What are Illinois Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?
In Illinois, small claims cases are civil action cases based upon breach of contract or legal duties, with the aggrieved party seeking $10,000 or less. Small claim cases are guided by the Illinois Supreme Court’s Rules and aid the resolution of strife or collection of debt using simplified procedures in contrast to other forms of lawsuits. Small claims trials take place in a small claims court, and under the jurisdiction of the Clerks of Courts Act (705 ILCS 105), plaintiffs may not have a legal counsel or representation unless the complainant is a corporation. Under the Illinois statutes, all individuals are allowed to file small claims cases.
Class action lawsuits are cases or claims brought by a group of people and led by an individual or representative.
Some common suits involve defective medical devices or pharmaceuticals, investment fraud, consumer protection, antitrust issues, and toxic material exposures, among others. Class action lawsuits are filed at any state or federal court in Illinois, and the court has to certify the class and evaluate the commonality and legality of their claims. Any individual can file a class action suit as long as the basic requirements like a large class and commonality of claims are proven.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the document or person involved
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.
What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Illinois?
Small Claims Courts can only award a maximum of $10,000 in financial claims. Below are examples of cases heard in small claims courts in Illinois;
- When a homeowner refuses to return a security deposit.
- All cases of eviction.
- When a tenant violates their lease.
- Cases involving breach of contract, personal injury, etc.
- Seizures made to carry out judgments on debts owed.
- When an individual owes money for a completed task or work
- Repossession of property purchased on credit from a dealer.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Illinois?
As seen in the Code of Civil Procedure 735 ILCS 5, a class action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit in which numerous plaintiffs bring similar claims of injury or harm to a defendant.
Class action lawsuits are guided by federal law, and the law allows for a class action suit to be filed in a Federal Court if the claim exceeds five million dollars. This is as was stated in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23 and 28 U.S. C. A. § 1332 (d).
How do I File a Claim in an Illinois Small Claims Court?
To file a claim in an Illinois Small Claims Court, the claimant is required to fill the summons and complaint forms, which can be obtained from the Small Claims Court Clerk, and this signals the start of the lawsuit. The complainant’s name should be listed as the plaintiff while the party being sued is the defendant. The valid name and address of the defendant should be accurate to avoid re-filing of the claims, which carries additional costs. In case of a change in address or contact details, the court clerk should be notified and the defendant.
Some of the documents that could be required depending on the nature of the claims are; contract signed by both parties, rent receipts, warranties or guarantees on product/goods bought, a photograph of damaged items, leases, receipts, and canceled checks.
Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?
Having a small claims lawyer is not required in filing a claim in Illinois, and this is because the rules of the court proceedings are considered relatively more straightforward than in other lawsuits. If an attorney represents the defendant, the claimant should have an attorney also to increase the chances of winning the case.
How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Illinois?
In filing class-action lawsuits in Illinois and due to the complexity, there are basic steps to be taken, which include;
- A representative of the class/plaintiffs fills and submits a complaint on behalf of the class members who have suffered the same injury or damages at the right state or federal court where the case will be heard.
- After filing the complaint, class certification is to be obtained by the named plaintiff(s) or representatives. Those who choose to be members of the class no longer possess the right to sue the defendant in a single party suit. To get class certification, the claims’ commonality and the number of members in the class are assessed and must meet certain requirements. The requirements are that they must have common and legal claims. Individual suits should be proven impractical, and the named representatives must protect the interests of the whole class and not personal interests.
- The litigation process commences when the class has been certified by the court, with both parties presenting their pretrial motions and discovery, and move on to settlement negotiations.
- The settlement paid to the class is then shared amongst all members of the plaintiffs to bring an end to the class action lawsuit.
Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?
When Class action and single party suits are assessed, although they both have their advantages, the class action suits are seen to be better in that;
- Class action suits are cheaper to litigate: This is because all cases are grouped and pushed as one instead of litigating them separately. Filing costs and attorney fees are shared amongst the numerous parties involved in the class action, whereas, in a single party suit, the individual covers all these costs alone.
- Settlements and judgments are reached faster in class action suits than in single party suits since it is more efficient for the judge to hear the cases at once than individually. When a single party suit is filed in a case where there are numerous plaintiffs with similar claims, it could take years before the court addresses the case.
- Class action suits tend to be more successful as all plaintiffs get compensated when a settlement is reached. In comparison to litigation costs, plaintiffs get a tangible redress than when it is a single party suit, and compensation does not come close to litigation costs. In single-party suits, the plaintiffs do not get payouts most times.