Have you spent more than $10 on Red Bull products in the past 12 years? If so, you are entitled to a $10 refund or $15 in free Red Bull products. This is not a hoax; this is the result of a class action settlement.

Since 2002, Benjamin Careathers considered himself a dedicated Red Bull drinker. However, he eventually came to believe that Red Bull had been less than truthful in their advertising claims, so he filed suit on behalf of all Red Bull drinkers in January 2013. Last month, Red Bull settled the class action suit for nearly $13 million, money dedicated to paying out refunds and shipping products to those who are a part of the class.

A class action is a type of lawsuit in which one or several persons sue on behalf of a larger group of persons.While the subject matter of class action lawsuits can vary widely, two factors are almost always present for every class action:

  • the issues in dispute are common to all members of the class, and
  • the persons affected are so numerous as to make it impracticable to bring them all before the court.

The three biggest benefits of filing a class action suit are:

  • Ability to file a claim that may be too small to file individually
  • More leverage with more consumers involved
  • No legal fees are incurred or owed until the case is successfully closed

There are many steps to a class action lawsuit, but the following are the basic first steps of a class action suit.

Certification

The judge must certify the plaintiffs as a class. The judge will be looking for the required elements; impractical for plaintiffs to sue individually, plaintiffs share a common complaint, and the defendants share a similar defense for all plaintiffs. Certification is the first and arguably hardest hurdle as only 20 to 40 percent of lawsuits that are filed as class actions receive certification.

Defining the Class Action Lawsuit

As part of certification, the judge will define the scope of characteristics of the class. For example: anyone who lived within one mile of the Alaskan coast line during the Valdez oil spill. The judge can also divide the class into subclasses when appropriate.

Notification

The judge will order that all potential plaintiffs be notified of the class action by mail, newspaper advertisements, even TV commercials, depending on how broad the scope of the class.

Opting out

If you fall within the defined scope of the class, then you are automatically included in the case and bound by the final judgment. If you prefer to file your own lawsuit, however, then you can opt out of the class action.

Appointing Counsel

The judge selects representative counsel for the plaintiffs. In most cases, it is the lawyer who filed the case. But it’s the judge’s responsibility to make sure attorneys are experienced in class action proceedings, are highly knowledgeable in the particular subject area, and will fairly represent the class.

Because class action law is fairly specialized, you should look for an attorney with significant class action experience, such as the proficient attorneys of Smiley Law, before filing a class action lawsuit.

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Seth Smiley
Seth is an attorney licensed to practice in Louisiana and California. He is the owner and lead attorney at Smiley Law Firm. To speak with Seth fill out the form on this page.
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