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Malpractice Class Action Suits

GavelWhen one imagines mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit, one tends to imagine it as a solitary pursuit. However, if multiple people have been victimized by the same medical professional or concern, it may be possible to mount a class action lawsuit against them. Class actions have slightly different rules in California, but the end result may be more advantageous to those who have been wronged.

Class Actions in California

Class action lawsuits are when one member of a group brings a lawsuit in civil court on behalf of a group of others. They can be mounted under either federal or state law, though federal law tends to favor defendants, at least anecdotally. Federal law will apply if the amount in controversy is $5 million or more, and there is diversity of jurisdiction (in other words, the defendant and at least one of the class of plaintiffs are from different jurisdictions). If these conditions are not both met, state law will likely apply.

California’s relevant statute is Sec. 382 of the California Civil Code, and it states that if the question is one of a “common or general interest,” many persons may be joined and one person may bring suit on behalf of them all. This differs slightly from federal law, where the class must have so many members that it would be impractical to join them all - California’s law does not necessarily say joinder must be impractical, just difficult. The class must also be easily ascertainable - in other words, it must have at least some way of reasonably isolating its members. In the case of Daar v. Yellow Cab Company (1967), it was held that a class existed among all the customers allegedly overcharged by the defendant in one calendar year. This is because records were able to show exactly who the class members were, rather than requiring an educated guess on the part of the legal system.

Medical Malpractice Class Actions

While most class action lawsuits are based in product liability or negligence, medical malpractice class actions do happen, and they are primarily brought against individual medical professionals, though it is not unheard of for a class action to be brought against hospitals. For example, it is sadly common for individual doctors to claim they have found cures for certain types of cancers, causing several patients to lose money, time and quality of life. When the truth is discovered, a class action suit is often brought on behalf of the scores of patients affected.

The crux of a class action lawsuit is the class certification, which, in most malpractice-related cases, is going to be the group of patients affected by the doctor or hospital’s misconduct. Be advised that it is not necessary for each member of a class to prove specific injury for a class to be certified. A plaintiff must prove injury in order for the defendant to be found liable, but a class may be certified even if only one member proves specific injury.

Contact a Legal Professional

Class action lawsuits have a good rate of success if the class is certified. However, you may have questions about whether you are able to join a class action suit, or even if it is right for you. The dedicated San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at the firm of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. can help give you the answers you are searching for, and can help point you in the right direction to get what you can for your family. Contact our office at (408) 289-1417 to set up an appointment. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Monterey and Alameda.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.