An easy way to describe what a class action is would be through an example of an actual case. A class action that we recently settled was against Truckee Carson Irrigation District (TCID) involving a flood in January 2008, caused by the failure of the Truckee Canal.
We sued TCID for the way it maintained the canal, and it was alleged that improper maintenance of the canal is what caused the collapse of the canal, which caused the water to leave the canal and flood approximately 580 homes.
The Judge made the case a class action because the liability of the defendant could be determined in one case. It didn’t need to be determined over and over again. Basically, the focus of the lawsuit was whether or not TCID maintained the canal correctly, and that the court didn’t need to have 580 different lawsuits. It could be decided just once. So, it was more efficient to decide that as a class action.
It’s always been in my experience that when the defendant’s conduct is the same for everybody, then there are economies of scale to make it a class action instead of having suit after suit after suit.