Fact or Fiction: Class-action Lawsuits

Estimated Completion Time
2 min
Fact or Fiction: Class-action Lawsuits
Image: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Class-action lawsuits can efficiently deliver justice to a large group of people. Critics deride them as nothing but nuisances dreamed up by greedy attorneys. See if you can separate the fact and fiction of class actions by taking our quiz.
A class-action lawsuit is a civil lawsuit involving a large group of plaintiffs.
fact
Class-action lawsuits typically involve hundreds -- even thousands -- of plaintiffs.
fiction

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You need to have suffered a serious physical or financial injury to join a class-action lawsuit.
fact
fiction
One advantage of these lawsuits is that you can recover damages for relatively small claims.

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To join a class-action lawsuit, you almost always have to "opt in."
fact
fiction
Opt-in class actions are the exception. If you meet the characteristics of the defined "class," you are considered part of the class action unless you opt out.

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Class-action lawsuits are a mass litigation device for both civil law and criminal law.
fact
fiction
Lawsuits between private parties are part of the civil legal systems.

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A judge must certify that a case meets the requirements of a class action.
fact
According to a recent study, only 20 to 40 percent of proposed class actions are certified.
fiction

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The judge does not require the plaintiffs' attorney to make a reasonable attempt to notify all potential members of the defined class.
fact
fiction
A reasonable attempt must be made to contact all parties affected by the case. This includes mailings, flyers, newspaper advertisements, and even TV and radio ads.

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The plaintiffs collectively choose their legal counsel. The judge has nothing to do with it.
fact
fiction
The judge, in fact, is the one who chooses counsel for the plaintiffs, making sure the designated person is fully qualified for the job.

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All class-action lawsuits are tried in federal court.
fact
fiction
Class-action lawsuits can either fall under state or federal jurisdiction.

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A class-action lawsuit with total claims greater than $5 million must be tried in a federal court.
fact
The $5 million provision was part of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.
fiction

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Written records dating back to 12th-century England show a tradition of "representative actions."
fact
Villagers had the right to sue as a large group with only three or four named representatives.
fiction

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In modern class-action lawsuits, all plaintiffs are named on the suit.
fact
fiction
Only one plaintiff, called the "representative" or "lead" plaintiff, has his or her name on the class-action lawsuit.

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Almost 90 percent of class-action lawsuits are settled before they go to trial.
fact
That number holds true for almost all types of civil lawsuits.
fiction

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The judge in a class action has no say in the terms of the settlement.
fact
fiction
The judge must approve the settlement to assure that it's fair to all parties.

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The proposed class action of the sex descrimination case Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores includes 1.5 million current and former female employees of the retail giant.
fact
At the time of this writing, the Supreme Court is still deciding whether or not so many people could legally constitute a single class.
fiction

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Despite many class-action lawsuits, the tobacco industry never lost or settled a case in the U.S.
fact
fiction
In 1998, six of the largest tobacco producers settled a mammoth $246 billion class-action suit with the attorneys-general of all 50 states.

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Drug companies cannot be sued by class actions if their product has unintended side effects.
fact
fiction
Product liability laws hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for both known and unknown side effects.

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There are no federal product liability laws.
fact
Product liability is covered by state laws only.
fiction

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If the plaintiffs win a class-action lawsuit, their attorneys' fees are paid by the defendant.
fact
fiction
The attorneys' fees are deducted from the settlement award, which is technically the plaintiffs' money.

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Equity courts, aka Courts of Chancery, no longer exist in the United States.
fact
fiction
Delaware still employs a Court of Chancery to handle the affairs of the thousands of business incorporated in Delaware because of its business-friendly tax laws.

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Under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, "coupon" class action settlements were made illegal.
fact
fiction
CAFA requires judges to carefully review coupon settlements in which plaintiffs receive coupons for a certain amount of free merchandise instead of cash --- but they are not banned outright.

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
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