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What Are the Class Action Requirements?

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Class actions are designed for situations in which a lot of individual people have similar claims against a single defendant. Each individual claim might not be worth pursuing as its own lawsuit, but together, the plaintiffs can work to hold the defendant accountable and recover at least some of what they lost due to the defendant’s actions. Certain legal requirements must be met in order to bring a proper class action. Continue reading to learn about the requirements to bring a class action, and call a dedicated California consumer protection and antitrust attorney if you’ve been harmed by a company’s false advertising or other unlawful sales practices.

What Is a Class Action?

Under most circumstances, a plaintiff is only allowed to file a lawsuit on their own behalf. A class action is a specific type of lawsuit in which one or a handful of “named” or “representative” plaintiffs bring claims on behalf of a larger group, known as the “class.” The class action allows the parties to resolve issues common to the entire class, including changing the defendant’s behavior and recovering a pool of money to be distributed to the class members.

California’s Class Action Requirements

Class actions can be brought in a state or federal court. Class actions are meant to provide an efficient means of resolving cases where it would be impractical for each individual plaintiff to bring their own case.

California’s Code of Civil Procedure governs the rules for bringing a class action in the state. The named plaintiffs must petition the court to “certify” the class; if the plaintiffs fail to meet the requirements, they are left with pursuing only their own individual claims or dropping the case entirely. To obtain class certification, the plaintiffs must show that the case deals with a question of “common or general interest, of many persons,” or when the “parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court.”

Courts look at three factors in evaluating whether to certify a class:

  • Predominant common questions of law or fact (as opposed to individual factors affecting each plaintiff’s case differently);
  • The class representatives have claims or defenses typical of the class members; and
  • The class representatives will adequately represent the class.

Plaintiffs must also show that this special type of lawsuit will “provide substantial benefits” to the courts and the litigants, typically by convincing the court that individual claims would be an inferior means of resolving the issues.

Federal Class Action

Rule 23 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure governs federal class actions. The requirements for a federal class action are similar to the California requirements: Common issues of law or fact must predominate, the representatives must have claims common to the class, and the class representatives must be ready to fairly and adequately represent the class. Plaintiffs must show that a class action is capable of generating common answers “apt to drive the resolution of the litigation.”

Rule 23 also requires plaintiffs to show that the class is so numerous as to render the joinder of all members impractical. There is no specific number technically required to satisfy the numerosity requirement, but usually classes are certified with a minimum of around 40 members. The court will look at the ease of locating plaintiffs, the relative size and similarity of claims, and the geographical distance between plaintiffs when evaluating the impracticality of joining all plaintiffs to the case.

Don’t Be a Victim of Unfair Business Practices That Harm Consumers

For help pursuing a consumer protection claim in California or nationwide, including antitrust violations, unfair competition, false advertising, fraud and more, call the Kalfayan Law Firm in Del Mar (San Diego) for a free consultation. Our experienced class action law firm serves local residents and nationwide classes with diligence and passion. We’ll see your case through to the end and seek both justice and compensation for all victims of corporate misconduct.


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