Episode 696: Class Action : Planet Money Class actions run from big civil rights cases to arguments about pepper. Are they noble, or silly?

Episode 696: Class Action

Cameron Robert/NPR
Can you spot the difference between the two tins? It's the basis of a class action.
Cameron Robert/NPR

Class actions have been around for centuries. But the modern version was created in the 1960s — in part by a young lawyer working on a manual typewriter in the back seat of a car. At the time, class actions were seen as a way to advance the civil rights movement.

Today, thousands of class actions are filed every year. Some of them are still about civil rights. But they're also about things questions like: Is there enough pepper in this tin of pepper?

On today's show, we find out how we got here, and ask whether this is a good way to do things.

Music: "Future Satisfaction" and "Little Dragon."

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