In a class action, which is also commonly referred to as a class action lawsuit, a large group of people can file a lawsuit as one unit. Class actions are usually filed when a number of people have been wronged by a company or an individual. For example, if a popular medication caused serious and long-term side effects not listed originally, many people were probably harmed in taking it. These people can get together and file a class action against the company that makes the medication. A group of people might also be wronged by an individual. Someone might have been stealing their money while pretending to help them with their finances. Brazil operates under the system of civil law. Under such a system, class actions have only recently been adopted. Such lawsuits originated in the United States, where common law is practiced.
Under civil law in Brazil, there are a few characteristics of a lawsuit that must be presented to be considered a class action:
- Commonality – In a class action under civil law proceedings, there must be a common problem that all members of the class experienced. This problem should be the focus of the entire trial, and individual issues should not be addressed. For example, if people took a pill that harmed them physically, a person who lost his or her job because of it should not add his or her unemployment to the case. The physical harm should be the main focus, and all members of the group should have experienced it.
- Adequacy – When it comes to class actions, the entire group of people is not going to be standing at the podium in court. There will be a representative there to fight for their interests. To qualify as a true class action, this person must adequately represent the entire class and do everything he or she can to protect their interests.
- Numerosity – If the class in a class action is small, then it is impractical to file a class action at all. In that case, numerous individual lawsuits should be filed to make a bigger impact. To qualify as a class action in civil law, the class represented must be considerable, so that individual cases would be completely impractical.
- Typicality – Any claims or defenses made in the class action under civil law must be typical either of the defendants or the plaintiffs.
Understanding the Risks
Since the Brazilian law system as it is currently used was only founded in 1988 when the Constitution was rewritten, they are taking on rules for different types of lawsuits later than other countries, such as the United States. If you are thinking about doing business in Brazil as a foreigner, you should keep this in mind and make sure you are not breaching any laws in your operations. Otherwise, you could face consequences under Brazilian jurisdiction, where laws and punishment are sometimes quite different.