TopClassActions.com is the brainchild of IT specialist and entrepreneur Scott Hardy. For the past decade, Hardy’s website has been the “go-to” website for consumers who may not be aware that they are part of a class action lawsuit or may be entitled to settlement money. It’s also a place for finding out which law firms are handling which cases, and whether or not these cases have settled. Today, it is the most popular class action website in the world – but it was not always that way.

“I started the website about 10 years ago, really focusing on consumers,” Hardy says. “I’m not a lawyer – I’m just a guy who had the idea to build a website trying to help connect consumers to cash they can claim from these lawsuits and settlements.” It was a brilliant concept, and there was definitely a need for such a service – but even the best ideas require revision and refinement before they achieve success. TopClassActions.com was no exception. “Over the past 10 years, I’ve had to re-iterate a few times,” Hardy said.

Originally, the website was nothing more than a listing of active class action settlements. Like many enthusiastic web entrepreneurs, Hardy was optimistic. “[I thought] the settlement administrators would come knocking down my door, giving me money to advertise them – not knowing anything about the politics of class actions, how they actually work, or what’s going on.”

Not surprisingly, the website didn’t exactly take off that first year. Hardy wound up listing only one single settlement. The turning point came when he attended a conference at which he was exhibiting. It was at that conference that a lawyer came to his booth and told him it was great that he was reaching out to claimants – but then said what he needed was a way to find new clients. “Can you find me plaintiffs?” the lawyer asked.

Without batting an eye, Hardy assured him, “Oh, yeah…absolutely. I can definitely do that” – even though he had no idea of how to go about it. Nonetheless, he plowed ahead. He began doing investigations in which he worked with law firms to find potential plaintiffs that they could work with, charging the firms a flat fee for his assistance.

Business improved over the next few years as traffic to the website began to grow. However, revenue streams were inconsistent. The problem was that, on the class action side of the operation, a law firm would come to them, get their clients – then disappear for several months until the next class action lawsuit was filed.

All this time, Hardy continued in his regular IT job, since his website was not generating enough income to make a full-time living – and then he was fired. He was faced with two choices – take another job with a company that his friends had told him was terrible to work for or accept a job offer that would force him to relocate his family from their home in Arizona to California. Neither of those options were appealing. After discussing it with his wife, Hardy made the decision to focus on TopClassActions.com full-time.

The first thing he did was call an old friend, Greg Jones, a practicing attorney in North Carolina. By this time, Hardy had been running his website for about five years. Traffic had more than doubled, from 15,000 to 32,000 visitors a month – but more traffic was needed.

He asked Jones what he needed done. “Tell me what you want to do, we’ll do it for about three or four months,” he offered. “If it works out, great – we’ll work out a rate. If not, at least you get some free clients.”

Jones accepted his offer and mentioned a few of the mass tort cases that were active at the time for which he was seeking clients, including Actos bladder cancer, transvaginal mesh, and asbestos cancer (mesothelioma). The new business model was a success.

Over the next several months, revenue doubled and redoubled. One reason was that TopClassActions.com was entering the area of mass torts, which are similar to class actions – but often go on for years rather than months.

Today, TopClassActions.com is a viable business, with six full-time employees and fifteen contractors who research cases and write articles on current mass litigation topics. The website attracts 1 million+ visitors a month and has amassed a loyal following of consumers, including 700,000 newsletter subscribers and 123,000 Facebook followers.

While law firms pay a fee to advertise on the website, its services are completely free of charge to potential plaintiffs. TopClassActions.com offers free subscriptions to their weekly e-newsletter that keep consumers informed about current legal actions against corporate wrongdoers and settlements for which they may be eligible.

People can sign up for the newsletter, as well as view past editions. One will also find a wealth of information on current and pending settlements, investigations, and even how to start their own class action lawsuit.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.