Stark & Stark’s Class Action attorneys work tirelessly on behalf of their clients to obtain the maximum compensation for their injuries. To date, we have represented thousands of clients throughout the nation. Stark & Stark’s class action litigation team is comprised of seasoned firm shareholders dedicated to applying their extensive experience to successfully litigate large, complex cases. We concentrate on:
- Personal Injury Claims (including: drug; medical device; and toxic exposure)
- Employment Claims (including: wage and hour; civil rights/discrimination; ERISA; and employee benefits)
- Fraud Claims (including: consumer fraud; insurance fraud; and false advertising)
- Antitrust Claims (including unfair competition; and price fixing)
- Securities Claims (including: investment fraud; and stock fraud)
- Privacy Claims (including: data breach; and violations of privacy protection statutes)
- Healthcare and Education Claims (including: civil rights/discrimination; and equal access)
We are not a marketing company. The Stark & Stark law firm is not like many of the marketing companies you have seen on television or in pay-per-click ads. Established in 1933, we are a firm of over 100 attorneys in offices throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including experienced trial attorneys that you can meet and talk to about your case. Stark & Stark is committed to prosecuting and defending class action claims throughout the nation. Our attorneys are experienced in class action litigation, as well as negotiating class-wide settlements.
Here are just a few examples of representative class actions handled by Stark & Stark’s class action litigation team of attorneys:
- The Federal Express/Holman Odometer Fraud Class Action Lawsuit (Barrera v. FedEx Corporation, Docket No. 1:23-cv-03224). Stark & Stark’s class action litigation team is seeking injunctive relief and compensation on behalf of a national class of thousands of automobile purchasers.
- The Valsartan Tainted Drug Class Action Lawsuit (Valsartan Losartan and Irbesartan Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2875). Stark & Stark’s class action litigation team is a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee for thousands of individuals and entities damaged by drugs containing cancer-causing impurities. That Multidistrict Litigation, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, has certified national classes for economic loss, medical monitoring, and third-party payers.
- The American General Life Insurance Company Class Action Lawsuit (Buck v. American General Life Insurance Company, Case No. 1:17-cv-13278). Stark & Stark’s class action litigation team recently settled this complex class action involving thousands of life insurance policyholders throughout the nation, claiming a breach of their policies.
- The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women Class Action Lawsuit (Brown v. New Jersey Department of Corrections, Docket No. HNT-L-076-19). Stark & Stark’s class action litigation team recently settled this groundbreaking civil rights case resulting in extensive injunctive reforms and millions of dollars in compensation.
Please contact Stark & Stark to speak with one of our class action lawyers, who can help assess any claims that you may have and to help you to understand the lawsuit and settlement process. There is no obligation and no cost to you. Allow us to help you today. Even if you choose not to use Stark & Stark, please feel free to read our thoughts in the below guide that we put together based upon our decades of combined experience in these matters.
A Guide to Class Action Lawsuits and Settlements in New Jersey
What Are the Benefits of a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action is a lawsuit that involves a consolidation of similar legal claims brought by a small number of class representatives in order to represent the interests of a large class of claimants. This fosters efficient judicial administration by saving time and money for the parties and the public and promotes consistent decisions regarding similar claims. Class actions also allow multiple claims from several persons in various jurisdictions and can bring together smaller claims, which in most instances would not have been litigated individually. In order for a small number of class representatives to represent the interests of a large class of claimants, a class must be certified by a federal or state court.
How Do I Start a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint by a plaintiff, who is referred to as the “lead plaintiff” or the “class representative”. This lead plaintiff must ultimately demonstrate to a court that he or she suffered the same type of injury as the other members of the class due to the actions of the defendant. The court must also determine if the lead plaintiff will fairly and competently represent the interests of the other class members. Anyone may file a class action lawsuit. After the complaint is filed and served on the defendant, a judge will review the complaint to determine if it meets the requirements of a class action. If so, the Court will “certify” the lawsuit to proceed as a class action and the members of the class will be so notified. If the judge declines to certify a class, the named plaintiff may still proceed with his or her individual claim.
If the class action is certified, the lead plaintiff participates throughout the litigation process and makes decisions about the conduct of the lawsuit on behalf of the class. The lead plaintiff provides notice to the other class members about the progress of the lawsuit, and the decisions of the court. In the typical class action, potential members of the class will have the right to make an “election” to either receive the benefits of any recovery in the lawsuit, or instead to “opt out” of the class action and pursue a recovery on their own. If the class action lawsuit is successful, the lead plaintiff may receive a money award for serving as the class representative.
How Do Class Action Litigations Work in New Jersey?
New Jersey Court Rule 4:32 is the New Jersey state analog to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The text of the two Rules is essentially the same and New Jersey state courts generally look to the federal courts’ interpretation of the standard as persuasive precedent. Nonetheless, most practitioners agree that the New Jersey state courts apply the standard more liberally, especially in light of recent federal court precedent more closely scrutinizing, and otherwise limiting, class certification opportunities.
Under New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1, certification of a proposed class is appropriate if:
- The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable (Numerosity)
- There are questions of law or fact common to the class (Commonality)
- The claims or defenses of the class representatives are typical of the claims or defenses of the class (Typicality)
- The class representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class (Adequacy of Representation)
Numerosity – New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(a)(1) requires a showing that “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” Joinder need not be impossible – there must only be “difficulty or inconvenience” in joining all members, and precise enumeration of the class members is not necessary. Though there is no magic number, numerosity is a fairly relaxed standard and has been regularly seen to be met by groups as small as 50 plaintiffs.
Commonality – New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(a)(2) requires that there be questions of law or fact common to the class. All of the factual and legal questions in the case need not be identical for all of the class members – a single common question will satisfy commonality. All of the class members do not have to share identical claims share at least one question of fact or law that are common to the members of the class.
Typicality – New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(a)(3) requires that the claims of the class representatives must have the essential characteristics common to the claims of the class. While commonality focuses on the characteristics of the class, typicality focuses on the class representative. A class representative’s claim is typical if it arises from the same course of conduct giving rise to other class members’ claims, and is based on the same legal theory. Identical claims or underlying facts are not necessary, and the standard is usually satisfied when the same unlawful conduct was directed at or affected both the class representatives and the members of the class. Typicality seeks to ensure that there are no conflicts between the class representatives’ claims and the claims of the class members – ensuring that the class representatives will further the goals of the class.
Adequacy of Representation – New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(a)(4) requires that class representatives be prepared to vigorously prosecute the lawsuit, with the assistance of responsible and able counsel. Class representatives must not have interests antagonistic to those of the class. Counsel must be qualified, experienced and generally able to conduct the proposed litigation.
Additional Requirements – Once these basic four prerequisites are met, the claims have to fit into one of the three additional categories of New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b). New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(1) only applies in a very limited set of circumstances, most commonly where individual lawsuits could create incompatible legal standards of conduct on the part of the defendant. Examples include citizen actions against a municipality on bond or tax issues or a riparian owner using water as against downriver owners. There must essentially be no issues unique to any member of the class and individual damages or damages classes are not compatible with this section. This section is generally used relatively sparingly.
New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(2) basically applies when seeking injunctive relief only on behalf of the class. If the relief sought is predominately damages, or a disguised claim for damages, this section will not apply. There must be cohesiveness – the defendant must have acted in a consistent manner towards members of the class so that its actions may be viewed as a pattern of activity and issues unique to any member of the class are similarly not compatible with this section.
New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(3) basically applies when seeking damages on behalf of the class. New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(3) further requires that: 1) common questions of law or fact predominate (Predominance); and 2) a class action is the superior way to adjudicate the controversy (Superiority). Predominance requires that common interests will predominate over individual issues. This sounds a lot like commonality, but predominance requires the court to more closely evaluate the legal issues and the proof needed to establish them. Predominance does not require that all issues be identical among class members; however, there must be a common nucleus of facts present. The need to make individual determinations on the question of damages will not necessarily defeat predominance. Superiority requires that a class action is superior to other trial techniques. Specifically, the court looks at: 1) the interest of members of the class in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions; 2) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already commenced by or against members of the class; 3) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; and 4) the difficulties likely to be encountered in the management of a class action. Basically, the court has to ensure that it is fostering efficient judicial administration by saving time and money for the parties and the public and by promoting consistent decisions for people with similar claims.
Additional Considerations – As a general rule, courts are more reluctant to certify an injunctive relief class under New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(2) when any individual issues are present, because class members cannot opt out. Accordingly, virtually every class action that meets the requirements of New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(2) will also meet the less severe requirements of New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(3), where opt-outs are permitted. Notwithstanding, claims for damages under New Jersey Court Rule 4:32-1(b)(3) can seem complex or even inevitably disparate – however, necessity for calculation of damages on an individual basis should not preclude class determination when the common issues which determine liability predominate. For example, courts have developed several ways of dealing with possible individualized damages issues, such as: 1) bifurcating liability and damage trials with the same or different juries; 2) appointing a magistrate judge or special master to preside over individual damages proceedings; 3) decertifying the class after the liability trial and providing notice to class members concerning how they may proceed to prove damages; 4) creating subclasses; or 5) altering or amending the class.
Where Can I File a Class Action Lawsuit in New Jersey?
Class action lawsuits can be filed in the state and federal courthouses throughout New Jersey, including:
- Atlantic County (Atlantic City)
- Bergen County (Hackensack)
- Burlington County (Mount Holly)
- Camden County (Camden)
- United States District Court, District of New Jersey (Camden)
- Cape May County (Middle Township)
- Cumberland County (Bridgeton)
- Essex County (Newark)
- United States District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark)
- Gloucester County (Woodbury)
- Hudson County (Jersey City)
- Hunterdon County (Flemington)
- Mercer County (Trenton)
- United States District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton)
- Middlesex County (New Brunswick)
- Monmouth County (Freehold)
- Morris County (Morristown)
- Ocean County (Toms River)
- Passaic County (Paterson)
- Salem County (Salem)
- Somerset County (Somerville)
- Sussex County (Newton)
- Union County (Elizabeth)
- Warren County (Belvidere)
However, a class action filed in state court can be removed to federal court, particularly under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”). CAFA altered the management and practice of class action litigation in federal and state courts. Concern that state courts would be hearing “nationwide class actions” that were more properly resolved in federal court, led Congress to expand the federal subject matter jurisdiction over class actions. CAFA created federal subject matter jurisdiction where: 1) the proposed class has over 100 members; 2) the aggregated claims of class members exceed $5,000,000, exclusive of costs and interest; and 3) any members of the class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a different state from any defendant. In addition, Congress also expanded a class action defendant’s removal opportunity by enacting 28 U.S.C. §1453, which prevents plaintiffs from including claims against in-state defendants for the sole purpose of avoiding removal, allows removal of a class action without regard to whether any defendant is a citizen of the state in which the action is brought, allows removal without the consent of all defendants, and eliminates the prohibition on removal of a diversity class action to federal court more than one year after the action commenced. So, it is important that you use a law firm that is experienced in both New Jersey state and federal class action practice.
What Do I Have to Do In Order To File a Class Action Lawsuit?
You did some research on your class action claims – now you will want to get some legal advice. Two things to keep in mind: 1) make sure to talk to a law firm that specializes in state and federal class action litigation across the nation; and 2) do not wait, because there are different deadlines and statutes of limitations that apply to your claims. Do your homework and research the firm you will be working with – there is a good chance it will not be the same lawyer that handled your last speeding ticket, or one of the 1-800 numbers that flash across your television screen late at night. Make sure you are dealing with a law firm of experienced trial attorneys that will be handling your case, not just some marketing firm. It is important to put this on the top of your pile of things to do, as only bad things can happen if you wait too long to pursue a claim. Finally, note that law firms will invariably take your case on a contingency basis, meaning you do not pay anything if your case is not successful – this should be spelled out in your retainer agreement.
- Class actions involve complex claims that are usually the subject of extensive investigation, discovery, motion practice and, in some instances, trial. But do not feel overwhelmed – you are not in this alone. Use the many resources available to you. Talk to an experienced law firm and do not be afraid to ask questions, lots of questions. Use their expertise to help you make choices that are best for you.
- Do not delay – legal claims have applicable limitations periods. Different types of important evidence can be difficult or impossible to obtain over time. It is imperative for you to get out in front of this.