In this article, we will be discussing the difference between class action and individual lawsuits, with a few case laws/examples for your better understanding.
In an individual lawsuit, it is normally one individual/party who is affected or injured by another party. This is something that we normally witness in a court of law. In layman’s terms, (pun not intended) You suffered some kind of damages/injury, and you then decide to approach the court of law to provide you with some sort of remedy or compensation (either monetary or non-monetary). The court accordingly might decide in your favor or not depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. Individual lawsuits involve one person that, for example, is suing their employer on behalf of them-self only.
Additionally, class action lawsuits are filed by a class or group of people. This would include at least 10 – 50 individuals too who are collectively affected and come together to sue. “Put simply, the device allows courts to manage lawsuits that would otherwise be unmanageable if each class member (individuals who have suffered the same wrong at the hands of the defendant) were required to be joined in the lawsuit as a named plaintiff.”
CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS
- In the case of Alperin Vs. Vatican Bank, “was an unsuccessful class action suit by Holocaust survivors brought against the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan Order filed in San Francisco, California, on November 15, 1999.”
- In the case of Anderson Vs. Jackson, “a group of displaced New Orleans public housing residents (the “Residents”), appealed to the district court’s dismissal of their claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1437p and denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction relief in thwarting the demolition of public housing developments that the Katrina hurricane had damaged.”
- Collins Vs. United States, “is a class-action lawsuit filed on November 10, 2010, against the United States in the United States Court of Federal Claims that ended in a settlement on January 7, 2013. The lead plaintiff, former U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Richard Collins, was honourably discharged under “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) after nine years of service after two civilian co-workers saw him kissing his civilian boyfriend.”
- In the case of Daniela Apostol v. Eastman Kodak Company, “A class action lawsuit filed in California Superior Court claims that Eastman Kodak failed to tell consumers that its All-In-One inkjet printers deplete color ink reserves at “absurd levels,” even on pages that contain only black text.”
- EEOC v. Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, “This employment discrimination class action involving women employed at the Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America, Inc., Normal, Illinois’ facility was filed on April 9, 1996, in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois (Peoria). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), sought declaratory, monetary, and injunctive relief, on behalf of the women, claiming that Mitsubishi violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, by engaging in a pattern and practice of sexual harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge against female employees.”
- Weather Reporter Sued: “In Israel, a woman took a weatherman to court as his weather prediction was wrong. Good weather had been predicted, but rain materialized. The woman claimed that this fact meant that she was inappropriately dressed and this led to her sustaining an injury, as she caught the flu and was unable to go to work. Furthermore, she had to spend money on medication. She was awarded the equivalent of $1,000.”
- Suing Trains: “In New York City, a woman laid down on the subway tracks in an attempt to commit suicide. When the train arrived, it didn’t kill her but injured her instead. She then sued the city of New York for these injuries. She was awarded $14.1 million by the Supreme Court.”
- Liebeck vs McDonald’s, was a 1994 greatly broadcasted case, also famously known as the McDonald’s coffee case or the hot coffee lawsuit. The plaintiff, “Stella Liebeck (1912–2004), a 79-year-old woman, suffered third-degree burnsin her pelvic region when she accidentally spilt coffee in her lap after purchasing it from a McDonald’s restaurant. She was hospitalized for eight days while undergoing skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment. Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses. When McDonald’s refused, Liebeck’s attorney filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, accusing McDonald’s of gross negligence. Liebeck’s attorneys argued that, at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C), McDonald’s coffee was defective, and more likely to cause serious injury than coffee served at any other establishment. The jury found that McDonald’s was 80 per cent responsible for the incident. They awarded Liebeck a net $160,000.”
- Gloria Estefan Accident Lawsuit: “Gloria Estefan was touring with her band, her husband, Emilio, and their then 9-year-old son. A tractor-trailer on the road jackknifed, causing congestion and traffic to pile up. As her tour bus slowed to a stop, another tractor-trailer rear-ended them. Hence Gloria decided to approach the court and filed a lawsuit against Maersk Inc. because it was their truck that had crashed into the bus. They settled with her for nearly $9 million, and another company, Naro Enterprises Inc., settled with Maersk Inc. for a reimbursement of $4 million because it was their truck that caused the traffic to back up in the first place.” Interestingly, the company that owned the truck then sued the company that operated the truck, in an attempt to earn back some of the money they lost.
Each approach has its own set of advantages. If you plan on filing an individual lawsuit, know this: you would have to sit down with your attorney and come up with various strategies that will work in your favor. You will also have to do additional work in assisting your attorney in providing strong evidence that holds value legally. For example You suffer from mental fatigue and persistent headaches, and after taking a doctor-recommended test you realize that you are prone to brain damage. Now this happens because you often consume a scientifically and doctor-medicated trusted drug only to realize that it has side effects that can damage your brain in the long term. As such, you would now have to sue the company that manufactures and distributes this drug. This will not only be a lengthy court process, but you will also be facing money-eating multinational corporations that have legal teams that are paid more than a Senator. However, if you believe that you have all the legal evidence at your disposal and that your lawyer says that it is more than enough to conclude a case, you can go with it.
In a class action lawsuit, when you realize that the majority of people are affected by the consumption of this particular drug, let’s call it “Zantac”. Then, it becomes easier to pinpoint those responsible for not only manufacturing this drug but also encouraging people to consume it. Each case has its own merits and demerits, in a class action lawsuit – it would also mean that you will have to find and name all those individuals so affected -which can also prove time-consuming – however, the compensation is provided at a greater rate.
 What is the difference between a class action and an individual lawsuit? - Zuckerman Law  class action | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)  Alperin Vs. Vatican Bank, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Apr 18, 2005, 410 F.3d 532 (9th Cir. 2005).  Alperin v. Vatican Bank - Wikipedia  Anderson Vs. Jackson, United States Court of Appeals, for the Fifth Circuit, Jan 26, 2009.  US 5th Circuit Opinions and Cases | FindLaw  Collins v. United States - Wikipedia  Kodak All-In-One Color Inkjet Printer Class Action Lawsuit - Top Class Actions  EEOC V. MITSUBISHI MOTOR MANUFACTURING OF AMERICA, INC | Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse  10 Famous Personal Injury Cases + Settlements | San Diego California (personalinjurysandiego.org)  Ibid.  Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants - Wikipedia  Case Study: Gloria Estefan vs. Maersk Inc.- Personal Injury Accident (francofirm.com)  Refer Footnote 8.