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Class action facts for kids

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A class action, class suit, or representative action is a type of lawsuit. One of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by one member of that group.

The class action originated in the United States. It is still mainly a U.S. phenomenon. However, several European countries with civil law have made changes to allow consumer organizations to bring claims on behalf of consumers.

In 1991 China passed the "Civil Procedure Law" that allows class actions. In Brazil class action suits have been brought against industries, banks. and other organizations. They have been used against environmental damage, product defects and false advertising to name a few. Unlike the US, Brazilian judges award much smaller amounts for damages.

The predecessor of the class action was called a "group litigation". They were used in England from the 13th century. It involved groups of people suing or being sued in a court. Group cases were easier to handle than numbers of individual cases, because of the slow and difficult travelling at that time. Judges travelled round a circuit, and might visit a town only once or twice a year. By the 18th century individual lawsuits became the norm.

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