Why I Still Believe in Class Actions

Class Actions as a tool of addressing legal matters and class action lawyers as a whole have been the subject of much attack and criticism by the business industry and some in the media for the past decade or so. The criticism has also made its way into the halls of congress and in 2005, Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. Purpose of the Act was to reduce unwarranted and frivolous Class Actions and to streamline the dockets for cases. As someone who has defended against class actions and their constant threat while serving as the General Counsel and then the lead litigation attorney representing public companies I have seen my chare of bogus class actions which do nothing as far helping consumers and only fill the pockets of the class attorneys. However, as a whole I am a strong believer in the system which allows many powerless individuals to band together and challenge illegal and unlawful conduct of big and powerful interests. Without this tool many wrongs will go unaddressed due to the fact that litigating cases on a one by one basis would not make any sense for any attorney to agree to represent consumers individually.

Class Actions as a tool of addressing legal matters and class action lawyers as a whole have been the subject of much attack and criticism by the business industry and some in the media for the past decade or so. The criticism has also made its way into the halls of congress and in 2005, Congress passed the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. Purpose of the Act was to reduce unwarranted and frivolous Class Actions and to streamline the dockets for cases. As someone who has defended against class actions and their constant threat while serving as the General Counsel and then the lead litigation attorney representing public companies I have seen my chare of bogus class actions which do nothing as far helping consumers and only fill the pockets of the class attorneys. However, as a whole I am a strong believer in the system which allows many powerless individuals to band together and challenge illegal and unlawful conduct of big and powerful interests. Without this tool many wrongs will go unaddressed due to the fact that litigating cases on a one by one basis would not make any sense for any attorney to agree to represent consumers individually.

One of the areas of law subject to many class action suits has been labor and employment related issues and amongst the employment law topics issues related to employers not providing meal and rest breaks as mandated by law are one of the more litigated ones. Just recently (July 22, 2008) California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District of California in the decision of Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court of San Diego held that meal and rest break period cases are not suitable for class action. This decision is contrary to many other California legal opinions and is certain to be appealed. However, this area of law is a great example of what class actions can achieve and why not having access to this method of litigation could result in much harm to consumers and employees. Under California law, meal and rest breaks are mandatory for employees (non-exempt) after certain number of hours of working. Failure to provide these breaks could subject the employer to such penalties as one hour of pay for each day the employee is not provided his/her meal break. This could mean that an employee earning $8.00 an hour and not provided her or his meal break for three months could be entitled to $480 ($8 x 60.) Now, do you think that it could make financial sense for any attorney to take on the case of this hypothetical employee knowing that her recovery can be just under $500? The answer is NO. Most attorneys in this area of work on contingency fees and 33.33% of $480 doesn’t warrant the hours of worked required. However, if all employees affected could band together the potential recovery can be multiplied by the number of affected employees which in many cases can add up to hundred. So as can be seen the more employees that can address their issues in one case, the more likely that a competent attorney or law firm would be interested in pursuing the case and bringing an illegal activity to an end. This is exactly why business groups don’t like class actions. They know that getting rid of class actions would allow them to get away should they be caught with conduct that is subject to penalties (damages), and this is why I say class actions still work and have a place in our legal system.

For more information on our class-action cases visit; www.employmentlawteam.com