Glossary of Legal Terms Used in Class Action Litigation

Class action litigation legal terms along with easy to understand definitions are listed. Links for additional legal dictionaries are included at the bottom if you are unable to find your term in the class action glossary.
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.
A term used in the context of determining whether the class is receiving proper legal representation by class counsel and the named class representative.
The judicial process whereby a court examines whether a case shall be permitted to proceed as a class action. A class "certified" has been determined by the judge as a proper class action. 
Certification Hearing
A hearing held by the court wherein arguments are made by counsel as to whether a case should be "certified" meaning allowed to proceed as a class action. Occasionally, testimony or evidence is presented at such hearings. 
Class Counsel
An attorney or group of attorneys appointed by the court to provide legal representation to the plaintiff class. 
Class Representative
A person named in the complaint as the plaintiff and who has been determined by the court to be a legally "adequate" person to represent the interests of the class.  
Clear Sailing Agreement
An agreement made between counsel for plaintiffs and defendants during or after a settlement negotiations on the claims of a class whereby the defendant agrees not to object to a fee request of the counsel representing the plaintiff class. 
An improper agreement usually described in the context of an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant.
Common Fund Class
An action whereby the intended purpose of the case is to create a cash fund to be divided among the class members and from which class counsel's fees and expenses can be paid. 
Compensatory Class
A class action proceeding under Rule 23(b)(3) wherein money damages are sought for the class members.
An action taken by the court to reverse a previous decision which permitted a case to proceed as a class action. 
Declaratory Judgment Class
An action wherein the primary thrust of the litigation is an attempt to get a court to declare what the rights and obligations are of the respective parties in the litigation. 
Exclusion Request
A document filed with the court indicating a class member does not want to participate in pending litigation. 
Fairness Hearing
A court hearing wherein the "fairness" of a proposed settlement is evaluated by the court and any objections to a proposed settlement are heard by the court.
Injunctive Relief Class
A lawsuit filed where the primary purpose is to get an order from the court directing a person to do or to discontinue a certain act. For instance, in civil rights actions certified under Rule 23(b)(2), the court may order public officials to discontinue unconstitutional practices. 
Interlocutory Appeal
The process whereby a pending case may be reviewed by an appellate court to determine if a ruling may by the trial judge was correct.  This type of appeal may occur in federal court under Rule 23(f) to allow an appellate court to determine whether a judges ruling on class certification was correct. 
An action wherein one who is not a named party to the litigation seeks court approval to join in the suit as a named party. Generally, absent class members do not need to intervene in a suit to share in any settlement or favorable judgment. 
Lead Counsel
An attorney approved by the court to be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the litigation for a party, usually the plaintiff.
Liaison Counsel
An attorney responsible for facilitating communications between the respective parties and the court in complex litigation.
Limited Fund Class
A class action certified under Rule 23(b)(1)(B) wherein a claim is made the assets of a defendant are inadequate to fully compensate all of the class members and the court is asked to allocate the distribution of any funds obtained in the litigation.
A term used in connection with an award of attorneys fees made by the court which is based on time spent on the case and an hourly fee. In some instances the "Lodestar" may be adjusted according to circumstances underlying the services performed. 
A court ordered document which informs class members of the nature of proceeding and their rights and responsibilities in the litigation.
A finding by the court that the number of class members is involved such that it is impracticable to named them all in the complaint and have them all actively participate in the litigation. 
Opt - Out
The act by which a class member elects to exclude himself from a class proceeding. This action has generally has the effect of not binding the class member to any judgment in the case.  It also has the effect of excluding a class member from being able to participate in any settlement or favorable judgment. 
An individual who opposes some aspect of a proposed settlement of a class action.
Representative Plaintiff
A person who is actually named in a class action complaint as the plaintiff in the litigation as contrasted with "absent" class members who are not individually named, but only in the class by virtue of the class definition.
Generally a term referred to in the context of publishing a court approved notice of class action in the newspapers or through television or radio advertisements. 
Steering Committee
A group of lawyers representing a party, usually the plaintiffs, who collectively meet, assign work, and make strategic decisions in complex litigation.  Often Lead Counsel oversees or heads this committee.

Legal Dictionaries

Back to Top