Participating in Class Action Lawsuits

I received one of those class action postcards in the mail (i.e. Plaintiff v. Company) that for all intents and purposes, would cost me only a couple minutes of my time to seize upon a portion of settlement that would help pay for my next Amazon shopping binge; and all I would have to do is fill out a form and let the lawyers do all the work. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal: “Where do I sign?”

If you’re not the type predisposed to investigate matters, this is the end of the trail for you: cash out and move on. However, for some of us deep thinkers, it’s not so easy.

You see, if you follow the trail to the Stipulation of Settlement, there you will also find the Defendant’s position; and you may also find an undisclosed intent to “vigorously contest every claim,” the “conditions of termination of the agreement itself,” and quite likely an overwhelming catalog of admissible evidence refuting any wrongdoing on the Defendant’s part.

As I was told by a lawyer once, “if you can read English and understand what it’s saying; and you know how to fill out a form, you really don’t need a lawyer to do this stuff.”

The reality is, much of law is plain English and fairly straightforward if you’re willing to put in the time to read, understand, and apply it. But most people these days refuse to be bothered with that level of effort and incorrectly presume that hiring a lawyer to do all the work for them is some magical guarantee to winning their case. And should the Plaintiff do likewise; shall both enjoy the same guarantee of winning? I guess that depends on what your definition of “winning” is.

For the uninitiated, the plain English in such a class action lawsuit is that “entering a settlement is NOT an admission of wrongdoing,” any more than the existence of the settlement or claim itself is proof of its own legitimacy, at any level of noise. No; rather it is the burden, duty, and responsibility of the Judge to bring balance and order back into a society where two adults can’t seem to get along.

Companies settle to avoid further costly litigation all the time; it’s a tactical response to an economic and moral challenge. In doing so, does that mean they’re admitting wrongdoing? No. Does that mean the Plaintiff was right? No. Does that mean the Plaintiff got off with free money just because they were able to pull a series of levers in a particular order and exploit some human flaw in some business process (God forbid that ever happen) or law? Most likely.

If you’ve ever experienced what it’s like to be sued improperly, wrongfully, lose everything over someone else’s dramatic demonstration of lies, etc., you might quite find yourself a bit less hasty to jump on that next class action bandwagon just up ahead before doing your research. And in doing so, perhaps we ourselves can do our part in bringing balance and order back into society, with a newfound empathy for true justice.