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I Received a Class Action Notice – What Does it Mean?
You received a class action notice in the mail and/or you have come across one that looks like it applies to you. What does it mean and what do you need to do?
The first thing you will want to do is check the class definition to see if the notice applies to you. The class definition is usually laid out near the beginning of the notice and lays out who is included in the class. Generally, if the class definition applies to you, you are automatically included in the class action and bound by the result of the class action unless you opt yourself out of the action. If you are included in the class definition, you should read the rest of the notice carefully as it could impact your legal rights.
The two most common types of class action notices are notices of certification and notices of settlement.
Notice of Certification
Certification is the first major step in a class action. It is a procedural motion whereby the plaintiff seeks to have the proceeding move forward as a class action, rather than everyone in the same situation having to file individual actions. If what you are looking at is a Notice of Certification, it means the plaintiff’s motion to certify the proceeding was successful, and you are being given notice of the action going forward.
At this stage of the class action, you will be given the option to opt-out. If you do not want to be part of the class action, there is a window where you can opt-out of the proceeding (generally 90 days or so) by following the instructions and providing the necessary information. Generally, the only real reason to opt-out of a class action is because you want to proceed with your own individual lawsuit. If you do not opt-out of the class action prior to the opt-out deadline, you will lose your right to have your own individual lawsuit. If you do opt-out of the class action, you will generally lose your right to participate in and receive any benefits obtained pursuant to the class action.
Notice of Settlement
There are two types of notice of settlement in a class action:
1. Notice of Settlement Approval Hearing – This notice lets you know that a settlement has been reached in the class action and that a hearing has been scheduled to have the settlement approved by the court(s). You do not need to attend the hearing, but you may if you are keen to. If you wish to participate in the settlement, you do not need to do anything at this stage. You can simply wait for the notice of settlement approval. If you wish to object to the settlement, there will be instructions on how to do so (note that you only have standing to object to the settlement if you are a class member and have not opted out). If the action was not previously certified, the option to opt-out would typically occur at this stage.
2. Notice of Settlement Approval – This notice lets you know the settlement was approved. The notice will let you know how to make a claim, and when the claims period ends. It is important to submit your claim in accordance with the rules outlined in the notice. Late claims will generally be rejected.
What Else You Should Know
As a class member, there is not generally any out-of-pocket cost for participating in a class action. If the action is successful, class counsel will seek to have their fee approved by the court(s) and any fee approved will either be deducted from the settlement fund or paid over and above by the defendant(s).
If you are a class member, the deadlines in a class action apply to you whether or not you know about them, so you will want to read any applicable notice in a timely manner. If you want to make sure you receive future notices, you should get in touch with class counsel and provide them with your contact information.
If you are a class member, your limitation period for commencing an action is tolled while the class action proceeds. If you do not fit within the class definition, your limitation period will not be tolled and you should consult a lawyer to determine what your limitation period is if you are contemplating bringing your own action.
Every class action notice should have contact information for class counsel. If you are ever unsure or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact them. Class counsel represent you and they are there to help.
For any inquiries with respect to class actions, please contact a lawyer directly by email or by phone at (519) 672-5666. If corresponding by email, be sure to include your name, your telephone number and a brief message.