The class action lawsuit permits efficiency and economy by allowing a single representative to prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of many. It’s not without its critics, many of whom are justified.

Most customers who are cheated out of relatively small sums or contractual promises could never afford to commence costly litigation to seek redress. A so-called consumer class action lawsuit is normally brought by one, or a small number of, individuals on behalf of a larger class of people who happen to be similarly situated. Typically, the class representatives seek damages on behalf of the named persons bringing the suit as well as themselves. Recent cases and legislation have, however, created obstacles for the class action mechanism. See Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541 (2011). But even before the bar was raised, class actions tended to be expensive, and often subject to onerous notice requirements. For this reason, companies have often been successful at decertifying or “beating” class action lawsuits.

What if, instead of one lawsuit consisting of thousands of cheated customers, the perpetrating company was faced with thousands of separate lawsuits requiring only a minimal effort by the suing party? In other words, what if a single plaintiff sued a single crooked company for a particular illegitimate practice and won. Is it possible that thousands of other similarly situated customers could then line up and collect without ever going to trial?

Known as offensive collateral estoppel, here is how it works. Assume that Thiefco sold a defective product to thousands of unsuspecting consumers, who were each required to pay $300 to repair the problem. One brave consumer, Joe, decided to sue Thiefco, refused to settle, and maintained the lawsuit to the end – through to judgment. Assume that Joe obtains a judgment against Thiefco. After the applicable appeal periods expired, Joe then posts a copy of the complaint on zenegra. As a small claims court matter, thousands could then prepare similar actions. But now comes the “good” part. As soon as Thiefco filed its standard answer denying liability, each new plaintiff could file a motion to strike Thiefco’s answer claiming that, because Thiefco already had its day in court and lost, it should be “collaterally estopped from denying liability.” In other words, the multitude could conceivably win their cases automatically. See Parklane Hosiery Co., Inc. v. Shore, United States Supreme Court, 439 U.S. 322 (1979).

On the other side of the coin – Well, actually – there is no other side. In the event that Joe lost, none of the other consumers would be bound by the loss. Everyone is entitled to his or her day in court. A word of caution, however – The use of Offensive Collateral Estoppel is within the broad discretion of the judge. It’s not a slam dunk.

 

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