Class actions can be large and complex. Many class action suits involving a defective product or a law-breaking creditor can involve thousands of victims — if not more.
In these cases, it would be impossible to find all of the potential plaintiffs before the attorneys bring a claim against the defendant and begin looking into the evidence.
The legal system recognizes this. Under the federal rules of civil procedure, you do not need to have every person allegedly harmed by the defendant involved right away to file suit. All you need is one member of the class, so long as
- There are so many parties in the class that it would be impracticable to join their cases,
- There are questions of law or fact that the class members have in common,
- The claims or defenses of the parties are typical for the class, and
- The representative parties will fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class.
If the judge agrees to certify a civil suit as a class action, the rest of the class will be notified. They will learn the nature of the action, the issues and claims involved, and that class members may opt out if they wish to.
There is much more to class action litigation, of course. Someone who believes they have been wronged by a debt collector or other party, and that they are not the only one, should speak with an attorney, to get an understanding of their legal options.