Representing the Unrepresented in Class Action Settlements

76 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2012

See all articles by Brian Wolfman

Brian Wolfman

Georgetown University Law Center

Alan B. Morrison

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: 1996


Class actions are important and useful both to deter wrongful conduct and to provide compensation for injured plaintiffs. In complex cases, however, the existing class action structure falters. In this article, Messrs. Wolfman and Morrison argue that in "settlement class actions" the current class action rules do not adequately protect class members whose interests do not coincide with those of the class representatives and the class attorneys. Through a survey of recent, prominent settlement class actions, the authors show that the current system does not fairly treat subgroups in a class with respect to matters as diverse as future injury, fee distribution, applicable law, and timing of payments. In response to these problems and others, Messrs. Wolfman and Morrison ultimately urge the adoption of amendments to the class action rules to handle settlement class actions. The effect of these amendments would be twofold: first, to ensure that "unrepresented" class members would be represented by counsel who would have adequate opportunity to champion their interests; and second, to allow a judge handling a settlement class action to evaluate the substantive provisions of a proposed settlement, and to impose or reject certain terms in order to assure fairness within the class, as well as between the class and defendants.

Keywords: class action suits, monetary relief, representation, settlement negotiations

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Wolfman, Brian and Morrison, Alan B., Representing the Unrepresented in Class Action Settlements (1996). New York University Law Review, Vol. 71, pp. 439-513, 1996; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-134. Available at SSRN:

Brian Wolfman (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Alan B. Morrison

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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