allows a group of people who suffered similar damages or injuries to file a litigation as a class against the company or organization whom they deem responsible for their damages. In order to be classified as a “class” in a class action lawsuit, everybody in the class should be the victim of the same problem. As an example, a group of people should be the sufferer of the same actions, company, product or services to be able to be considered as a “class” in the class action lawsuit.

As a class action lawsuit allows all the similar cases to be considered as one, it naturally makes the court proceedings happen in a more streamlined manner. However, this doesn’t mean that the lawsuit will get settled any time sooner because of that. No matter how many parties are involved in a class action lawsuit, it must pass through some routine steps in order to get settled for good.

How Long Does a Class Action Lawsuit Take?

Apart from the number of parties involved and the number of complicacies to be dealt with, a class action lawsuit needs to go through the following stages that take most of the time for it to get settled and the class members to get their share of compensations.

● It all begins with a single plaintiff filing the original litigation. This will be eventually considered as the representative case for all the members of the class. The plaintiff then will pray to court to consider it as a class action litigation and certify it as such.

● The court will evaluate the case on whether to certify it as a class action case or not and pass the certification order if it is one.

● Only after the certification order is passed then the plaintiff’s legal team can start searching for all other eligible class members and send notifications to them. The class members then can either decide to opt into the case or not. The plaintiff can also publish newspaper classifieds to seek any other potential class members who might have suffered from the same issue. A considerable amount of time takes at this stage of finding and notifying class members depending on how the plaintiff’s legal team handles the process.

● After that, the lawyers from both the parties start researching, collecting evidence and information and interview witnesses to build their cases.

● While the defence builds their case, they might also consider offering for a settlement with the class.

● Settlement negotiations take place. If all the parties do not reach to an agreement on the settlement terms then the case proceeds towards a trial in court.

● If the parties agree on a settlement before the trial even then, the settlement terms need to be approved by the court and a public hearing needs to be held.

● During the public hearing, all class members and the defendants may disagree with or pray to add anything to the agreed settlement terms.

● The court then approves the settlement terms and forms a strategy on how the terms will be carried out and the compensation will be distributed. The court then will pass order notifications in this regard.

● If no settlement can be reached among the parties, the court will hold a trial where after going through hearing from both the parties, it will give the verdict on the case.

● Finally, the class members will receive notification about the verdict or the settlement and get the compensations the way the court decided earlier.

So, here, you can easily see no matter how many class members are involved, a class action lawsuit will take a considerable amount of time to pass through these essential stages.

What Happens to Unclaimed Class Action Money:

The court and the plaintiff’s legal team attempts to find out all the possible recipient of a class action lawsuit. But at times, it can happen that many recipients do not claim for the compensation and a frequently asked question arises- what happens to unclaimed class action money?

It is also up to the court and the legal rules of the states to decide what will happen to the unclaimed money. Mostly the following steps are taken:

● The court may decide to donate the money to charity organizations. But the charity organizations have to fulfil all the state guidelines to be eligible to receive the donation.

● After a period of being unclaimed, the money or property can be taken over by the state.

● The court may also decide to refund the unclaimed money to the defendant after a certain amount of time.

● Class action lawsuits mostly protect the consumer rights and safety, so the court can also order to create a consumer trust fund that will help to conduct research on consumer protection issues, lawyer payments for future class actions lawsuits, etc.

So, now you know what a class action lawsuit is and how long it takes a class action lawsuit to get settled. So, if you think that your case might fall into the class action category, you should consult with a lawyer soon.

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