Class actions are brought for various claims, but are more common in tort, securities, consumer fraud and employment actions. These suits are also referred to as mass torts, or collective or representative actions (the latter terms most common to employment law related suits). Complaints are brought by one or more representatives on behalf of a larger group of similarly situated people or legal entities. At the federal level, Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs whether or not a case can eventually become a class action. Furthermore, a case can only become a bona fide class action once a judge certifies the class. Sites like lawyers.com and the Class Action Blawg provide overviews and definitions of terms used in these proceedings. Class actions can be filed in federal or state court, but following the passage of the Class Action Fairness Act (Pub. L. No. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4 (2005)) the federal courts have seen a marked increase in the amount of filings.
There is no exact number for how many class actions currently exist either at the federal or state court level. State courts present additional issues if only because not all state court jurisdictions are searchable online, so it is more difficult to track filings on this level. While it is easier to find cases on the federal level, there is no class action Nature of Suit code. However, LexisNexis Courtlink does allow searching to identify only class action cases. Courtlink looks for dockets with terms like “class action” “similarly situated” or “representative of the class” in the list of party names. It also searches the first five docket entries of a cases for the term “class action complaint.”2 For both federal and state level filings, news and case alerts on a company, product, or subject matter may offer just as timely results.
A class action may also be sent to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The panel’s purpose is to determine whether actions pending before various federal civil district courts involve a common set of questions that should be handled before one judge in order to coordinate pretrial proceedings. The panel selects the judge and court for these proceedings. The point of the centralization process it avoid duplication of discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and save resources and time of counsel. The JPML site lists all MDL cases, but there can be a lag time before newer MDL docketed cases appear on the site. JPML cases can retrieved by district court or by subject area (like antitrust or products liability). It should be noted that not all class actions get sent to the JPML.
Keeping up on the latest cases or news can prove a bit of a challenge, however there are some subscription based publications, free legal sites and blogs that can aid in finding these types of cases. The subscription based resources below offer timely news, analysis, and in some cases, copies of court filings:
Subscription Based Services
BNA Class Action Litigation Report: Published semi-monthly. Covers all topics of class action proceedings. Includes news about cases and articles as well. Available in print and web format.
Mealey’s Litigation Report: Class Actions: Published by LexisNexis and issued twice a month. Available online and in print. One big plus for the online service is the ability to download the filings referenced in the article.
Class Action Litigation Reporter: Formerly Andrews Litigation Reporter, this is West’s version of the Mealeys reports. Available in print or email delivery. Also searchable as a database in Westlaw.
CourthouseNews.com: A subscription is required to view most of the contents and the site focuses on all types of litigation, but the homepage offer news blurbs and even copies of newly filed complaints for free. This may prove especially helpful if the class action is filed in state court and obtaining a copy of the complaint would be challenging.
Federal Judicial Center: Has a page devoted to class action notices. This page lists the forms that can be used to advise individuals of certification or settlements in a class action. These notices must state in plain language the nature and terms of the action and how that might affect potential class members rights. These forms are available for securities, product liability and employment actions.
Global Class Actions Exchange: Hosted by Stanford University Law School. The Exchange is the result of an effort to disseminate information about class actions in various countries. It includes items like statutes, cases, and reports as well as commentary from academics and legal experts.
Findlaw’s Class Action and Mass Tort Center: Provides a large list of class action by subject or nature of filing. Each link will take you to a page where you can get more information on the suit, ranging from an overview of the case to news and additional links. Be warned that news articles are not regularly updated for some cases. For example, the Guidant case effectively settled in December, 2007, but the last story posted is from March 2, 2007.
Yahoo! list of class action web sites: Offers links to web sites that have been set up to provide information on specific types of class actions. Many links though just take you to sites about other class actions, law firm web sites or have not been updated in some time.
At this time, there are not a plethora of class action blogs out there, however there are ones that do provide good information. While most of the blogs here are written by attorneys affiliated with defense firms, the purpose of listing them is to provide a link to a site that is updated on a reasonable basis, and gives commentary, coverage or case cites that a researcher could then use to obtain more information from other sources. Unless otherwise noted, all sites offer RSS feeds.
Class Action blogs via blawg.com: Four blogs are listed here, each are given more detail below. Each individual site has an RSS feed, or you can sign up for an aggregated feed via the blawg.com page and get all four in one.
Class Action Blawg: Newer blog that began in February of this year. Run by Paul Karlsgodt, a partner at the firm of Baker & Hostetler LLP. He posts a class action blogosphere weekly review where posts from other sites related to class actions are highlighted.
Class Action Defense Blog: Maintained by the law firm of Jeffers Mangels Butler & Marmaro L.L.P. The site is updated regularly an provides news and commentary on various types of class actions. One helpful feature is the weekly compilation of class action suits filed in California state courts in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, and other principal population areas in the state. Suits are broken out by subject type (labor, unfair competition, etc.)
CAFA law blog: Has not been updated much recently. Published by the firm of McGlinchley Stafford PLLC. In addition to news and commentary it also posts upcoming events and conferences.
Mass Tort Litigation Blog: Part of the Law Professors Blog Network, as one would expect this site is more scholarly in nature. Not always updated daily but does provide news on cases and trends and gives links to relevant articles.
Securities Class Action Clearinghouse: Run by Stanford University Law School and Cornerstone Research. The site provides information regarding prosecuting and defending securities suits as well as links to settlement information, and links to the latest news and filings as well. Additionally, copies of older complaints, briefs, and other filings are freely available. No RSS feed currently available.
Consumer Law & Policy Blog: Hosted by Public Citizen’s Consumer Justice Project, posts are made by lawyers and law professors who practice or teach in the area of consumer law and policy. Provides discussion of cases effecting consumers. The page is not updated on a regular basis but still may be useful.
CLASSIFIED: Carlton Fields’ Class Action Blog: Class action blog for the defense firm of Carlton Fields. The emphasis is on the southeastern U.S. but they do provide news from other parts of the country as well. No RSS feed currently available.
UCL Practitioner: Blog devoted to California law, specifically, claims under the Unfair Competition Law. The site also posts on the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and class action news and procedure in the state. The site is run by Kimberly A. Kralowec of The Furth Firm LLP.
The Complex Litigator: The fourth blog listed on the class action blawg page, it focuses is on California state and federal cases but also posts news and commentary from outside the state as well. The primary author is H. Scott Leviant who is affiliated with the firm of Arias Ozzello & Gignac LLP.
ABA Class Actions & Derivative Suits Committee: Most of the information on this ABA site is for members only but you can get abstracts of articles and cases. The cases will often have links or PDF copies of the opinions. No RSS feed currently available.
Consumer Product Safety Commission Recall Announcements: Mass product recalls could result in a large scale class actions being filed against a client or competitor. This page provides access to product recalls in a variety of industries. Offers RSS and e-mail notification and even podcasts.
FDA Recalls: This page lists mostly Class I recalls of products for the last 60 days. Class I recalls are for products that may cause a significant health threat or death. Both RSS and email updates are available. The FDA also puts out a weekly Enforcement Report for all classes (I, II, III) of recalls and while RSS is not currently available, you can sign up for email alerts.
- For an overview of the effect of the CAFA on the federal courts see, “The Impact of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 on the Federal Courts, Fourth Interim Report to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, Federal Judicial Center (April 2008). Available at: http://www.fjc.gov/library/fjc_catalog.nsf.
- Id., at 15.