Sometimes injustice or injury goes unchecked when individuals find themselves fighting against huge corporate entities, government agencies, or powerful industrial interests. In such cases, seeking redress after experiencing discrimination, personal injury, or financial harm can feel a little like David taking on Goliath.
Such has been the case for thousands of North Carolina residents who came together to fight for their rights and seek justice from an overly harsh application of state laws. In joining a class-action suit rather than filing individually, they have been able to effectively level the playing field and bring attention to an unfairly punitive system.
Harsh penalties from the North Carolina DMV
Thousands of North Carolina motorists have had their driver’s licenses indefinitely revoked by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles when they did not pay traffic violation fines within the 40-day window mandated by state law. In 2017, this penalty affected 436,000 motorists in the state.
Because the DMV’s punitive actions for unpaid fines has long disproportionately affected lower-income citizens and communities of color, in 2018 it drew the attention of several civil rights groups. Originally filed under 14th Amendment due process concerns on behalf of two plaintiffs, in August of 2019 an amended filing created a class-action lawsuit to represent thousands of others also affected by these punitive actions.
At issue was the lack of clarity on how drivers who failed to pay traffic fines and court fees could seek an adjustment of fines based on economic need, even though North Carolina General Statute 20-24.1 does allow them to seek relief through the court system. Under the terms of the settlement, the DMV would have to:
- Clearly reference the terms of the statute allowing drivers to file a motion for relief.
- Include special information on how to petition the court for an adjustment before the deadline.
- Maintain a website with information on how drivers can avoid license revocation, as well as pro bono legal resources.
The purpose of a class-action lawsuit
When a group of people have experienced similar injuries or loss from an entity’s actions, policies, or products, they can often obtain justice though mass tort litigation. Their injuries can range from defective consumer products to securities fraud, corporate misconduct, or discrimination. The advantages of a class-action suit include:
- Suing a well-financed corporate entity without risking one’s own limited resources.
- Leveling the playing field.
- Generating negative publicity to influence the defendant’s future behavior.
- Better odds of a settlement.
Knowing you have legal resources to take action against powerful interests is the first step toward achieving just compensation for your injuries.