The cost of pursuing each claim individually would usually be sufficiently high as to make pursuing a claim unviable. The behavior would remain uncorrected, and the injured parties would receive neither compensation nor the knowledge that the behavior has been altered or eliminated. Nobody wins in that situation.
And while it's almost inevitable that discussions about class action suits will involve complaints about the lawyers fees, that's not really fair. Mass tort litigation is complex and involves significant investments of time and resources on the part of the attorneys involved. Especially if they actually make it to trial. It might seem unfair at first glance, but it enables the class to access the legal system and justice where it otherwise would not. They may be imperfect, but they're a hell of a lot better than the alternative and have had a profound positive impact on our society.
That was exactly what they were supposed to be about. The way it usually works out, however, is that the lawyers don't really negotiate on the same side of the table as the class and the class members end up with very little. The lawyers, however, get their fees.
That's why everybody gets pissed about it.
There are other legal remedies to force a change of behavior. If the lawyer wants to use my name (as a class member) for leverage in the suit, he or she should be representing me. The class action is something that is supposed to be for the class members' advantage- working as a group for legal remedy. The tradeoff is you don't get as much legal remedy as you may have had you footed the entire bill and risk of a lawsuit yourself. But some of the negotiated remedies are, indeed, a joke.
No, they really aren't, because as the parent says class actions are appropriate where the harm to each individual class member is small, but the small harm is spread out to many people. You as an individual were not harmed much, so you as an individual would not collect much even if you went it alone and recovered 100%. Litigation doesn't (generally) yield more than the harm you suffered.
Besides, if you want a lawyer to represent your interests alone, then you are free to not join the class and pursue your own individual case with the lawyer(s) of your choosing.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the “principal purpose” of class actions is “the efficiency and economy of litigation.” The Court has also noted other justifications for class actions, including:
the protection of the defendant from inconsistent obligations;
the protection of the interests of absentees;
the provision of a convenient and economical means of disposing of similar lawsuits; and
the facilitation of the spreading of litigation costs among numerous litigants with similar claims.
Fewer people than most realize are actually able to do this. Good lawyers don't generally take contingency cases, and if the case is even remotely involved, fees quickly reach to six figures.
Perhaps worse is the stress. Once initiated, you have virtually no control over the process, and it can take over your life. The motions and counter-motions, delays and hearings will wear you down. If the adversary is much better-funded, then they can make it nearly unbearable.
The legal system is not what most people imagine, especially those who flippantly threaten to sue. You have to go through an action (or be close to someone who is) to really get that. Engaging is stressful and costly and, unless you're a combative type with deep pockets who just loves to fight, you'll likely feel like you lost, no matter the outcome.
This, as much as anything, is why class actions are so prevalent.
If you're paying them they're representing you. If they spend a single client's or their own time building a case, they're not representing you. They are representing your class. If you want to be represented, opt out and hire a lawyer.
The lawyers are getting their fees to pay for the service of causing class-action suits to happen. Even if the remedies for a class member are a joke, the amount the company pays is, supposedly, not a joke (and yes, a good amount of that is probably paying those lawyers), and that's supposed to be a deterrent for other companies who are thinking of making the same mistakes.
Whether this works out in practice is debatable, but the current system is coherent in theory.
No, it isn't better than the alternative. The alternative is to have regulators selected and overseen by elected officials regulate the behavior of companies. We instead of a system of regulation by self appointed ad hoc lawyer-regulators negotiating settlements they think will get past the judge overseeing their case and allow them to collect a fee.
The latter is perhaps better than nothing, but it isn't better than the alternative which happens to be in place in the rest of the developed world.
The self-appointed lawyer regulators at least have an incentive to do their jobs: they get a bunch of money.
That is why I have plenty of competition for Internet Access and Net Neutrality is vigorously enforced
That is why the FTC routinely issues fines for False Advertisers for all the false claims that are made daily in ads
That is why there are plenty of bankers in jail for crashing the economy in 2007,
Government regulation is grand
Paraphrasing, we are currently getting the regulation we deserve - good and hard.
The system was always a plutocracy and will always be.
Of course it's fair. It's not like the members of the class get to shop around for cheaper lawyers. The class gets shit either way, they just have to decide if they hate the company more than the lawyers that charge the obscene percentages. And you can't make any kind of cost argument because a billion dollar case isn't anymore complex than a million dollar case. The whole point of it being a class is that it impacted everyone the same so the dollar figures don't change the complexity.
This case is typical: https://www.paymentcardsettlement.com/Content/Documents/Orde.... $5.7 billion settlement, about $500 million in attorneys' fees, or less than 10% of the fund. $160 million worth of time invested by the attorneys to get to that point.
> And you can't make any kind of cost argument because a billion dollar case isn't anymore complex than a million dollar case.
That's not true at all. Big dollar value cases involve either large harms to relatively fewer people, or relatively small harms to large numbers of people. The former kind of case often involves complex subject matter, such as financial transactions, medicines, etc. The latter kind of case often involves a very diverse class and complex issues of causation and damages. Consider the TicketMaster lawsuit: the basic theory of damages is that class members would not have purchased the tickets had they known that TicketMaster was marking up things like UPS charges. Well, clearly lots of class members would have purchased the tickets anyway. Coming up with a realistic damages model in that scenario is difficult. Furthermore, in big consumer class actions like that you've got class members in fifty states with fifty different sets of laws.
>$5.7 billion settlement, about $500 million in attorneys' fees, or less than 10% of the fund. $160 million worth of time invested by the attorneys to get to that point.
How often to private retained attorneys get $320 million in pure profit. Additionally the 'time invested' already has income for all of the involved lawyers.
The fact that it requires so much expertise and money to "access the legal system" in this way is in itself incredibly unfair and unjust. It's a completely broken system.