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To bring a class action lawsuit in Illinois, you have to show that numerous people suffered some sort of harm in a similar way. Typically you are looking at least 30 people, but most class action lawsuits involve hundreds if not thousands of people and occasionally millions. So if your boss is terrible to you or sexually harasses you, that would be an individual case. On the other hand, if your company is mis-classifying thousands of workers and denying them pay, that could be a class action. If your car has a bad engine, that would probably be an individual case. On the other hand, if your car design makes it at risk of blowing up, that would likely be a class action.
There is a lot that attorneys who file class action lawsuits look for in deciding whether or not to bring a case. This list includes deciding that an individual lawsuit wouldn’t make sense and that the number of people harmed makes a class case logical. But before they do anything they will look for one thing. Is your case subject to an arbitration clause?
Arbitration clauses are hidden contract details that most companies use. Basically they say that if you have a dispute with them, you agree to resolve it via arbitration. It’s something you’ve agreed to likely hundreds of times without realizing it. Because you’ve agreed to arbitration, it makes a class action lawsuit not possible. This all started to happen when George W. Bush was in office and it literally has allowed major companies to get away with a lot of bullshit.
So when you get screwed over by Direct TV, Verizon, Amazon, etc. and realize it’s happening to a lot of other people, you likely don’t have a class action lawsuit (nerd lawyer in me must say don’t make any final decisions from reading this blog post. You should consult with us or another law firm). It can be really frustrating because these companies know that they can rip you off of a small amount of money and there’s usually not much you can do about it. You could go to arbitration, but most people won’t do that just out of principle because their time is worth more than a small amount of money. You certainly don’t want to pay a lawyer a couple thousand dollars to get back $100.
We are starting to see employers add these clauses to their employees as well. It’s often in an attempt to avoid accountability for wage theft by them. Sometimes those individual cases are still worth it, but their theory is that if they can get away with it against most employees they will save millions if not more.
I’ve sadly over the last 20 plus years heard so many stories of cases that would be class actions if not for these clauses. There is no bigger tool for corporations to screw over the little guy than this. While you should still consult with a lawyer before making any decisions, you can also file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General as they are not restricted by these shameful arbitration clauses.
The good news is that not all class actions have been killed off. There aren’t arbitration clauses typically when you buy something at a store, or if your data was leaked, in false advertising or junk texts. There are many hundreds of other situations too. So the bottom line is that if you want to discuss a potential case, we are happy to talk with you any time.