A class action is a lawsuit where one person or a small number of people represent a larger group of people who have similarly been harmed by another. Typically, a plaintiff would sue a defendant on behalf of a group of absent parties who have all been wronged by the same defendant or multiple defendants. The plaintiff would be acting as a class representative on behalf of the absent parties.
Class actions are most common where a large number of people (typically 40 or more) have been injured by the same defendant in a very similar way. Instead of each plaintiff bringing their own individual lawsuit, one person would bring that lawsuit on behalf of similarly situated people rather than having hundreds, if not thousands, of separate lawsuits involving the same fact pattern against the same defendant.
If there was no such thing as a class action lawsuit—meaning you could not sue on behalf of a group of similar people—the administrative burden on the court would be unimaginable. Plus, sometimes the recovery would not be worth the expense of filing a lawsuit if you had to file a lawsuit all on your own. That is why class actions sometimes make a lot of sense.
Requirements for Class Actions in Kansas and Missouri
Both Kansas and Missouri’s rules on class actions are very similar to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 governing class actions. Missouri Supreme Court Rule 52.08 governs class actions in Missouri whereas Kansas Statute Annotated section 60-223 governs class actions in Kansas. To be certified as a class action, the proposed class must meet the four requirements in Rule 52.08(a) or 60-223(a), and fall into one of the three categories listed in section (b). Further, the proposed class definition must not be overbroad, must be sufficiently definite, must not include a determination on the merits, and must be supported by the evidence.
The four prerequisites under Missouri Rule 52.08(a) and Kansas Statute 60-223(a) are:
- Numerosity. Many parties have been harmed.
- Commonality. Questions of law or fact are common to the class.
- Typicality. Claims or defenses of the class representatives are typical among the class.
- Adequacy. The class representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
As mentioned, a class action must fall into one of the three categories in section (b) of Rule 52.08 and 60-223(b) in addition to meeting all four requirements in section (a).
The three categories of section (b) are basically as follows:
- Prejudice class action. Individual actions might create prejudice that a class action suit would avoid. Certification under (b)(1) requires a “mandatory” class action where absentee members cannot opt out of the class.
- Injunctive/declarative relief class action. The most commonly invoked of the (b) categories, especially for claims involving civil rights, employment discrimination, consumer protection, and environmental damage, plaintiffs in this action aim to change a defendant’s conduct rather than seek monetary damages.
- Damages class action. This category is frequently invoked for class actions seeking damages where all class members have been similarly injured. To qualify for a (b)(3) class, plaintiffs must meet the requirement of “predominance” such that the common questions of law or fact predominate over differences. In addition, plaintiffs must show that “a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” Section (b)(3) requires mandatory notice and opt-out ability for the absent class members. Further, if a party is able to certify a class action under 52.08(b)(3) or 60-223(b)(3), that party must give “members of the class the best notice practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort.”
Many class actions are resolved via settlement rather than trial. Because of the nature of class actions, however, they require court approval for settlement to occur. In both Kansas and Missouri (as well in Federal Court), the statutes require that settlement be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.” The Court makes sure that they are by signing off the settlement. In most other cases, the court does not have to approve your settlement.