Five Rules For Filing Successful CAVC Class Actions
If you are a lone David taking on the VA Goliath in a way that affects a lot of other veterans, your case might work better as CAVC class actions. The VA recently changed the class action rules, so it is important to know your rights.
A class action is when a large collection of plaintiffs could sue, and one files the suit on behalf of everyone. From the court’s point of view, it saves time and effort on hearing the same case over and over. For you and the other plaintiffs, it gives your case a better chance at ultimately succeeding.
In veterans law, this usually comes up if you’re challenging a structural rule like the disability rating system. These claims have a much better chance of succeeding if an experienced VA disability attorney is at the helm. Class actions are very large and complex. They should not be a proving ground for inexperienced attorneys.
The court has five rules for when a lawsuit can be a class action. These rules are mostly similar to the class action rules in every other federal court. The main point is about determining
whether it really is a lot of plaintiffs who have the same case.
If there are only a few plaintiffs, the court might just hear them as multiple cases at once and decide them together. For a class action, the class must be so large that consolidating them that way would be inefficient. There is no fixed number, but a lawsuit with more than about two dozen plaintiffs is usually enough.
Geography is also important. As individual plaintiffs whose cases are being decided together, they would need to work together. This can be very hard if one plaintiff is in Iowa and another is in Florida.
As a class action, there is no coordination problem because it is one case based on only the parts the class members have in common. This works in favor of bringing a class action lawsuit: whatever rule you are challenging applies nationwide, so if it does affect more veterans they are likely to be spread out.
Common Questions of Fact and Law
Everyone in the class has some claim they could bring. Those claims have to be about basically the same thing. This rule does not require all issues to be identical. Only some of them, or
probably most of them, must be identical. A typical VA class action claim challenges the disability rating system or another similar point of law.
Veterans are disabled in different ways. If some Veterans hurt their backs in car wrecks and others hurt their backs in falls, they could still belong to the same class. The common facts would be the back injuries, and the common question of law might be whether the rating system is rating back injuries fairly.
Typical Legal Arguments
The "lead" or "representative" plaintiff is the one suing on behalf of all the others. This person’s legal arguments have to be typical of what other people could argue. If the lead plaintiff wins, they have to win for reasons that would apply to everyone.
Similarly, if the lead plaintiff loses it should be for reasons that apply to everyone. If there is an individual defense like if one of the plaintiffs forfeited their appeal by never filing a Notice of Disagreement, that person should not be the representative plaintiff.
Fair and Adequate Protection
The team matters. The representative plaintiff must adequately and fairly protect the interests of everyone in the class. In other words, one party cannot be motivated entirely by self-interest, and there cannot be a conflict between the lead plaintiff and the rest of the class. They have to be incentivized to win it for the same reasons as everyone else.
There can be some ethical issues here. Attorneys have an obligation to zealously represent their clients, not their partners in a class action. So, your lawyer must walk a fine line.
No Rulemaking Action
Essentially, the VA has the first bite at the apple. Class action plaintiffs must prove that when the VA created the problem being complained of (or failed to correct it), VA’s action applied to the entire class.
This rule highlights an important role of an attorney. Lawyers do not just advocate for veterans in court. They also advocate for them on Capitol Hill, by pushing for new legislation and rules or by serving as witnesses in hearings. Generally, it is easier to change the law from the statehouse than from the courthouse. Court hearings are adversarial proceedings, and legislative proceedings generally are not, the current environment notwithstanding.
Count on Diligent Attorneys
CAVC class actions must adhere to certain rules. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the
contact box to your right. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.