In class action lawsuits, there are many stages that each case has to go through until the settlement has been reached. It’s a very reasonable question, then, concerning what actually happens at the fairness hearing. By the time it does reach that stage, most of the nitty-gritty has already been resolved and decided. It would have been determined that there has been a wrong committed against a group of people, and usually it’s a large company or corporation that is at fault.
As with any of the stages, if you are involved, then you do have certain rights, and there are some limitations to these rights. So it’s a wise idea to understand the process so you know ahead of time what to expect when the time for the fairness hearing is at hand.
Before the hearing, a memorandum of understanding has been signed, and there is usually a preliminary settlement that all the parties agree to. The fairness hearing is that stage when the court decides that the settlement is agreed upon as reasonable and fair. Perhaps more importantly, this is also where the attorneys’ fees are on the table. Any member of the class action suit has the right to contest the amount of the settlement and the fees at the hearing.
Members of the suit are not always contacted individually before the fairness hearing. In fact, most of the communication at this point is issues through a press release. This means that you would need to follow the suit closely, especially if you have significant concerns about the settlement fees. The reason that not every member is contacted individually is because, for one thing, it would be very time-consuming, especially in the larger cases when there is a large number of people involved in the class action. Secondly, if every member of the suit were given an open opportunity to speak in court, it could tie things up considerably, and that wouldn’t benefit everyone.
The usual procedure for these is to give the clients the opportunity to air concerns in written form. This means that you do not need to be present at the hearing itself for your voice to be heard. If you do wish to attend, however, it is usually at your own expense.