Class action lawsuits have redefined constitutional boundaries, set new precedent for American life, and even helped shape the views of the world. They range from issues on First Amendment freedom to intellectual property rights and civil litigation, but there are five that truly redefined America. Here are the top landmark class action lawsuits in history.
Brown v. Board of Education
This monumental case ended segregation in America’s school systems when the Supreme Court decided that the separate but equal standard was unconstitutional. This was the beginning of the end of racial segregation, drastically altering American life forever.
Before the ruling, states were allowed to segregate students by color so long as these segregated schools were “substantially equal.” This practice led to a decrease in quality of education for students of color through ill-equipped schools, among other issues.
Most families didn’t have the resources to open up a case, but together they were able to hire a class action attorney and get the ball rolling. Once the case opened up and other attorneys got on board, these communities were able to thwart injustice.
In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation
Agent Orange was an herbicide used by the US military in the 60s and 70s, which proved to be extremely toxic. As Vietnam soldiers returned home with a myriad of medical issues from toxin exposure, one group finally filed a class action suit against Agent Orange’s manufacturers.
The case was ultimately settled, but it set a precedent of compensation for veterans and created various services to aid those returning from war. At the same time, controversy over the chemical led to new regulations on the United States military and the types of weapons they could deploy.
Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Do you remember BP’s infamous oil spill in 2010? After their Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, millions of barrels of oil were released into the sea over a span of two months. The result was devastating damage to ecosystems and communities.
While the government was busy charging BP with criminal actions, communities and eco-organizations came together with a class action lawsuit against the company. In the end, BP was ordered to pay billions into one fund for economic damages and another for medical claims. This class action case set a higher standard for environmental protections.
Target’s Data Breach
In 2013, a group of hackers were able to steal information from over 70 million customers who shopped at Target. Credit and debit card information was compromised along with other personal information, leading to affected customers teaming up with 47 states to sue the company. After the settlement, companies changed the way they protect data and worked to ensure consumer privacy.
Lane v. Facebook
Facebook’s Beacon program hit the spotlight in 2007 with the company monitoring user’s non-Facebook activity online. Those with intellectual property expertise helped get the class action suit rolling, with the data company ultimately shutting down Beacon and being forced to educate its users about privacy and identity protection. With recent events, however, the company has hardly learned its lesson.