Consumers sometimes receive notifications saying that they have been listed as plaintiffs in class action lawsuits. The litigation may be something that appears to be rather frivolous, such as whether or not all the ingredients in a breakfast bar labeled as “natural” actually are. In cases like that, opting out of class action lawsuits may not matter, as there is not much at stake in the first place and the settlements are likely to be quite small anyway.
Opting out of class action lawsuits
But what about when the stakes are quite high indeed? Are there ever cases where it is wiser to opt-out of class action lawsuits and pursue individual litigation on your own? Certainly, and the following case may be one of them.
Only days ago, the United States District Judge presiding over the class-action concussion litigation brought by plaintiffs against the NCAA by both former and current student-athletes granted preliminary approval for the settlement offer of $75 million. But with this approval, Judge John Z. Lee also included specific modifications which must be accepted by the NCAA or the agreement will not take effect.
The proposal includes an agreement that the Association must contribute the sum of $70 million for a fund for medically monitoring and screening former and present college athletes for any indications that they are suffering from concussions or other brain trauma.
Another provision is that the NCAA agrees to make a contribution of $5 million toward research about concussions. But the individual named as the representative of the plaintiff class expressed an objection to the proposed settlement. He argues that it precludes individual class action members from being able to bring their own claims of bodily injury against both the member schools and the NCAA itself.
Regardless, the approval was granted for the settlement proposal by the judge, although the modifications include proposals that member schools and the NCAA are not completely off the hook from potential class members’ claims of personal injuries under certain circumstances.
What are the benefits of opting out of a class action suit?
While all circumstances and class action lawsuits must be viewed individually, it’s possible that opting out of a class-action lawsuit opens the door to a potentially larger recovery. If a proposed settlement is structured poorly, millions could be lost by plaintiffs. For instance, there have been cases where multiple defendants in antitrust class action litigation opt-out and drive down the settlement amount. Plaintiffs who had previously opted out themselves are then free to pursue damages far in excess of the class action settlement allowed.
There is an additional reason to opt-out of class action lawsuits, and that is the degree of control the plaintiff and his or her attorney retain in a matter. If you are one of hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs in a class action litigation, you are subject to “fair, reasonable, and adequate” class action standards, where some recovery could be sacrificed “for the common good.”
Only you and your attorney can make the decision on which option is best for you.
Do class action decisions affect my individual lawsuit?
The short answer is no. If you have already filed an individual concussion lawsuit with our firm, the recent decision in the class action litigation against the NCAA does not have any effect on your personal proceedings. The United District Judge’s decision only affects claimants participating in the class action.
In other words, plaintiffs who initiated their own individual concussion lawsuits can still pursue justice and need not worry that their cases will suddenly be dismissed or invalid. Although the recent class action decision ultimately may or may not adversely affect the pursuit of individual lawsuits by class action members, it has no bearing on individual cases brought by Shrader & Associates clients.
At Shrader & Associates, our legal team is ready to take on the challenge of litigating your case on its merits and getting the largest settlement or judgment possible for our clients. If you have any questions about how class action suits and related decisions may affect your individual claim, contact us and we’d be happy to provide the answers you need.