What does it mean to be the representative of a class action?

A class action starts with one or more people who represent an entire class of individuals who have similar complaints, involving similar facts and issues.

The person or people who start a class action are known as the class representative. This person is named in the lawsuit, like Jane Smith v. Exxon, and sues on behalf of the other members of the class. The class representative may also be known as the named plaintiff or lead plaintiff.

In some cases, there may be more than one class representative. The class representative, through his or her attorney, makes decisions on how to proceed with the case. As a class representative, you would have certain responsibilities for representing a class.

The class representative’s claims must be typical of the entire class because he or she is proceeding on behalf of all others 'similarly situated' as well as on his or her own behalf. The court generally appoints the class representative and must determine that the class representative will adequately represent the interests of all class members.

Serving as class representative does not involve a lot of time as the class representative's attorneys are responsible for handling the day-to-day litigation. Nevertheless, the class representative generally receives a larger portion of the settlement than other class members in return for acting in that capacity, but the amount is up to the discretion of the judge.

The members of the class action are people who have a similar situation as the class representative. Members of the class do not need to be specifically identified by name, like Jane Smith was above, in order to be part of the litigation; they merely need to be identifiable. The class must be defined sufficiently enough so that the court is able to easily determine whether an individual qualifies as a member of the class.

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