The Common Law
Class actions should I participate?
You received the notice because you fit within the description of the "class" as determined by the court. First, you should read the notice carefully and verify that you are indeed part of the class. Next, you are left to decide whether you want to participate in the lawsuit. The two most common options include doing nothing, which will allow you to remain in the class and participate in the class-action lawsuit, or "opting-out" (i.e., not participating in the lawsuit). There are pros and cons to participating in or opting out of a class-action lawsuit.
Under both Texas and federal law, you will automatically be included as a class member in the lawsuit if you do nothing when you receive the notice. In short, you generally do not need to take any affirmative steps to remain part of the lawsuit. By participating in the class action, you give up your ability to assert your own lawsuit on the same issues. However, people who have no intention of filing a lawsuit on their own often participate because they feel like they have very little to lose. They may recover something if the class action is successful or, alternatively, lose nothing if the lawsuit fails because they had no intention of filing an individual lawsuit.
There are, however, several reasons why someone may want to opt out of a class-action lawsuit. If you are prepared to go forward with a lawsuit of your own, you may not want to join the class. This is especially true if large sums of money or other significant interests are at stake. Also, if your situation isn't sufficiently similar to other class members, the issues that matter to you the most may not be squarely addressed by the class action.
Other options are also available, such as participating as a named plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. If you are interested in learning more about class-action lawsuits, check out the following sites: www.classaction.com and www.bigclassaction.com.
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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.
The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.