By: Robert J. Nahoum
Consumer lawyers are, as the name implies, lawyers who focus their practices on consumer issues. What are consumer issues? Consumer issues are those legal issues that arise when regular people (as opposed to businesses) go out into the market place to buy goods or services. For example – buying a car, getting a mortgage to buy a home, obtaining and using credit cards and even going to a hospital or doctor and debt collection.
All too often, these everyday transactions go wrong. Perhaps that car dealer sold you a lemon, or maybe you lost your job and can’t afford to pay your mortgage and credit card bills or maybe you got sick or suffered an injury for which your health insurance is inadequate to cover all the costs. Whatever the cause, when a consumer legal issue presents itself, the consumer might reasonably feel helpless and confused.
There are some consumer issues where the wrong being done isn’t just happening to one person but to many people. In these situations, the consumers can band together in what is called a “class” to sue an unscrupulous business in what is called a “class action” lawsuit. Common class action issues include violations of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and state Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices laws.
A class action is typically started by one person called the “class representative”. This class representative is tasked with conducting the case in the best interests of the class.
To qualify as a class action lawsuit, four elements of the claim must be met:
- Adequacy of representation; and
Numerosity simply means that there are enough potential class members to comprise a class. While there set number necessary to satisfy the numerosity requirement, it is generally somewhere as low as 50 and up to tens of thousands. However, classes can be smaller and are usually greater.
Commonality means that the claims of the class representative here must be a common question of law and fact such that “determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in one stroke.”
Typicality means that the claims or defenses of the class representative plaintiff are typical of those of everyone else in the class.
Adequacy of Representation means that the class representative must fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class members.
Most consumer protection statues are what we call “fee shifting” meaning that the obligation to pay the consumers attorneys’ fees shifts to the defendant. Because consumer protection statues are fee shifting, most good consumer lawyers don’t charge their clients any out of pocket money. The attorneys’ fees in a class action lawsuit are generally agreed upon in a settlement or awarded by the court or a jury and paid by the company that ripped you off or harassed you.
Consumer lawyers are there to help troubled consumers navigate the legal waters safely. As consumer lawyers, we understand that our clients come to us in trouble and usually with little if any money.
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection lawsuit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.