Don't get me wrong. I like lawyers. Some class action suits make sense. (For example, see Larry Smith's blog on February 22 at http://www.crisisconsultants.blogspot.com/: "2-year-old Harrison Kothari of Houston, TX died Dec. 1, 2010 from a rare infection that has been linked to a contaminated alcohol wipe (manufactured by the Triad Group of Hartland, WI) used in a hospital. His parents have filed a 'gross negligence' lawsuit. At last count this week, more than 50 potential victims have contacted plaintiff's attorneys wanting to sue. That number is sure to swell."
What I don't like are frivolous, drummed-up law suits that create crises for innocent organizations and line the pockets of shysters. Remember the McDonald's customer who sued because he didn't know the coffee was hot?
Here's a story of the people 1, vs. the ambulance chasers 0. "Stan Chesley built his career and reputation on big, class-action lawsuits like the one filed more than a decade ago over the diet drug fen-phen.
"His strategy over the years was both simple and successful: Swoop in after a disaster, find as many clients as possible and launch a legal assault against the deep-pocketed companies accused of doing the damage. His approach helped change the way major cases are litigated in America and it made Chesley rich, famous and influential." (http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011302260090)
But here comes the good part: "A trial commissioner in Kentucky last week recommended revoking Chesley’s law license for life because of 'shocking and reprehensible' behavior related to the $200 million fen-phen settlement in Boone County.... If the Kentucky Supreme Court adopts (Trial Commissioner William) Graham’s recommendation, the loss of Chesley’s law license would be akin to a professional death sentence for Cincinnati’s most famous lawyer. If Chesley is disbarred in Kentucky, it is 'virtually automatic' that he also would lose his Ohio law license, said Jonathan Coughlan, disciplinary counsel for the Ohio Supreme Court....
"He said Chesley, 74, not only took too much money, but he also misled the trial judge, failed to get the clients’ consent for the settlement and tried to conceal his actions."
I doubt Chesley will have to live in a cardboard box. Nevertheless, there's one down.
Then ask yourself if your organization's crisis plans includes a section on class-action suits. It doesn't matter if the suits have merit. Your plan needs to prepare you to speak to your key stakeholders about them.