Answer Man

No one knows how many class-action lawsuits are filed each year

Q: How many class-action lawsuits are filed each year?

Tom Westerheide, of Belleville

A: Sorry, haven’t been able to find anyone who keeps track of that number (which reportedly is in the thousands), but let me leave you with perhaps a more interesting tidbit or two.

A few years ago, the Institute for Legal Reform commissioned a study in which Mayer Brown, a legal services provider, studied 148 consumer class-action filed in federal court in 2009, as reported in two commercial litigation publications. This was four years after the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, which stopped such practices of winning clients being given coupons to buy products at a discount instead of a meaningful monetary settlement.

Even so, the ILR said the results raised eyebrows. Of the 148 cases studied, not one went to trial. More than a quarter were dismissed on their merits and another 30 percent were voluntarily dismissed by lawyers or settled on an individual basis. Still another 14 percent were still pending after four years.

Of five that were settled (and the distribution data was publicized), those who actually got a check ranged from 12 percent of the entire class to a teensy-tiny fraction of 1 percent. So while the lawyers earned their fees, “the overwhelming majority of class actions are dismissed or dropped with no recovery for class members,” the study concluded.

In the interest of full disclosure, the institute is funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer