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Understanding Class Certification in a Class Action Lawsuit


A group of Palm Beach County homeowners filed a class action lawsuit against Pratt & Whitney, an aerospace manufacturing company, alleging that their property values decreased because of industrial pollution from a nearby plant. But a federal judge in Florida recently denied class certification.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is a case where multiple people join together to sue a particular wrongdoer. There are four main types of class action lawsuits:

  1. Product liability actions. This type of case arises when a company manufactures a defective product, or a company (like Pratt & Whitney) spills a toxic substance.
  2. Unfair trade practices. Multiple consumers are affected when companies make false product claims and the product doesn’t work as advertised.
  3. Employment class actions. If an employer doesn’t pay overtime or violates any labor law, the employees can bring a collective lawsuit.
  4. Consumer class actions. Companies that don’t comply with consumer protection laws, like by illegally overcharges customers, can be sued in a class action suit.

One party typically serves as the class representative and makes decisions on behalf of the class. The representative’s claims must raise legal and factual questions common to each class member. An experienced attorney can explain this and other prerequisites for class action lawsuits in Florida. Keep in mind that the rules might be different for federal lawsuits, like the Pratt & Whitney case.

What Is Class Certification?

A class action lawsuit can only proceed if the class is certified. The class action certification process ensures that there are enough similarities among the plaintiffs’ claims to maintain one larger lawsuit. Sometimes it makes more sense for the would-be class members to pursue individual lawsuits against the defendant instead.

That’s what the court decided in the Pratt & Whitney case. While the plaintiffs all claimed that the environmental contamination decreased their property values, the court concluded that the company’s liability to each individual plaintiff turns on “individual-specific questions,” like the severity of the contamination and when the plaintiff purchased the property.

The court said: “So, while there will be some common methods of proof, such as defendant’s disposal practices, migration pathways, and properties of released contaminants, it is likely common liability issues will not predominate in this case.”

While there are certain advantages to filing a class action lawsuit (like pooling resources), an individual lawsuit can also be beneficial. For example, when the decision-making authority lies in one class representative, you might not get a say in the litigation strategy. Either way, an experienced attorney can help you recover the compensation that you deserve.

Contact Us Today

Contact a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you or your property were exposed to toxic contamination. We will examine the facts of your case and develop an effective legal strategy to recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.

The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.


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