A class representative is a person (or multiple persons) who is similarly situated to the other members of the class, who has interests typical of the rest of the class, and can fairly and adequately represent all the other members of the class. Since not all members of the class are named in the proceedings the class representative stands in for all those allegedly harmed by the defendant.
Typically, it is a concerned consumer who is one of the first to contact an attorney regarding their complaints or problems with a defendant that ends up being named as the class representative of a lawsuit. That is because this is an individual who noticed the problem and cared enough to try to get it resolved, not only for themselves, but also for similarly situated individuals who this also happened to. However, it is the court that ultimately approves who can be the class representative for a given class action.
A class representative, because they are representing not just themselves, and their own interests, but that of the entire group has some additional responsibilities placed on him or her. These include, but are not limited to the following:
1. Represent the class. A class representative is the representative of a class of persons similarly situated to them and must represent the class to the best of their ability.
2. Protect the interests of the class. A class representative may not choose individual gain to the detriment of the class.
3. Understand the litigation. A class representative must be generally familiar with the litigation. This does not mean that they must know every aspect of the litigation. Instead, attorneys for the class will keep the class rep informed of major events. However, they must have a general understanding of the case, such as knowing who the parties are and why they are suing. Of course, the class rep may and should confer with class counsel at any time they feel it is appropriate to do so.
4. Keep class counsel informed. A class representative must keep their counsel informed of their whereabouts and changes that may affect the litigation.
5. Cooperate and attend events when required. A class representative must cooperate in the preparation of the case, and be present on reasonable notice for any necessary appearances. For example, a class rep may be required to appear for deposition, hearings, trial and other meetings relative to their case. In addition, a class representative will likely be required to provide to counsel, and may not destroy, documents and things relative to their case.
6. Vigorously prosecute the litigation. A class representative must authorize class counsel to do what is necessary to successfully prosecute the lawsuit on behalf of the class, such as by signing the client agreement. Once that authorization has been made the class counsel will then vigorously pursue the matter.
7. Provide notice to the class. In some situations a class representative may be responsible for providing notice to the class, depending on whether the federal rules or the judge requires such notice. Typically, class counsel will undertake this task on behalf of the class representative and be responsible for all costs.
8. Hire lawyers experienced in class action litigation. Courts typically require that class counsel be experienced in litigating class actions, since this type of litigation is complex because of all the procedural and legal requirements, and because counsel will be representing the interests of a large group of plaintiffs. Therefore, a typical requirement of a class representative is to hire counsel which meets these criteria, to the court’s satisfaction.
Starr Austen & Miller has national experience in class actions and has participated in numerous consumer and securities cases, with aggregate recoveries and/or judgments in the hundreds of millions of dollars. If you believe you have a class action claim, call us to set up an appointment for a free consultation to let us help you determine the merits of your case.
Although the term “class representative” and “lead plaintiff” are often used interchangeably in common speech, there is actually a bit of a difference in the two terms. The term “lead plaintiff” is actually used for a particular type of class action, for securities fraud. These actions are governed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The term “class representative” is the more general term that is used for the other types of class actions.
[Sources: EHow.com SFMSLaw.com]