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Winter 2013
d&G Lawyer News

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  • Q & A – Class Action Settlement Notice

  • Q: What is a class action lawsuit?

    A: In a typical class action lawsuit, one or more people called "class representatives" sue on behalf of people who have similar claims against the same defendant. A single state court or federal court oversees the class action and resolves the dispute for all persons who are class members. The class action typically does not resolve the claims of those persons who decide to opt out of the class.

    Q: What is a notice of class action settlement?

    A: This is usually a notice that has been authorized by a state court or federal court, that identifies and describes a pending class action lawsuit, summarizes the terms and conditions of a settlement agreement that has been reached in the lawsuit, and explains the rights and options of class members concerning that settlement. Usually, the notice is mailed to the persons whom the parties have reason to believe are members of the class. Sometimes, the notice is published in newspapers, periodicals, or on the internet.

    Q: What should I do if I receive notice of a class action settlement, or if I see such a notice in a newspaper or periodical or on the internet?

    A: Read the notice very carefully. The notice should include a "class definition" that describes who is included in the class and the settlement. The notice should also explain the terms of the settlement, and the choices you have. Usually, a toll-free number or web site address is provided in case you have questions about whether you are included in the class or questions about your rights under the settlement. Alternatively, you may want to consult an attorney about your rights. Pay very close attention to the deadlines listed in the notice. If you miss a deadline, you could be giving up important rights.

    Q: How do I know for sure that I'm a member of the class?

    A: The class notice should describe who is included. If you are still not sure, you may contact counsel for the class, who should be listed on the notice. They should be able to provide an explanation as to why you received the notice.

    Q: Do I have to do anything? What if I don't respond?

    A: The notice should explain this to you, and each case is unique. Typically, you are not "required" to take any action. However, if you don't respond at all, you are probably automatically giving up your rights to opt-out of the settlement, automatically giving up your right to object to the settlement, and if the settlement requires class members to fill out a claim form, you are also automatically giving up your right to receive any monetary payment or other benefits offered by the settlement agreement. At the same time, you will also probably be giving up your rights to sue the defendant on your own concerning the same type of claims that are at issue in the class action lawsuit.

    Q: What if I don't agree with the class action settlement described in the notice?

    A: Typically, one option is to opt-out or exclude yourself from the class action. Another option is to object to the settlement agreement. If you opt-out, you will not receive any proceeds from the settlement, but you will retain your right to bring your own lawsuit against the defendant. If you intend to pursue your own lawsuit against the defendant, you must act promptly because any applicable statute of limitations will bar an untimely lawsuit. The limitations time period will vary depending on the nature of the lawsuit you intend to bring. If you are unsure about the applicable statute of limitations, you should promptly consult a lawyer.

    Q: I don't like the terms of the settlement agreement, and I want to tell the court about it. How do I do that?

    A: Typically, the notice will inform you that you have the right to object to the settlement by submitting a written objection to the judge or the class administrator, who should be listed on the notice, by the deadline listed on the notice. The notice should also explain what items need to be included in your objection. You may retain an attorney to do this for you, but typically, this would be at your own expense. Either way, the court must usually consider and rule on your objections before it can give final approval to the settlement. As a result of your objection, the court could disapprove of the settlement. In that event, the parties could attempt to negotiate a new settlement agreement or they may decide to proceed further with the class action lawsuit. Note that if you choose to opt-out or exclude yourself from the settlement, you give up your right to object.

    Q: If I think that the terms of the settlement are fair, what should I do?

    A: The notice will explain how to go about receiving the money or other remedies provided by the settlement agreement. Sometimes, you do not have to do anything in order to receive a payment or other remedy. However, often the class member will have to fill out a claim form in order for that to happen. If so, you need to make sure that you fill out the claim form properly and send it in on time. If you have any questions about the claim form, you should call the lawyers listed as class counsel, or the claims administrator, or you can consult your own lawyer, at your own expense.

    The information on this website (Newsletter/ Email) is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information on this website is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
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