What is a class action lawsuit?

A class action is a lawsuit in which the court allows a single person or small group of people to represent the interests of a larger group.

A class action lawsuit requires settlement through litigation for the convenience of the public or interested parties that may not have an opportunity to protect their interests by appearing personally.

A class action must be so large that an individual suit would be impracticable, there must be legal or factual questions common to the class, the claims or defenses of the parties must relate to the class, and the representative of the class must protect the interests of the class to the best of their ability.

In Amazon cases, courts have granted Amazon’s motions to dismiss where the claims against them were invalid because of agreements signed by both parties binding them to the terms and conditions stated. Arbitration clauses were enforced where the court decided the terms of agreement were binding and where there was a class action waiver.1 Some courts have found class action waivers unconscionable and unenforceable when a party’s right to litigation is jeopardized by the unfair terms.2

  1. Fagerstrom v. Amazon.com, Inc., 141 F. Supp. 3d 1051, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143295 (S.D. Cal. 2015).
  2. Scott v. Cingular Wireless, 161 P.3d 1000, 160 Wn.2d 843 (Wash., 2007).
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A court may decide a class action is the best method for resolving a controversy and will let the suit proceed with litigation.

Below are a few case examples:

Amazon.com, Inc. v. Underwriters, Lloyd’s of London, et al, Defendants.

In this class action, plaintiff’s alleged that Amazon’s officers and directors made fraudulent statements to inflate the value of certain Amazon securities. A second class action was filed alleging that Amazon sold certain securities to plaintiffs at an inflated price. Here, the court was determining whether to grant defendants motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and for failing to properly serve defendants. The court denied both motions and held that personal jurisdiction was proper because defendants purposefully availed themselves to the state of Washington. Service was proper because it complied with the Washington statute and defendants had admitted that they did in fact receive service.

Blagman v. Apple, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45401, 2014 WL 1285496 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2014).

Blagman had filed a motion to depose third parties from the U.K. and France. Amazon contended that the court had already ruled that extraterritorial evidence was not admissible in this case. The court disagreed and granted the motion to depose the third parties located internationally.

Blagman v. Apple, Inc., 307 F.R.D. 107, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51676, Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P30,754 (S.D.N.Y. 2015).

Mr. Blagman filed to amend his complaint for a third time to limit the scope of his class. Amazon contended that he was doing so in bad faith by using it as a tactical advantage and making false allegations. The court allowed for the third amended complaint as it found that it was not requested in bad faith.

com, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 650 F. Supp. 2d 89, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76352, 2009-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P76,729 (D. Me. 2009).

In this case plaintiffs brought suit against Amazon, claiming anti-trust violations under the Sherman Act. Plaintiffs claimed a violation existed because if a consumer who owns a Kindle e-reader wished to purchase an e-book produced by one of the plaintiff publishers, then that consumer needed to purchase the e-book on the Amazon platform. The court denied Amazon’s motion to dismiss because it found that plaintiff had made a plausible claim for relief.

Del Vecchio v. Amazon.com Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138314, 2011 WL 6325910 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 30, 2011).

Amazon.com was a defendant in a case filed by Del Vecchio. Del Vecchio represented a class action against Amazon seeking relief under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Amazon motioned to dismiss and the court concluded that the defendant’s motion to dismiss should be granted because the plaintiffs failed to plead adequate facts to establish any harm.

Fagerstrom v. Amazon.com, Inc., 141 F. Supp. 3d 1051, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143295 (S.D. Cal. 2015).

In this case, consumers claimed there was a discrepancy between Amazon’s prices and other retailer prices of products. When checking out on Amazon, each customer must agree to the conditions of use in order to complete their order. Amazon’s conditions of use states any dispute will be resolved through binding arbitration. The court granted Amazon’s motion to compel arbitration and dismissed this action because it found the terms of the agreement to be fair and beneficial to both parties.

Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., 84 F. Supp. 3d 142, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13560 (E.D.N.Y. 2015)

Amazon.com was a defendant in a case brought by Dean Nicosia for the selling of a controlled substance in a weight loss supplement. Amazon.com motioned to dismiss claiming that the issue should be settled in arbitration due the arbitration clause. The court agreed and granted Amazon’s motion.

Scott v. Cingular Wireless, 161 P.3d 1000, 160 Wn.2d 843 (Wash., 2007).

The court here was determining whether the class action waiver signed by plaintiffs was unconscionable because it undermined Washington’s CPA to the extent that it was “injurious to the public.” The court held that the class action waiver was unconscionable because it effectively denied many consumers protection under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and because it effectively exculpated Cingular from liability for a whole class of wrongful conduct. It was therefore unenforceable.

Supnick v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7073, 2000 WL 1603820 (W.D. Wash. May 18, 2000).

Amazon.com was a defendant in a privacy violation suit brought by Supnick. Plaintiffs motioned for a federal class certification. The court concluded that because the class was maintainable under Rule 23, and that the class action was the best method for litigating the dispute, the plaintiff’s motion was granted.