A class action suit is a type of lawsuit that allows a large group of people who have been adversely injured by a similar situation to bring their claim in a single lawsuit. The plaintiff in the suit may consist of the consumers of such product or other members of the public that had been adversely injured by the situation necessitating that class action.

There are several advantages to a class action lawsuit. There are lower costs to litigate since it will be spread across many plaintiffs. There is a higher likelihood of financial recovery since a class action helps ensure that damages are spread amongst the plaintiffs. If many plaintiffs sue the defendant around the same time, the earlier plaintiffs may be the only ones who receive damages if the defendant or business goes bankrupt. Class actions also benefit the judicial system since the case is determined by one judge in one court. Inconsistent verdicts and multiple claims do not become an issue. Also one claim generally takes less time than many similar claims tried at different times.

There are different types of class action in the United States under the Class Action Rules. They include the following:

CONSUMER CLASS ACTION: A consumer class action is where one or more consumer files suit against an entity or large corporation on behalf of themselves and others who were affected by the same wrongful conduct. This type of class action is utilized when a company has a uniform policy or practice that violates consumer rights. It also includes consumer fraud, false advertising, mislabeling of products, bait and switch marketing, deceptive and unfair trade practices, unfair debt collection practices, illegal charges on bills or charges for services never provided and violation of consumer protection and privacy laws including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

MASS TORT ACTION: This type of class action is almost similar to a consumer right action, but this action accommodates suit that relates to personal injury or financial injury that is suffered by a group of people either by defendant’s conduct, or by defendant’s product.

ENVIRONMENTAL CLASS ACTION: In this type of class action, the plaintiff in this suit is expected to have suffered from an environmental hazard that has resulted from the defendant’s conduct.

ANTI TRUST: This type of class action is filed by individuals or organizations for claims that businesses have practices that lead to unfair competition, price fixing and monopolies.

CIVIL RIGHTS: Class action lawsuits are effective at deciding important civil rights issues for example Brown v. Board of Education. Class actions are sometimes the only way to prove at pattern or practice of discrimination and remedy widespread systemic discrimination.

Class Action is governed by Rule 23 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, and Rule 23(a) provides for the prerequisite for any class action as follows:

a) The class must be so numerous that the joiner of all members is impracticable i.e. the plaintiff in the suit must be more than such a number of people that could be reasonably joined as party in a single suit. Therefore, numbers of the people in a class action could be up to hundreds, thousands or even millions.

b) There must be a question of law or fact as to the class.

c) One or more persons who are members of the class can sue or be sued as representatives of everyone in the class if their claims or defenses are typical of claim or defense of the class.

d) They will fairly and adequately protect the interest of the class.

A very popular type of class action is the Mass Tort Litigation, because many cases have emerged from this aspect of class actions, and they have resulted into millions of dollars paid in settlement. In addition to this, the Mass tort action has also proven to be a potential space that Legal Nurse Consultants can function, since they can provide assistance to attorneys in any class action suit that relates to pharmaceutical and medical related litigation. There have been many cases involving medical and pharmaceutical litigation resulting in large payouts to plaintiffs.

In The Fen-Phen’s case for instance, a pharmaceutical company produced a product that claimed to help with weight loss. The drug containing Fenfluramine and Phentermine was discovered to cause pulmonary hypertension and major damage to the heart valve. As a result, a class action was brought against the company, and the court held that damages should be paid to all the product consumers that have suffered personal injury from the drug consumption.

In The New Jersey Vioxx’s case, a medication that was produced by the defendant was discovered to cause myocardial infarction and stoke. A class action was brought against the company and the court held that millions of dollars should be paid in settlement to the plaintiff in the case.

Another medical mass tort litigation is the case of DePuy Orthopedic Inc. The company produced at hip implant which caused thousands of people to experience devastating pain and the need for additional hip surgery. It was discovered that the company introduced the implant without adequately testing and researching the device resulting in a defective product. A class action was brought against the company and the court held that billions of dollars should be paid in settlement to the plaintiffs in the case.

The role of Legal Nurse Consultants cannot be underestimated in all of these above cases because they provide invaluable help and expertise to the attorneys handling these cases. The legal nurse consultant mostly performs behind the scenes functions in any suit, including class action, and they work as either an in house consultant or they work independently as a consulting expert that provides an informed, as well as an effective view on highly specialized and complex medical issues. Information obtained by the Legal nurse consultant during the course of litigation is considered privileged and classified information.

With class action suits, there can be a multitude of records that need to be looked at and analyzed.  A team of legal nurses working together utilizing a streamlined process allows for a rapid and concise review of medical records and sharing data securely.  The Attorney can have more cases reviewed in a shorter time frame as a result of utilizing a legal nurse consultants team.  

The following are the behind the scene roles that a Legal Nurse Consultant can perform in a class action suit:

a) Legal nurse consultants work in collaboration with attorney and the paralegal in a legal suit, and gives solid analysis of complex medical cases.

b) Legal nurse consultants have general working knowledge of the relevant substantive and procedural law, and also has a professional nursing education, which makes them the best possible professional that could help in analyzing a legal suit that contains medical records and facts.

c) The legal nurse consultant helps to not only analyze facts found in medical records, but also calls the attorney’s attention to pertinent information that has been omitted or falsified, protocols that were not followed, and other possible, “behind the scenes” considerations.

The Legal nurse works behind the scenes. We as a team of nurses, understand the importance of timelines. We work together in collaboration with the lawyer/law firm in conjunction with the paralegal letting us know what needs to be done to get the cases across the finish line. As a legal nurse we take pride in our work products and strive to make it easier on the staff at the firm.