The class representative is the person (sometimes a few people) who files a class action on behalf of a larger group (the class). Also known as the lead plaintiff, the class representative plays a much more active role in the lawsuit than the class and in many cases is provided an incentive award for their efforts. Any award, however, is entirely at the discretion of the Court.
While the class does much less and still shares in the rewards of any settlement or verdict, the lead plaintiff is charged with a number of duties, including:
- Filing the lawsuit
- Hiring attorneys
- Staying informed about the case
- Being deposed by the defendant
- Complying with requests to produce documents and other evidence
- Accepting or rejecting a settlement offer
Critics say that, because lawyers handle most aspects of the litigation, the class representative is a meaningless figurehead. But the fact remains that there can be no class action without a lead plaintiff, who is bound by law to “fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” In doing so, the named plaintiff incurs costs (monetary and otherwise) for which judges routinely compensate them.
A 2006 paper looked at incentive award trends over a ten-year period and found that 28 percent of the cases included additional compensation for lead plaintiffs. The average award was nearly $16,000.
Another law professor told Reuters that awards are typically between $5,000 and $50,000.