A class action lawsuit must have certain characteristics and must be “certified” as a class by a judge. The requirements to be certified as a class are generally as follows:
- There must be so many members of the class that it is impractical to join them all as named plaintiffs into one traditional lawsuit.
- All the potential members of the class must share the same injury or harm.
- The class representative(s) must have the same claims as others in the class.
- The class representatives(s) and counsel will provide fair and adequate protection for the class.
In addition to the above basic requirements, there are usually others depending on what the class action is trying to achieve.
The case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas is a good example of a class action. In that case:
- The class was a group of thirteen parents that shared the same injury — discrimination against their children.
- There would have been thirteen cases, too many to join them all as named plaintiffs into one traditional lawsuit.
- The class representative Oliver Brown’s daughter was not allowed to attend her nearest school because she was black – the same injury that the other twelve parents’ children were experiencing.
- Thurgood Marshall, an accomplished and well-respected attorney, was chief counsel for the group of parents, which meant the class was adequately represented.