A law suit where a large group of people jointly bring a claim to court and/or a class of defendants is being sued is known as a class action or a representative action. Class actions are permitted in admiralty. All the general federal practical necessities for class actions generally apply also to admiralty cases. This is the result of unification of the rules of procedure for admiralty and civil cases.
According to Fed. R. Civ. P. 1, 23[i], members of a class can sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if:
- the class is so plentiful that joinder of all members is impracticable;
- there are common questions of law or fact;
- the claims or defenses of the representative parties are similar to the claims or defenses of the class; and
- the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Further for a class action to be maintained the following conditions also has to be satisfied:
- Conducting separate actions by or against individual class members would create a risk;
- The party opposing the class action acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class;
- The court finds that the questions of law or fact are common to class members and a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.
According to Fed. R. Civ. P. 1, 23 (C) (4)(A), class action can also be maintained with respect to a particular issue in an action. Further in In re Arthur Treacher’s Franchise Litigation, 93 F.R.D. 590, 595 (E.D. Pa. 1982), it was held that class action must be denied only if interests of individuals in conducting separate law suits is so strong.
[i] USCS Fed Rules Civ Proc R 23