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Legal Terms

The following is a list of common class action litigation legal terms and their meanings:

Absent Class Member: A person who by the class definition is a class member but is not actually named in the complaint, and does not generally actively participate in the litigation.

Certification: The process a court goes through in deciding whether a case will be permitted to proceed as a class action.

Certification Hearing: A court hearing where the judge hears arguments as to whether a case should be "certified" (allowed to proceed as a class action). Affidavit and documentary evidence is presented at such hearings.

Class Counsel: A lawyer or group of lawyers appointed by the court to provide legal representation to the class members.

Class Action: A special form of legal proceeding that allows a named individual or individuals to bring an action on behalf of a group of individuals (as "class").

Common Issues: Factual or legal questions that are common to all potential class members and can be determined on a "class" basis.

Defendant: The person (or persons) being sued in a lawsuit.

Fairness Hearing: A court hearing where the court evaluates the "fairness" of a proposed settlement and hears any objections to the proposed settlement.

Interlocutory Appeal: The process of a higher court reviewing a pending case to determine if a ruling made by the trial judge at some time before the trial of the action was correct. By way of example, this type of appeal may occur under the Rules of Civil Procedure, to allow an appellate court to determine whether a judge's ruling on class certification was correct.

Notice: A court-ordered document informing class members of the nature of proceeding and their rights and responsibilities to participate in the litigation.

Opt Out: The act by which a class member excludes himself or herself from a class proceeding. It has the effect of excluding any such class member from being able to participate in any settlement or judgment in the class action.

Representative Plaintiff: The person (or persons) named in class action as the plaintiff in the litigation, as contrasted with "absent" class members who are not individually named.

Publication: Publishing a court-approved notice retaining to a class action in the newspapers or through television or radio ads.