Celebrity chefs, along with a growing number of companies and government agencies, are driving legislation and work to tighten up food safety laws. But consumers are also taking steps to protect themselves. Since 2005, however, the estimated number of class action lawsuits over food safety has increased by 82 percent. Here is how to claim your share of that rising compensation.
What is a class action lawsuit?
Class actions are civil proceedings that combine the damages of a group of individuals in one suit. If the same problem occurred in a different location at different times and under different circumstances, cases may be brought by different plaintiffs in different jurisdictions. In 2010, the Supreme Court made class actions easier to win by extending the fair payment of attorney’s fees from 5 percent to 10 percent. “In deciding the scale and scope of the damages that may be awarded by class actions,” the Supreme Court wrote in the case of BP America vs. United States, “this court considers the nature and type of injury, the means employed by the injured parties to file the claims for relief, the justness of the plaintiff’s allegations, and the quality of the evidence and expert testimony submitted.”
How do I get a class action lawsuit?
First, you must choose to be part of a class action. If a group of plaintiffs file against the same defendant, and it allegedly violates a federal law — as is often the case — the suits may be consolidated. Beyond that, you must be able to prove that you were harmed and did not have adequate protections to avoid such harm.
What claims are available?
A number of federal consumer laws have been breached by companies. Examples include inadequate labeling; hazards that could be avoided with appropriate instruction, warnings, labels, warnings, or warnings; and warnings that are too broad. Lumber Liquidators, for example, allegedly sold 9,000 ceiling rods without taking adequate precautions for crumbling.
Who can participate in a class action lawsuit?
You must be represented by an attorney if you are the average consumer or you are the plaintiff who has the most expenses. If you have filed a claims form or have already hired an attorney, your claim will not be filed. While a class action lawsuit is a tool used by consumers, it is available to every participant or member of a group.
What is my “claim period”?
You have a “claim period” when a defendant can dispute your allegations that you were injured, if any, and/or requires specific proof. A defendant will generally request a response from the plaintiff in writing. You can choose any response you’d like, even one that places the burden on the plaintiff to prove the claim. However, if you provide evidence or documentation, including sworn declarations, a defendant may ask you to explain why you provided it. When a defendant believes that the plaintiff has provided fraudulent evidence, it may deny a claim for fraud. The time the defendant has for rebuttal, however, will generally be limited to one week.
When can I claim?
Class actions are filed either in state or federal court. If you file a claim in federal court, you have up to 12 months from the date of the filing to file it. But if you file in state court, you have up to 60 days from the date of the filing, whichever is shorter.
What should I do if I think I have been damaged?
You can file a claims form, which must include a sworn declaration from a “named expert,” and form an association with another consumer or plaintiff who suffered similar injuries. The forms are not as valuable as other tools for proving damages in the case, such as scientific evidence or witness affidavits. However, you can file a claim without relying on these important tools if your own expert confirms your damages.
Finally, if you have questions about your rights or your claim, contact your county consumer affairs office or your state attorney general.