Expect a class action to take at least 1-3 years to resolve, but know that the process could take longer. (In rarer instances, it could be over in less than a year.)
Even the simplest cases must proceed through numerous formal stages, including:
- Original complaint filed.
- Plaintiffs petition court to certify case as a class action.
- Certification order issued.
- Eligible class members notified.
- Lawyers for both sides gather and share evidence, interview witnesses, and build their cases.
- Settlement negotiations take place. If a settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial.
- If a proposed settlement is reached, the judge provides preliminary approval of the settlement, or orders modifications to it.
- Upon a preliminary settlement being reached, a public hearing on the fairness of the settlement is held, at which time class members can support or oppose the settlement, and possibly effect changes to it.
- After the public hearing, the settlement is finally approved.
- Class members are notified of the settlement, claims are processed, recoveries are calculated, and settlement funds are distributed.
Even under ideal circumstances (i.e., a simple case involving a smaller number of parties, an uncrowded court docket, and few procedural delays), these steps can take a fair amount of time to unfold. They can take much longer when the case is complex, the parties are numerous, the court is busy, and disputes are raised.