What is a lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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In the world of class action lawsuits, there may be a vast number of individuals who might be involved in a particular lawsuit and a large number of potential law firms that may be involved. As such, it becomes necessary for the courts to pick a single law firm and a lead plaintiff (or small group of plaintiffs) to represent the class, as well as to make decisions for the class action that will push the case forward over time.

The Role of a Lead Plaintiff in a Class Action

The lead plaintiff is typically chosen by the courts as a representative member of the class action, meaning that his or her experiences and needs will closely mirror that of the average class member. The lead plaintiff is often the first plaintiff who brings the case to the attention of the attorneys involved, so he or she will essentially be the one responsible for choosing the legal representation that will be used to move the case forward. The lead plaintiff will also have the responsibility of assisting with the class action and moving the case forward, along with his or her legal team of experts.

In some cases, this lead plaintiff will be one individual; in other cases, there may be a small group of people selected. The reason this is necessary is because there may sometimes be hundreds, thousands or even millions of people who are part of a class action. The function of class action lawsuits, in fact, is to allow a large number of people who suffered a similar injury to group together to sue the person or persons who caused that injury. Class actions can be a better alternative to having millions of individual lawsuits working their way through the court system, and they also allow for plaintiffs and lead plaintiffs to get retribution for claims that would, individually, be too small to be worth suing over. 

Getting Help

If you believe you have a claim that could lead to a class action where you could possibly be named as lead plaintiff, or if you are considering joining a class action, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible for more information on what you can do to bring your suit and protect your rights. 

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