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A class action suit is an exception to the usual rule of lawsuits. It is a lawsuit in which the court permits one plaintiff or a small number of plaintiffs to maintain on behalf of everyone who has been harmed as a result of what the defendant did. In most cases, everyone who will be affected by a decision must be notified that an action has been started. They must then be given an opportunity to appear and present their side of the case. This is a very important basic right because everything decided in a legal action is binding on all parties involved.
When the appeals are over, any issue brought up in the case are settled. None of the parties involved can reargue one of the questions in any future lawsuit. If the court chooses and agrees to consider the plaintiff as a class action, the entire group is bound by the decision. It is the courts decision as to who is in the class and all parties who fit that description must accept the final decision whether they appear in the lawsuit or not. In a class action suit, even a party who did not know about the lawsuit is bound by the decision.
This is an exception to the general rule and there is a very important reason for this exception. In a class action the rights of people who otherwise have no legal remedy are protected. Especially when each person involved might have a small claim against the defendant. In a class action suit, it is not always the person starting the lawsuit who represents a class. Defendants can be treated as a class, just as well as plaintiffs.