Often during a class action attorneys must find as many members of the class as possible. While there’s no specific number of people required to launch a class action suit, courts are unlikely to certify the class unless there are a lot of people in it.
This sometimes means that people end up getting named as members of the class when they weren’t particularly hurt by the behavior of the entity that’s getting sued.
In the past almost anyone who was identified as a potential member of the class could collect at least a little money from the damages. You may have been the recipient of a few “surprise” checks yourself: $30 or $40 here and there when some entity you’d done business with got involved in a lawsuit you didn’t even follow that closely.
Yet a decision made by the supreme court on June 25, 2021, could make some subtle changes to the way that class action suits work.
The case was Transunion LLC v. Ramirez.
In this case, a class of 8,185 people sued TransUnion for placing their names on a list indicating that they might be terrorists, drug traffickers, or criminals. TransUnion placed people on this list if the first and last name of the individual matched the first and last name of someone on the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list.
During the trial, the plaintiff’s lawyers stipulated that only 1,853 of those class members had actually had this information provided to third parties during the period specified in the lawsuit. The other 6,332 members had “OFAC Name Screen Alerts” placed in their credit file but the information never made it out to any other party.
The Supreme Court held that only the plaintiffs “concretely harmed by a defendant’s statutory violation have Article III standing to seek damages against the private defendant in federal court.” That means only the 1,853 members who had their names erroneously provided to third parties as potential terrorists had the right to a portion of the judgement. The case went back to the 9th circuit, which reduced the original $60 million judgement down to $40 million, which would then be divided between the attorneys and the remaining class members.
In the future, this means that attorneys who pursue class action cases, such as our office, will have to verify that anyone joining the class as a plaintiff has had concrete harm done to them. The risk of future injury is no longer sufficient grounds to join a class. Each class member received $984.22 in statutory damages and $3936.88 in punitive damages after the case was complete.
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Meet Mr. Richman
SCOTT B. RICHMAN, ESQ.
Mr. Richman is the Managing Member and Founder of Richman Law Firm PLLC. In his role as Managing Member, Mr. Richman oversees the day-to-day operations of the firm and handles the litigation of the most complex legal matters across a vast array of practice areas and disciplines.