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How The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act May Affect Expert Witnesses

A class action lawsuit occurs when multiple persons have been injured in some way. They are often lumped together for evidence and compensation purposes so that the responsible party may be held accountable for the actions that caused the incident. These often take years to complete with extensive material, proof and documentation.

Those that are added to the growing affected individuals provide testimony or sign a file that connects them to the case. In some circumstances, the person may have his or her own lawyer working in conjunction with the single or group of legal professionals. Some laws alter how class action suits work, and some alter who damages may be awarded.

The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act was created to ensure members added to the suit have the same type and severity of injury so that the case may be clearly defined and connected. The damages awarded to those included in these suits are often different for each person based on how well they match the conditions of the issue. This Act proposed a standard for victims when adding them to the case with certain classes and factors. This means that if one individual has been harmed in a different manner than
another, he or she may not be considered connected to the problem. Even with demanding analysis in determining which plaintiff should be considered part of the class, this Act would alter other matters such as how expert witnesses are used.

Proposed Changes

Some changes would change the ability to use a lawyer that represented one of the persons attached to a class action lawsuit so that conflict of interests would be reduced even more than the usual procedural checks done by the courts. This may cause the threat of limited counsel choices, however. Constraints are placed on the allocation of funds through the suit to those considered class members as well as their lawyers. This means that until the individuals are considered to be classified as directly attached to the case due to connected circumstances. If this is not established, or if the person is only partially connected, he or she may not be distributed any monetary awards. To be determined as a valid class for the claim, the person must pass additional hurdles.

These restrictions are then passed on to the lawyers representing the class persons in obtaining fees owed for participation in the case. When the individuals affected by the class action suit are considered valid, only after these class members have been allocated the funds that should be given to them are the lawyers able to obtain their expenses through submitting an account of this to the Federal Judicial Center as well as the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Only after this has been completed and fully processed may a legal representative be permitted to get paid. Other limits may apply such as a restriction on getting paid in excess of what the class members receive through the awards of a successful case. This makes lawyer fees reasonable through a percentage of the monies allocated. This will cause those legal representatives to become more careful and aware of all details of the case. This also prevents just any class action lawsuit from popping up. There must be enough evidence, witness testimony and various other elements in place for possible success.

The Effects on Expert Witnesses

Because restrictions are placed on lawyers with the implemented changes from the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, there may be fewer options or financial assistance in hiring an expert witness. However, the professional’s testimony is still important when there are certain aspects of the case that need an explanation. When the claim involves a medical drug, the expert witness retained may be a doctor or have a medical background. This means he or she has the knowledge about how a drug affects the body’s system, what doses could cause complications and why compensation is needed when the individual has been injured through regular and standard use of the medication. If there are economic damages such as when a business has caused a loss of revenue for a small company, the expert witness is able to construct a diagram of what issue started the problem and how the owners of the business suffer from the factors.

While some expert witnesses may be negatively affected by this Act, the usual factors still apply. An expert witness must still be validated, and his knowledge and experience in the field is still relevant. Additionally, cross examination may still yield results for the opposing counsel based on what is asked and how it applies to the case.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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