While class action lawsuits are typically only filed by a single individual or a small group of individuals, they can affect the legal rights of hundreds or thousands of people.
If you received a class action notice in the mail, this simply means that your legal rights may be affected by a lawsuit that was recently filed or settled.
At A Glance
Notices are sent to people whose rights could be affected by a class action.
Notices are typically sent after a case has settled and will provide instructions on how to claim part of the settlement.
If you have received a class action notice, you did not sign up for something. You were probably listed as a customer of the company that has been sued. This information is typically uncovered during discovery, a phase in the lawsuit process where the attorneys can request documents from the company being sued.
When attorneys working on a class action lawsuit cannot locate the contact information of those whose rights could be affected by the suit, the class action notice may be published in magazines, newspapers or online.
Why Was I Mailed This Notice? Did I Sign Up for Something? How Did They Get My Information?
If you received a notice, it simply means that a class action lawsuit may affect you.
As part of the lawsuit process, attorneys working on the case will have to identify the parties whose rights may be affected by the suit and find a way to contact these individuals (known as class members). This contact information is typically uncovered during discovery, a phase of the legal proceedings in which attorneys for both sides will exchange documents and take witness testimony. As part of discovery, the plaintiffs' attorneys may request company documents that could reveal the contact information of the class members. In cases in which class members can be identified, lawyers working on the case will send out class action notices, either via e-mail or regular mail.
In a case over a defective dishwasher, company documents may contain contact information for everyone who has ever purchased that dishwasher. Notices may then be sent to those individuals.
In the event that the identities of class members are unknown, the notice may also be published in newspapers or magazines that will likely be read by the class members.
If the attorneys working on the defective dishwasher case could not identify everyone who bought the appliance, but believe it was only sold in Detroit and New York City, they may publish the notice in the Detroit Free Press and The New York Times.
The notice will describe the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the company being sued (referred to as the defendant) and the people whose legal rights may be affected by the lawsuit. If the case has settled, it will also provide instructions on how class members can file claims for compensation.
Do I Have to Participate?
No. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the lawsuit will proceed regardless of whether you choose to be part of the suit. The class notice should contain instructions on how you can opt out of the lawsuit if you do not wish to participate or would like to file your own individual lawsuit. If you opt out of the lawsuit, you will not receive compensation as part of any settlement agreement stemming from the litigation. If you are concerned about what it means to be a class member, you may want to read this blog.
Do I Have to Do Anything After Receiving This Notice?
If the case has settled, you may wish to claim your part of the settlement. Instructions on how to do so should be included in the notice. If the lawsuit has not yet resolved – the notice is just alerting you to the litigation – you generally don't have to do anything at this point, unless you want to opt out. If the case later settles in consumers' favor, you may receive an additional notice in the mail informing you that a settlement has been reached.
If the case, however, involves allegations of illegal employment practices, such as unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations or discrimination in the workplace, the class action may be an opt-in lawsuit. This means you will need to affirmatively elect to participate in the case. The class action notice will state if the case is an opt-in class action and contain instructions regarding how you can opt in to participate in the lawsuit.