A class-action lawsuit is when a small group of plaintiffs gathers together to file a case or a lawsuit against someone who has wronged them and other members of their community, class, or marginalized group. The philosopher Cicero once said that the good or safety of the people must be the highest law, and these examples of class-action lawsuits prove just how the law works to help protect those who need it the most.
Brown vs. Board of Education
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregating public school children according to their race was unconstitutional. One of the biggest breakthroughs in the civil rights movement, Brown v. Board of Education, helped set a precedent that the “separate-but-equal” education system made no sense and was, in fact, not at all equal.
The ruling came about through the National Association’s hard work for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who worked with attorney indianapolis to help plaintiffs in states like Virginia, South Carolina, and Delaware. The most well-known case became that of plaintiff Oliver Brown, who filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of his daughter Linda who was denied entrance to an all-white elementary school in Topeka, Kansas. His suit claimed that Black children not being given the freedom to join all-white schools violated the 14th Amendment.
Thanks to the work of these activists and plaintiffs, the U.S. has gone a long way in the fight for equality, but there’s still a lot of work left to be done.
Lane vs. Facebook
There has already been a lot of discussion surrounding Facebook’s privacy issues. Still, not everyone knows that a landmark ruling in California changed the face of social networking sites’ privacy policies for good.
In December 2007, the Mark Zuckerberg-owned social networking site Facebook launched Beacon, a platform that sent information from external websites to Facebook, the purpose of which was to welcome targeted advertisements and allow Facebook users to share certain activities with their friends. Beacon was used to report to Facebook on the users’ activities on third-party platforms and sites with a connection with Beacon. Many of these information exchanges happened without the knowledge and consent of Facebook users.
This was when a plaintiff named Sean Lane represented a class of Facebook members whose privacy was breached thanks to the Beacon sites. He realized just how privacy-breaching the platform was when he purchased a diamond ring to surprise his wife, only for the activity to be published to hundreds of his Facebook friends, including his wife.
According to the lawsuit, some state and federal privacy laws that Facebook and Beacon violated included the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, and the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Facebook was forced to put a halt to the Beacon program and pay a $9.5 million settlement fund. Sean Lane also received $15,000.
The lawsuit truly drove home the centrality of protecting consumers’ rights and ability to opt-out of data exchanges, even as the world continues to battle privacy issues in the digital world.
Roe vs. Wade
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a Texas statute that banned abortion—a decision that essentially legalized the medical procedure all over the U.S.
It all started when in 1969 when a woman from Texas named Norma McCorvey sought medical help to terminate her unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. At this point, she had already given birth twice and have given both kids up for adoption. During this time, the only way women could have abortions is through “back-alley” abortion clinics that were not the most sanitary and safe places to have the procedure done.
This was when two Texas lawyers filed a lawsuit on her behalf and other women who wanted and needed other options. The “Wade” in question was Henry Wade, the district attorney in the county where McCorvey lived.
After the ruling, the procedure became considered legal across the United States. The court declared that women’s right to having an abortion was implicit in the 14th Amendment, which also covers the right to privacy.
While the decision—and abortion in general—continues to be a controversial topic of contention in the U.S., there’s no denying that this ruling has changed many lives and the United States as a whole.
The Bottom Line
Class action lawsuits have transformed lives and our nation. By partnering with legal professionals committed to service and the community, those who need legal recourse will be able to go through the legal processes with grace and dignity.