A class action, also known as a class-action lawsuit, class suit, or representative action, is a type of lawsuit where one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a member or members of that group. The class action originated in the United States and is still predominantly a US phenomenon, but Canada, as well as several European countries with civil law, have made changes in recent years to allow consumer organizations to bring claims on behalf of consumers.


In a typical class action, a plaintiff sues a defendant or a number of defendants on behalf of a group, or class, of absent parties. This differs from a traditional lawsuit, where one party sues another party, and all of the parties are present in court. Although standards differ between states and countries, class actions are most common where the allegations usually involve at least 40 people who the same defendant has injured in the same way. Instead of each damaged person bringing one's own lawsuit, the class action allows all the claims of all class members—whether they know they have been damaged or not—to be resolved in a single proceeding through the efforts of the representative plaintiff(s) and appointed class counsel.


England and the United Kingdom

The antecedent of the class action was what modern observers call "group litigation," which appears to have been quite common in medieval England from about 1200 onward. These lawsuits involved groups of people either suing or being sued in actions at
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omniprese ...
. These groups were usually based on existing societal structures like villages, towns, parishes, and guilds. Unlike modern courts, the medieval
English court The courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales. The United Kingdom does not have a ...
s did not question the right of the actual plaintiffs to sue on behalf of a group or a few representatives to defend an entire group. From 1400 to 1700, group litigation gradually switched from being the norm in England to the exception. The development of the concept of the
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal context) and ...
led to the wealthy supporters of the corporate form becoming suspicious of all unincorporated legal entities, which in turn led to the modern concept of the unincorporated or voluntary association. The tumultuous history of the
Wars of the Roses The Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), known at the time and for more than a century after as the Civil Wars, were a series of civil wars fought over control of the throne of England, English throne in the mid-to-late fifteenth century. These w ...
and then the Star Chamber resulted in periods during which the common law courts were frequently paralyzed, and out of the confusion the Court of Chancery emerged with exclusive jurisdiction over group litigation. By 1850, Parliament had enacted several statutes on a case-by-case basis to deal with issues regularly faced by certain types of organizations, like joint-stock companies, and with the impetus for most types of group litigation removed, it went into a steep decline in English jurisprudence from which it never recovered. It was further weakened by the fact that
equity Equity may refer to: Finance, accounting and ownership *Equity (finance), ownership of assets that have liabilities attached to them ** Stock, equity based on original contributions of cash or other value to a business ** Home equity, the diff ...
pleading, in general, was falling into disfavor, which culminated in the Judicature Acts of 1874 and 1875. Group litigation was essentially dead in the United Kingdom after 1850.

United States

Class actions survived in the United States thanks to the influence of Supreme Court Associate Justice Joseph Story, who imported it into US law through summary discussions in his two equity treatises as well as his opinion in ''
West v. Randall ''West v. Randall'' (29 F. Cas. 718 (R.I. 1820)) is one of the earliest class action lawsuits cases in the early United States under federal case law in which one individual was allowed to sue on behalf of a larger group. The decision was written b ...
'' (1820). However, Story did not necessarily endorse class actions, because he "could not conceive of a modern function or a coherent theory for representative litigation." The oldest predecessor to the class-action rule in the United States was in the
Federal Equity Rules The Federal Equity Rules were court rules that, until 1938, governed civil procedure in suits of equity in federal courts. The Rules were established by the United States Supreme Court which was authorized by the United States Congress to make ...
, specifically Equity Rule 48, promulgated in 1842.
Where the parties on either side are very numerous, and cannot, without manifest inconvenience and oppressive delays in the suit, be all brought before it, the court in its discretion may dispense with making all of them parties, and may proceed in the suit, having sufficient parties before it to represent all the adverse interests of the plaintiffs and the defendants in the suit properly before it. But in such cases, the decree shall be without prejudice to the rights and claims of all the absent parties.
This allowed for representative suits in situations where there were too many individual parties (which now forms the first requirement for class-action litigation – numerosity). However, this rule did not allow such suits to bind similarly situated absent parties, which rendered the rule ineffective. Within ten years, the Supreme Court interpreted Rule 48 in such a way so that it could apply to absent parties under certain circumstances, but only by ignoring the plain meaning of the rule. In the rules published in 1912, Equity Rule 48 was replaced with Equity Rule 38 as part of a major restructuring of the Equity Rules, and when federal courts merged their legal and equitable procedural systems in 1938, Equity Rule 38 became Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Modern developments

A major revision of the FRCP in 1966 radically transformed Rule 23, made the opt-out class action the standard option, and gave birth to the modern class action. Entire treatises have been written since to summarize the huge mass of law that sprang up from the 1966 revision of Rule 23. Just as medieval group litigation bound all members of the group regardless of whether they all actually appeared in court, the modern class action binds ''all'' members of the class, except for those who choose to opt-out (if the rules permit them to do so). The Advisory Committee that drafted the new Rule 23 in the mid-1960s was influenced by two major developments. First was the suggestion of Harry Kalven, Jr. and Maurice Rosenfield in 1941 that class-action litigation by individual shareholders on behalf of all shareholders of a company could effectively supplement direct government regulation of securities markets and other similar markets. The second development was the rise of the civil rights movement,
environmentalism Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad Philosophy of life, philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment (biophysical), environment, par ...
and consumerism. The groups behind these movements, as well as many others in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, all turned to class actions as a means for achieving their goals. For example, a 1978 environmental law treatise reprinted the ''entire'' text of Rule 23 and mentioned "class actions" 14 times in its index. Businesses targeted by class actions for inflicting massive aggregate harm have sought ways to avoid class actions altogether. In the 1990s, the US Supreme Court issued several decisions that strengthened the "federal policy favoring arbitration".Giles M. (2005)
Opting Out of Liability
. ''Michigan Law Review''.
In response, lawyers have added provisions to consumer contracts of adhesion called "collective action waivers", which prohibit those signing the contracts from bringing class-action suits. In 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision in '' AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion'' that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempts state laws that prohibit contracts from disallowing class-action lawsuits, which will make it more difficult for consumers to file class-action lawsuits. The dissent pointed to a saving clause in the federal act which allowed states to determine how a contract or its clauses may be revoked. In two major 21st-century cases, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 against certification of class actions due to differences in each individual members' circumstances: first in '' Wal-Mart v. Dukes'' (2011) and later in ''
Comcast Corp. v. Behrend ''Comcast Corp. v. Behrend'', 569 U.S. 27 (2013), is a United States Supreme Court case dealing with class certification under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (officially abbreviated Fed. R. Civ. P.; ...
'' (2013). Companies may insert the phrase "may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration" into their consumer and employment contracts to use arbitration and prevent class-action lawsuits. Rejecting arguments that they violated employees’ rights to collective bargaining, and that modestly-valued consumer claims would be more efficiently litigated within the parameters of one lawsuit, the U. S. Supreme Court, in '' Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis'' (2018), sanctioned the use of so-called "class action waivers". Citing its deference to freedom to contract principles, the Epic Systems opinion opened the door dramatically to the use of these waivers as a condition of employment, consumer purchases and the like. Some commentators in opposition to the ruling see it as a "death knell" to many employment and consumer class actions, and have increasingly pushed for legislation to circumvent it in hopes of reviving otherwise-underrepresented parties’ ability to litigate on a group basis. Supporters (mostly pro-business) of the high court's ruling argue its holding is consistent with private contract principles. Many of those supporters had long-since argued that class action procedures were generally inconsistent with due process mandates and unnecessarily promoted litigation of otherwise small claims—thus heralding the ruling's anti-litigation effect. In 2017, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in Bristol-Meyer Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017), holding that over five hundred plaintiffs from other states cannot bring a consolidated mass action against the pharmaceutical giant in the State of California. This opinion may arguably render nationwide mass action and class action impossible in any single state besides the defendant's home state. In 2020, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found incentive awards are impermissible. Incentive awards are a relatively modest payment made to class representatives as part of a class settlement. The ruling was a response to an objector who claimed Rule 23 required that the fee petition be filed ''before'' the time frame for class member objections to be filed; and payments to the class representative violates doctrine from two US Supreme Court cases from the 1800s.


As of 2010, there was no publicly maintained list of nonsecurities class-action settlements, although a securities class-action database exists in the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and several for-profit companies maintain lists of the securities settlements. One study of federal settlements required the researcher to manually search databases of lawsuits for the relevant records, although state class actions were not included due to the difficulty in gathering the information. Another source of data is US Bureau of Justice Statistics ''Civil Justice Survey of State Courts'', which offers statistics for the year 2005.


Proponents of class actions state that they offer a number of advantages because they aggregate many individualized claims into one representational lawsuit. First, aggregation can increase the efficiency of the legal process, and lower the costs of litigation. In cases with common questions of law and fact, aggregation of claims into a class action may avoid the necessity of repeating "days of the same
witnesses In law, a witness is someone who has knowledge about a matter, whether they have sensed it or are testifying on another witnesses' behalf. In law a witness is someone who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, provides testimonial evidence, e ...
, exhibits and issues from trial to trial". ''Jenkins v. Raymark Indus. Inc.'', 782 F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir. 1986) (granting certification of a class action involving asbestos). Second, a class action may overcome "the problem that small recoveries do not provide the incentive for any individual to bring a solo action prosecuting his or her rights". ''Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor'', 521 U.S. 591, 617 (1997) (quoting ''Mace v. Van Ru Credit Corp.'', 109 F.3d 388, 344 (7th Cir. 1997)). "A class action solves this problem by aggregating the relatively paltry potential recoveries into something worth someone's (usually an attorney's) labor." ''Amchem Prods., Inc.'', 521 U.S. at 617 (quoting ''Mace'', 109 F.3d at 344). In other words, a class action ensures that a defendant who engages in widespread harmbut does so minimally against each individual plaintiffmust compensate those individuals for their injuries. For example, thousands of shareholders of a public company may have losses too small to justify separate lawsuits, but a class action can be brought efficiently on behalf of all shareholders. Perhaps even more important than compensation is that class treatment of claims may be the only way to impose the costs of wrongdoing on the wrongdoer, thus deterring future wrongdoing. Third, class-action cases may be brought to purposely change behavior of a class of which the defendant is a member. ''
Landeros v. Flood ''Landeros v. Flood'' was a 1976 court case in the state of California involving child abuse and alleged medical malpractice. In 1971, Gita Landeros, a minor, was seen in the emergency room by Dr. A. J. Flood for injuries inflicted by her mothe ...
'' (1976) was a landmark case decided by the California Supreme Court that aimed at purposefully changing the behavior of doctors, encouraging them to report suspected child abuse. Otherwise, they would face the threat of civil action for damages in tort proximately flowing from the failure to report the suspected injuries. Previously, many physicians had remained reluctant to report cases of apparent child abuse, despite existing law that required it. Fourth, in "limited fund" cases, a class action ensures that all plaintiffs receive relief and that early-filing plaintiffs do not raid the fund (i.e., the defendant) of all its
asset In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be used to produce positive economic value. Assets represent value of ownership that c ...
s before other
plaintiffs A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of t ...
may be compensated. See ''Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp.'', 527 U.S. 815 (1999). A class action in such a situation centralizes all claims into one venue where a court can equitably divide the assets amongst all the
plaintiffs A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of t ...
if they win the case. Finally, a class action avoids the situation where different court rulings could create "incompatible standards" of conduct for the defendant to follow. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1)(A). For example, a court might certify a case for class treatment where a number of individual bond-holders sue to determine whether they may convert their bonds to common stock. Refusing to litigate the case in one trial could result in different outcomes and inconsistent standards of conduct for the defendant
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal context) and ...
. Thus, courts will generally allow a class action in such a situation. See, e.g., ''Van Gemert v. Boeing Co.'', 259 F. Supp. 125 (S.D.N.Y. 1966). Whether a class action is superior to individual litigation depends on the case and is determined by the judge's ruling on a motion for class certification. The Advisory Committee Note to Rule 23, for example, states that mass torts are ordinarily "not appropriate" for class treatment. Class treatment may not improve the efficiency of a mass tort because the claims frequently involve individualized issues of law and fact that will have to be re-tried on an individual basis. See ''Castano v. Am. Tobacco Co.'', 84 F.3d 734 (5th Cir. 1996) (rejecting nationwide class action against tobacco companies). Mass torts also involve high individual damage awards; thus, the absence of class treatment will not impede the ability of individual claimants to seek justice. Other cases, however, may be more conducive to class treatment. The preamble to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, passed by the United States Congress, found:
Class-action lawsuits are an important and valuable part of the legal system when they permit the fair and efficient resolution of legitimate claims of numerous parties by allowing the claims to be aggregated into a single action against a defendant that has allegedly caused harm.


There are several criticisms of class actions. The preamble to the Class Action Fairness Act stated that some abusive class actions harmed class members with legitimate claims and defendants that have acted responsibly, adversely affected interstate commerce, and undermined public respect for the country's judicial system. Class members often receive little or no benefit from class actions. Examples cited for this include large fees for the attorneys, while leaving class members with coupons or other awards of little or no value; unjustified awards are made to certain plaintiffs at the expense of other class members; and confusing notices are published that prevent class members from being able to fully understand and effectively exercise their rights. For example, in the United States, class lawsuits sometimes bind all class members with a low
settlement Settlement may refer to: * Human settlement, a community where people live *Settlement (structural), the distortion or disruption of parts of a building *Closing (real estate), the final step in executing a real estate transaction *Settlement (fin ...
. These " coupon settlements" (which usually allow the plaintiffs to receive a small benefit such as a small check or a coupon for future services or products with the defendant company) are a way for a defendant to forestall major liability by precluding many people from litigating their claims separately, to recover reasonable compensation for the damages. However, existing law requires judicial approval of all class-action settlements, and in most cases, class members are given a chance to opt out of class settlement, though class members, despite opt-out notices, may be unaware of their right to opt-out because they did not receive the notice, did not read it or did not understand it. The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 addresses these concerns. An independent expert may scrutinize coupon settlements before judicial approval in order to ensure that the settlement will be of value to the class members (28 U.S.C.A. 1712(d)). Further, if the action provides for settlement in coupons, "the portion of any attorney's fee award to class counsel that is attributable to the award of the coupons shall be based on the value to class members of the coupons that are redeemed". 28 U.S.C.A. 1712(a).


Class action cases present significant ethical challenges. Defendants can hold reverse auctions and any of several parties can engage in collusive settlement discussions. Subclasses may have interests that diverge greatly from the class but may be treated the same. Proposed settlements could offer some groups (such as former customers) much greater benefits than others. In one paper presented at an ABA conference on class actions in 2007, authors commented that "competing cases can also provide opportunities for collusive settlement discussions and reverse auctions by defendants anxious to resolve their new exposure at the most economic cost".

Defendant class action

Although normally plaintiffs are the class, defendant class actions are also possible. For example, in 2005, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon was sued as part of the Catholic priest sex-abuse scandal. All parishioners of the Archdiocese's churches were cited as a defendant class. This was done to include their assets (local churches) in any settlement. Where both the plaintiffs and the defendants have been organized into court-approved classes, the action is called a bilateral class action.

Mass actions

In a class action, the plaintiff seeks court approval to litigate on behalf of a group of similarly situated persons. Not every plaintiff looks for or could obtain such approval. As a procedural alternative, plaintiff's counsel may attempt to sign up every similarly situated person that counsel can find as a client. Plaintiff's counsel can then join the claims of all of these persons in one complaint, a so-called "mass action", hoping to have the same efficiencies and economic leverage as if a class had been certified. Because mass actions operate outside the detailed procedures laid out for class actions, they can pose special difficulties for both plaintiffs, defendants, and the court. For example, settlement of class actions follows a predictable path of negotiation with class counsel and representatives, court scrutiny, and notice. There may not be a way to uniformly settle all of the many claims brought via a mass action. Some states permit plaintiff's counsel to settle for all the mass action plaintiffs according to a majority vote, for example. Other states, such as New Jersey, require each plaintiff to approve the settlement of that plaintiff's own individual claims.

Class action legislation


Class actions were recognized in "Halabi" leading case ( Supreme Court, 2009).

Australia and New Zealand

Class actions became part of the Australian legal landscape only when the Federal Parliament amended the Federal Court of Australia Act ("the FCAA") in 1992 to introduce the "representative proceedings", the equivalent of the American "class actions". Likewise, class actions appeared slowly in the New Zealand legal system. However, a group can bring litigation through the action of a representative under the High Court Rules which provide that one or a multitude of persons may sue on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all persons "with the same interest in the subject matter of a proceeding". The presence and expansion of litigation funders have been playing a significant role in the emergence of class actions in New Zealand. For example, the "Fair Play on Fees" proceedings in relation to penalty fees charged by banks were funded by Litigation Lending Services (LLS), a company specializing in the funding and management of litigation in Australia and New Zealand. It was the biggest class-action suit in New Zealand history.


The Austrian Code of Civil Procedure (''Zivilprozessordnung'' – ZPO) does not provide for a special proceeding for complex class-action litigation. However, Austrian consumer organizations (''Verein für Konsumenteninformation'' (VKI) and the Federal Chamber of Labour / ''Bundesarbeitskammer'') have brought claims on behalf of hundreds or even thousands of consumers. In these cases, the individual consumers assigned their claims to one entity, who has then brought an ordinary (two-party) lawsuit over the assigned claims. The monetary benefits were redistributed among the class. This technique, labeled as "class action Austrian style," allows for a significant reduction of overall costs. The
Austrian Supreme Court The Supreme Court of Justice (german: Oberster Gerichtshof or ) is the final appellate court of Austria for civil and criminal cases. Along with the Supreme Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court, it is one of Austria's three courts ...
, in a judgment, confirmed the legal admissibility of these lawsuits under the condition that all claims are essentially based on the same grounds. The Austrian Parliament unanimously requested the Austrian Federal Minister for Justice to examine the possibility of new legislation providing for a cost-effective and appropriate way to deal with mass claims. Together with the Austrian Ministry for Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection, the Justice Ministry opened the discussion with a conference held in Vienna in June 2005. With the aid of a group of experts from many fields, the Justice Ministry began drafting the new law in September 2005. With the individual positions varying greatly, a political consensus could not be reached.


Provincial laws in Canada allow class actions. All provinces permit plaintiff classes and some permit defendant classes.
Quebec Quebec ( ; )According to the Canadian government, ''Québec'' (with the acute accent) is the official name in Canadian French and ''Quebec'' (without the accent) is the province's official name in Canadian English is one of the thirte ...
was the first province to enact class proceedings legislation, in 1978.
Ontario Ontario ( ; ) is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada.Ontario is located in the geographic eastern half of Canada, but it has historically and politically been considered to be part of Central Canada. Located in Central Ca ...
was next, with the Class Proceedings Act, 1992. As of 2008, 9 of 10 provinces had enacted comprehensive class actions legislation. In
Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island (PEI; ) is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada. It is the smallest province in terms of land area and population, but the most densely populated. The island has several nicknames: "Garden of the Gulf", ...
, where no comprehensive legislation exists, following the decision of the
Supreme Court of Canada The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC; french: Cour suprême du Canada, CSC) is the Supreme court, highest court in the Court system of Canada, judicial system of Canada. It comprises List of Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, nine justices, wh ...
in ''Western Canadian Shopping Centres Inc. v. Dutton'', 0012 S.C.R. 534, class actions may be advanced under a local rule of court. The Federal Court of Canada permits class actions under Part V.1 of the Federal Courts Rules. Legislation in Saskatchewan,
Manitoba Manitoba ( ) is a Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada at the Centre of Canada, longitudinal centre of the country. It is Canada's Population of Canada by province and territory, fifth-most populous province, with a population o ...
Ontario Ontario ( ; ) is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada.Ontario is located in the geographic eastern half of Canada, but it has historically and politically been considered to be part of Central Canada. Located in Central Ca ...
, and Nova Scotia expressly or by judicial opinion has been read to allow for what are informally known as national "opt-out" class actions, whereby residents of other provinces may be included in the class definition and potentially be bound by the court's judgment on common issues unless they opt-out in a prescribed manner and time. Court rulings have determined that this permits a court in one province to include residents of other provinces in the class action on an "opt-out" basis. Judicial opinions have indicated that provincial legislative national opt-out powers should not be exercised to interfere with the ability of another province to certify a parallel class action for residents of other provinces. The first court to certify will generally exclude residents of provinces whose courts have certified a parallel class action. However, in the Vioxx litigation, two provincial courts certified overlapping class actions whereby Canadian residents were class members in two class actions in two provinces. Both decisions are under appeal. The largest class action suit in Canada was settled in 2005 after
Nora Bernard Nora Bernard (September 22, 1935 – December 26, 2007) was a Canadian Mi'kmaq activist who sought compensation for survivors of the Canadian Indian residential school system. She was directly responsible for what became the largest class-actio ...
initiated efforts that led to an estimated 79,000 survivors of Canada's residential school system suing the Canadian government. The settlement amounted to upwards of $5 billion.


Chile approved class actions in 2004. The Chilean model is technically an opt-out issue class action, followed by a compensatory stage which can be collective or individual. This means that the class action is designed to declare the defendant generally liable with '' erga omnes'' effects if and only if the defendant is found liable, and the
declaratory judgment A declaratory judgment, also called a declaration, is the legal determination of a court that resolves legal uncertainty for the litigants. It is a form of legally binding preventive by which a party involved in an actual or possible legal ma ...
can be used then to pursue damages in the same procedure or in individual ones in different jurisdictions. If the latter is the case, the liability cannot be discussed, but only the damages. There under the Chilean procedural rules, one particular case works as an opt-out class action for damages. This is the case when defendants can identify and compensate consumers directly, i.e. because it is their banking institution. In such cases, the judge can skip the compensatory stage and order redress directly. Since 2005 more than 100 cases have been filed, mostly by ''Servicio Nacional del Consumidor'' ERNAC the Chilean consumer protection agency. Salient cases have been ''Condecus v. BancoEstado'' and ''SERNAC v. La Polar''.


Under French law, an association can represent the collective interests of consumers; however, each claimant must be individually named in the lawsuit. On January 4, 2005, President Chirac urged changes that would provide greater consumer protection. A draft bill was proposed in April 2006 but did not pass. Following the change of majority in France in 2012, the new government proposed introducing class actions into French law. The project of "loi Hamon" of May 2013 aimed to limit the class action to consumer and competition disputes. The law was passed on March 1, 2014.


Class actions are generally not permitted in Germany, as German law does not recognize the concept of a targeted class being affected by certain actions. This requires each plaintiff to individually prove that they were affected by an action, and present their individual damages, and prove the causality between both parties. Joint litigation ( Streitgenossenschaft) is a legal act that may permit plaintiffs that are in the same legal community with respect to the dispute, or are entitled by the same factual or legal reason. These are not typically regarded as class action suits, as each individual plaintiff is entitled to compensation for their individual, incurred damages and not as a result of being a member of a class. The combination of court cases ( Prozessverbindung) is another method that permits a judge to combine multiple separate court cases into a single trial with a single verdict. According t
§ 147 ZPO
this is only permissible if all cases are regarding the same factual and legal event and basis.

Mediation Procedure

A genuine extension of the legal effect of a court decision beyond the parties involved in the proceedings is offered under corporate law. This procedure applies to the review of stock payoffs under ''Stock Corporation Act'' (''Aktiengesetz''. Pursuant to Sec. 13 Sentence 2 ''Mediation Procedure Act'' (''Spruchverfahrensgesetz'' ), the court decision concerning the dismissal or direction of a binding arrangement of an adequate compensation is effective for and against all shareholders, including those who have already agreed to a previous settlement in this matter.

Investor Model Case Proceedings

The ''Capital Investor Model Case Act'' (''Kapitalanleger-Musterverfahrensgesetz'') is an attempt to enable model cases to be brought by a large number of potentially affected parties in the event of disputes, limited to the investment market. In contrast to the US class actions, each affected party must file a lawsuit in its own name in order to participate in the model proceedings.

Model Declaratory Action

Effective on November 1, 2018, the Code of Civil Procedure ( Zivilprozessordnung) introduced the Model Declaratory Action (§ 606 ZPO) that created the ability to bundle similar claims by many affected parties efficiently into one proceeding. Registered Consumer Protection Associations can file – if they represent at least 10 individuals – for a (general) judicial finding whether the factual and legal requirements for of claims or legal relationships are met or not. These individuals have to register in order to
inhibit Inhibitor or inhibition may refer to: In biology * Enzyme inhibitor, a substance that binds to an enzyme and decreases the enzyme's activity * Reuptake inhibitor, a substance that increases neurotransmission by blocking the reuptake of a neurotr ...
their claims. Since these Adjudications are more of a general nature, each individual must assert their claims in their own court proceedings. The competent court is bound by the Model Declaratory Action decision.

Associate Action

German law also recognizes the ''Associative Action'' (''Verbandklage''), which is comparable to the class action and is predominantly used in environmental law. In civil law, the ''Associative Action'' is represented by a foreign body in the matter of asserting and enforcing individual claims and the claimant can no longer control the proceedings.

Class Action With Relation to the United States

Class actions can be brought by Germans in the US for events in Germany if the facts of the case relate to the US. For example, in the case of the
Eschede train disaster On 3 June 1998, an ICE 1 train derailed and crashed into an overpass that crossed the railroad, which then collapsed onto the train. The crash occurred on the Hannover-Hamburg railway near Eschede in Lower Saxony, Germany. In total, 101 peop ...
, the lawsuit was allowed because several aggrieved parties came from the US and had purchased rail tickets there.


Decisions of the
Indian Supreme Court The Supreme Court of India (IAST: ) is the supreme judicial authority of India and is the highest court of the Republic of India under the constitution. It is the most senior constitutional court, has the final decision in all legal matters e ...
in the 1980s loosened strict ''
locus standi Locus (plural loci) is Latin for "place". It may refer to: Entertainment * Locus (comics), a Marvel Comics mutant villainess, a member of the Mutant Liberation Front * ''Locus'' (magazine), science fiction and fantasy magazine ** ''Locus Award' ...
'' requirements to permit the filing of suits on behalf of rights of deprived sections of society by public-minded individuals or bodies. Although not strictly "class action litigation" as it is understood in American law,
Public Interest Litigation The chief instrument through which judicial activism has flourished in India is public interest litigation (PIL) or social action litigation (SAL). ''Public interest litigation'' (PIL) refers to litigation undertaken to secure public interest and de ...
arose out of the wide powers of judicial review granted to the Supreme Court of India and the various High Courts under Article 32 and Article 226 of the
Constitution of India The Constitution of India ( IAST: ) is the supreme law of India. The document lays down the framework that demarcates fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental ...
. The sort of remedies sought from courts in Public Interest Litigation go beyond mere award of damages to all affected groups, and have sometimes (controversially) gone on to include Court monitoring of the implementation of legislation and even the framing of guidelines in the absence of Parliamentary legislation. However, this innovative jurisprudence did not help the victims of the
Bhopal gas tragedy The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a chemical accident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Considered the world's ...
, who were unable to fully prosecute a class-action litigation (as understood in the American sense) against
Union Carbide Union Carbide Corporation is an American chemical corporation wholly owned subsidiary (since February 6, 2001) by Dow Chemical Company. Union Carbide produces chemicals and polymers that undergo one or more further conversions by customers befo ...
due to procedural rules that would make such litigation impossible to conclude and unwieldy to carry out. Instead, the
Government of India The Government of India ( ISO: ; often abbreviated as GoI), known as the Union Government or Central Government but often simply as the Centre, is the national government of the Republic of India, a federal democracy located in South Asia, ...
exercised its right of ''
parens patriae ''Parens patriae'' is Latin for "parent of the nation" (lit., "parent of one's country"). In law, it refers to the public policy power of the state to intervene against an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian, or informal caretaker, and to ...
'' to appropriate all the claims of the victims and proceeded to litigate on their behalf, first in the New York courts and later, in the Indian courts. Ultimately, the matter was settled between the Union of India and Union Carbide (in a settlement overseen by the Supreme Court of India) for a sum of as a complete settlement of all claims of all victims for all time to come. Public interest litigation has now broadened in scope to cover larger and larger groups of citizens who may be affected by government inaction. Examples of this trend include the conversion of all public transport in the city of
Delhi Delhi, officially the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, is a city and a union territory of India containing New Delhi, the capital of India. Straddling the Yamuna river, primarily its western or right bank, Delhi shares borders w ...
from diesel engines to CNG engines on the basis of the orders of the
Delhi High Court The High Court of Delhi (IAST: ''dillī uchcha nyāyālaya'') was established on 31 October 1966, through the ''Delhi High Court Act, 1966'', with four judges, Chief Justice K. S. Hegde, Justice I. D. Dua, Justice H. R. Khanna and Justice S. ...
; the monitoring of forest use by the High Courts and the Supreme Court to ensure that there is no unjustified loss of forest cover; and the directions mandating the disclosure of assets of electoral candidates for the Houses of Parliament and State Assembly. The Supreme Court has observed that the PIL has tended to become a means to gain publicity or obtain relief contrary to constitutionally valid legislation and policy. Observers point out that many High Courts and certain Supreme Court judges are reluctant to entertain PILs filed by
non-governmental organization A non-governmental organization (NGO) or non-governmental organisation (see spelling differences) is an organization that generally is formed independent from government. They are typically nonprofit entities, and many of them are active in ...
s and activists, citing concerns of
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state's government into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches. The typi ...
parliamentary sovereignty Parliamentary sovereignty, also called parliamentary supremacy or legislative supremacy, is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. It holds that the legislative body has absolute sovereignty and is supreme over ...


Irish law Law of Ireland or Irish law may refer to: * Early Irish law (Brehon law) of Medieval Ireland * Alternative law in Ireland prior to 1921 * Law of the Republic of Ireland The law of Ireland consists of constitutional, statute, and common law. ...
, there is no such thing as a "class action" per se. Third-party litigation funding is prohibited under Irish law. Instead, there is the 'representative action' () or 'test case' (''cás samplach''). A representative action is "where one claimant or defendant, with the same interest as a group of claimants or defendants in an action, institutes or defends proceedings on behalf of that group of claimants or defendants." Some test cases in Ireland have included: *the CervicalCheck cancer scandal *financial product
misselling Misselling is the deliberate, reckless, or negligent sale of products or services in circumstances where the contract is either misrepresented, or the product or service is unsuitable for the customer's needs. For example, selling life insurance to ...
*Damages claims brought by Irish hauliers against
price-fixing Price fixing is an anticompetitive agreement between participants on the same side in a market to buy or sell a product, service, or commodity only at a fixed price, or maintain the market conditions such that the price is maintained at a given ...
by European truck makers


Italy has class action legislation. Consumer associations can file claims on behalf of groups of consumers to obtain judicial orders against corporations that cause injury or damage to consumers. These types of claims are increasing, and Italian courts have allowed them against banks that continue to apply compound interest on retail clients' current account
overdraft An overdraft occurs when something is withdrawn in excess of what is in a current account. For financial systems, this can be funds in a bank account. For water resources, it can be groundwater in an aquifer. In these situations the account is s ...
s. The introduction of class actions is on the government's agenda. On November 19, 2007, the Senato della Repubblica passed a class-action law in Finanziaria 2008, a financial document for the economy management of the government. From 10 December 2007, in order of Italian legislation system, the law is before the House and has to be passed also by the
Camera dei Deputati The Chamber of Deputies ( it, Camera dei deputati) is the lower house of the bicameral Italian Parliament (the other being the Senate of the Republic). The two houses together form a perfect bicameral system, meaning they perform identical funct ...
, the second house of
Italian Parliament The Italian Parliament ( it, Parlamento italiano) is the national parliament of the Italian Republic. It is the representative body of Italian citizens and is the successor to the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1943), the transitio ...
, to become an effective law. In 2004, the Italian parliament considered the introduction of a type of class action, specifically in the area of consumer law. No such law has been enacted, but scholars demonstrated that class actions (''azioni rappresentative'') do not contrast with Italian principles of
civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits (as opposed to procedures in criminal law matters). These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced; what kin ...
. Class action is regulated by art. 140 bis of the Italian consumers' code and has been in force since 1 July 2009. On May 19, 2021, the reform of the Italian legal framework on class actions finally entered into force. The new rules, designed by Law n. 31 and published on April 18, 2019, (Law n. 31/2019), were initially intended to become effective on April 19, 2020, but had been delayed twice. The new rules on class actions are now included in the Italian Civil Procedure Code (ICPC). Overall, the new class action appears to be a viable instrument which, through a system of economic incentives, could overcome the rational apathy of small-claims holders and ensure redress.


Dutch law allows associations (''verenigingen'') and foundations (''stichtingen'') to bring a so-called collective action on behalf of other persons, provided they can represent the interests of such persons according to their by-laws (''statuten'') (section 3:305a Dutch Civil Code). All types of actions are permitted. This includes a claim for monetary damages, provided the event occurred after 15 November 2016 (pursuant to new legislation which entered into force 1 January 2020). Most class actions over the past decade have been in the field of securities fraud and financial services. The acting association or foundation may come to a
collective settlement An intentional community is a voluntary residential community which is designed to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork from the start. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, ...
with the defendant. The settlement may also include – and usually primarily consists of – monetary compensation of damages. Such settlement can be declared binding for all injured parties by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal (section 7:907 Dutch Civil Code). The injured parties have an opt-out right during the opt-out period set by the Court, usually 3 to 6 months. Settlements involving injured parties from outside The Netherlands can also be declared binding by the Court. Since US courts are reluctant to take up class actions brought on behalf of injured parties not residing in the US who have suffered damages due to acts or omissions committed outside the US, combinations of US class actions and Dutch collective actions may come to a settlement that covers plaintiffs worldwide. An example of this is the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Reserves Settlement that was declared binding upon both US and non-US plaintiffs.


"Pozew zbiorowy" or class action has been allowed under Polish law since July 19, 2010. A minimum of 10 persons, suing based on the same law, is required.


Collective litigation has been allowed under Russian law since 2002. Basic criteria are, like in the US, numerosity, commonality, and typicality.


Spanish law allows nominated consumer associations to take action to protect the interests of consumers. A number of groups already have the power to bring collective or class actions: certain consumer associations, bodies legally constituted to defend the "collective interest" and groups of injured parties. Recent changes to Spanish civil procedure rules include the introduction of a quasi-class action right for certain consumer associations to claim damages on behalf of unidentified classes of consumers. The rules require consumer associations to represent an adequate number of affected parties who have suffered the same harm. Also, any judgment made by the Spanish court will list the individual beneficiaries or, if that is not possible, conditions that need to be fulfilled for a party to benefit from a judgment.


Swiss law does not allow for any form of class action. When the
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government i ...
proposed a new federal code of civil procedure in 2006, replacing the cantonal codes of civil procedure, it rejected the introduction of class actions, arguing that

United Kingdom

England and Wales

Civil Procedure Rules The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) were introduced in 1997 as per the Civil Procedure Act 1997 by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee and are the rules of civil procedure used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in civil ...
of the courts of England and Wales came into force in 1999 and have provided for representative actions in limited circumstances (under Part 19.6). These have not been much used, with only two reported cases at the court of first instance in the first ten years after the Civil Procedure Rules took effect. However, a sectoral mechanism was adopted by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, taking effect on October 1, 2015. Under the provisions therein, opt-in or opt-out collective procedures may be certified for breaches of competition law. This is currently the closest mechanism to a class action in England and Wales.

United States

In the United States, the class representative, also called a lead plaintiff, named plaintiff, or representative plaintiff is the named party in a class-action lawsuit. Although the class representative is named as a party to the litigation, the court must approve the class representative when it certifies the lawsuit as a class action. The class representative must be able to represent the interests of all the members of the class, by being typical of the class members and not having conflicts with them. He or she is responsible for hiring the attorney, filing the lawsuit, consulting on the case, and agreeing to any settlement. In exchange, the class representative may be entitled to compensation (at the court's discretion) out of the recovery amount.

Federal courts

In federal courts, class actions are governed by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule and 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332(d). Cases in federal courts are only allowed to proceed as class actions if the court has jurisdiction to hear the case, and if the case meets the criteria set out in Rule 23. In the vast majority of federal class actions, the class is acting as the plaintiff. However, Rule 23 also provides for defendant class actions. Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to
remove Remove, removed or remover may refer to: * Needle remover * Polish remover * Staple remover * Remove (education) * The degree of cousinship, i.e. "once removed" or "twice removed" - see Cousin chart See also * Deletion (disambiguation) * Moving ...
the case to federal court. The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 increases defendants' ability to remove state cases to federal court by giving federal courts
original jurisdiction In common law legal systems original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a higher court has the power to review a lower court's decision. India In India, the Su ...
for all class actions with damages exceeding $5,000,000 exclusive of interest and costs. The Class Action Fairness Act contains carve-outs for, among other things, shareholder class actions covered by the
Private Securities Litigation Reform Act The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, , 109 Stat. 737 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 15 U.S.C.) ("PSLRA") implemented several substantive changes in the United States that have affected certain cases brought under the ...
of 1995 and those concerning internal corporate governance issues (the latter typically being brought as shareholder derivative actions in the state courts of Delaware, the state of incorporation of most large corporations). In securities class actions that allege violations of Section 11 of the
Securities Act of 1933 The Securities Act of 1933, also known as the 1933 Act, the Securities Act, the Truth in Securities Act, the Federal Securities Act, and the '33 Act, was enacted by the United States Congress on May 27, 1933, during the Great Depression and after ...
, "officers and directors are liable together with the corporation for material misrepresentations in the registration statement." To have "
standing Standing, also referred to as orthostasis, is a position in which the body is held in an ''erect'' ("orthostatic") position and supported only by the feet. Although seemingly static, the body rocks slightly back and forth from the ankle in the s ...
" to sue under Section 11 of the 1933 Act in a class action, a plaintiff must be able to prove that he can "trace" his shares to the registration statement and offering in question, as to which there is alleged a material misstatement or omission. In the absence of an ability to actually trace his shares, such as when securities issued at multiple times are held by the Depository Trust Company in a fungible bulk and physical tracing of particular shares may be impossible, the plaintiff may be barred from pursuing his claim for lack of standing.


= Class actions may be brought in federal court if the claim arises under federal law or if the claim falls under 28
U.S.C. In the law of the United States, the Code of Laws of the United States of America (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, U.S.C., or USC) is the official compilation and codification of the ...
§ 1332(d). Under § 1332(d)(2) the federal district courts have original jurisdiction over any civil action where the
amount in controversy Amount in controversy (sometimes called jurisdictional amount) is a term used in civil procedure to denote the amount at stake in a lawsuit, in particular in connection with a requirement that persons seeking to bring a lawsuit in a particular cour ...
exceeds $5,000,000 and * any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant; or * any member of a class of plaintiffs is a foreign state or a citizen or subject of a foreign state and any defendant is a citizen of a State; or * any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State and any defendant is a foreign state or a citizen or subject of a foreign state. Nationwide plaintiff classes are possible, but such suits must have a commonality of issues across state lines. This may be difficult if the civil law in the various states lack significant commonalities. Large class actions brought in federal court frequently are consolidated for pre-trial purposes through the device of
multidistrict litigation In United States law, multidistrict litigation (MDL) refers to a special federal legal procedure designed to speed the process of handling complex cases, such as air disaster litigation or complex product liability suits. Description MDL cases ...
(MDL). It is also possible to bring class actions under state law, and in some cases the court may extend its jurisdiction to all the members of the class, including out of state (or even internationally) as the key element is the jurisdiction that the court has over the defendant.

=Class certification under Rule 23

= For the case to proceed as a class action and bind absent class members, the court must certify the class under Rule 23 on a motion from the party wishing to proceed on a class basis. For a class to be certified, the moving party must meet all of the criteria listed under Rule 23(a), and at least one of the criteria listed under Rule 23(b). The 23(a) criteria are referred to as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. Numerosity refers to the number of people in the class. To be certified, the class has to have enough members that simply adding each of them as a named party to the lawsuit would be impractical. There is no bright-line rule to determine numerosity, but classes with hundreds of members are generally deemed to be sufficiently numerous. To satisfy commonality, there must be a common question of law and fact such that "determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in one stroke". The typicality requirement ensures that the claims or defenses of the named plaintiff are typical of those of everyone else in the class. Finally, adequacy requirement states that the named plaintiff must fairly and adequately represent the interests of the absent class members. Rule 23(b)(3) allows class certification if "questions of law or fact common to class members ''predominate'' over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is ''superior'' to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy."

=Notice and settlement

Due process Due process of law is application by state of all legal rules and principles pertaining to the case so all legal rights that are owed to the person are respected. Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects the individual per ...
requires in most cases that notice describing the class action be sent, published, or broadcast to class members. As part of this notice procedure, there may have to be several notices, first a notice allowing class members to opt out of the class, i.e. if individuals wish to proceed with their own litigation they are entitled to do so, only to the extent that they give timely notice to the class counsel or the court that they are opting out. Second, if there is a settlement proposal, the court will usually direct the class counsel to send a settlement notice to all the members of the certified class, informing them of the details of the proposed settlement.

State courts

Since 1938, many states have adopted rules similar to the FRCP. However, some states, like
California California is a state in the Western United States, located along the Pacific Coast. With nearly 39.2million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the most populous U.S. state and the 3rd largest by area. It is also the m ...
, have civil procedure systems, which deviate significantly from the federal rules; the
California Codes The California Codes are 29 legal codes enacted by the California State Legislature, which together form the general statutory law of California. The official Codes are maintained by the California Office of Legislative Counsel for the Legislatur ...
provide for four separate types of class actions. As a result, there are two separate treatises devoted solely to the complex topic of California class actions.See ''Cohelan on California Class Actions'' and ''California Class Actions: Practice and Procedure'' by Elizabeth Cabraser et al. Some states, such as Virginia, do not provide for any class actions, while others, such as New York, limit the types of claims that may be brought as class actions.

In fiction

John Grisham John Ray Grisham Jr. (; born February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas) is an American novelist, lawyer and former member of the 7th district of the Mississippi House of Representatives, known for his popular legal thrillers. According to the Ame ...
's 2003 novel '' The King of Torts'' is a fable of the rights and wrongs of class actions.

See also

Arbitration clause An arbitration clause is a clause in a contract that requires the parties to resolve their disputes through an arbitration process. Although such a clause may or may not specify that arbitration occur within a specific jurisdiction, it always bind ...
, a contract clause that attempts to prevent lawsuits by requiring arbitration in a private forum *
Bill of Peace Bill of Peace was an English court practice used in the 17th and 18th centuries for legal disputes involving multiple parties that shared common aspects. It allowed the English Court of Chancery to settle the rights of parties, a group known as the ...
, an English predecessor to class actions *''
Class Action A class action, also known as a class-action lawsuit, class suit, or representative action, is a type of lawsuit where one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a member or members of that group. The class actio ...
'', 1991 American legal drama film * Collective redress, a similar legal framework under development in the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
Dukes v. Wal-Mart ''Wal-Mart v. Dukes'', 564 U.S. 338 (2011), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that a group of roughly 1.5 million women could not be certified as a valid class of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit for employment d ...
'' (2011), the largest civil rights class-action lawsuit to date * List of class action lawsuits *
Public Interest Litigation The chief instrument through which judicial activism has flourished in India is public interest litigation (PIL) or social action litigation (SAL). ''Public interest litigation'' (PIL) refers to litigation undertaken to secure public interest and de ...
, a similar system adopted in India *
Securities Class Action A securities class action (SCA), or securities fraud class action, is a lawsuit filed by investors who bought or sold a company's publicly traded securities within a specific period of time (known as a “class period”) and suffered economic in ...


External links

United States

''Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth''''Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse''Class Action Lawsuits: A Legal Overview for the 115th Congress
Congressional Research Service The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a public policy research institute of the United States Congress. Operating within the Library of Congress, it works primarily and directly for members of Congress and their committees and staff on a ...

Class Actions Seven Years After the Class Action Fairness Act: Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, Second Session, June 1, 2012


{{DEFAULTSORT:Class Action * Civil law (common law) pt:Ação coletiva