Negotiating a class action settlement involves different considerations from settling your run-of-the-mill case. But once you have made it over the hurdle of agreeing on a settlement, the process does not end there. Settling a class action case is like crossing the finish line and being told you still have two miles to run. Approval and administration of the settlement require additional work from the parties and the court, extending the life of the case for months, if not years. To flush out the unique considerations every lawyer must prepare for when negotiating a class action settlement, I enlisted the help of Judge Gail A. Andler, who is in her 23rd year as a California trial judge. She has spent the last 10 years as a complex civil judge, devoting a substantial part of her time to class action litigation. Judge Andler evaluates, on average, two class action settlements per week. This article reflects her insight into the unique considerations associated with settling class actions.
As Judge Andler aptly recognized, “most class action cases settle.” If you have never settled a class action before, however, you may begin with only vague notions that settling a class action is different from settling an individual action. To provide the best representation for your client, you should be fully apprised of two particular differences between class and individual settlements, even before you start to negotiate.