Class Actions

Class Actions in the United States

Legal Materials

The leading legal treatise on U.S. class actions is Newberg on Class Actions (Lawyers Cooperative Publishing). The Survey of State Class Action Law (ABA Section of Litigation) summarizes the laws of each state.

Information on recently filed and settled class action lawsuits is available free from Class Action World and Class Action Litigation.

Information on securities-related class action suits is available through the Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, sponsored by the Stanford University School of Law. The Clearinghouse posts complaints, opinions, orders, docket sheets, settlements, etc.

Periodicals reporting on key class actions include Stafford’s Class Action Law Monitor, BNA’s Class Action Litigation Report, Mealey’s Litigation Report: Class Actions, and Thomson/West’s Class Action Reports.

The Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure posts sample notices to send to potential class members.

The law firm of Milberg LLP, which handles many of the biggest class action suits, posts information about their cases.

You can find class action lawsuits involving a particular company in Federal court using Courtlink (search in Federal District Courts and select “Class Actions Only”) orWestlaw (DOCK-DCT-ALL database; under “Case Type” select “Class Action).”

To learn about more class action materials, see Keeping Up with Class Actions: Reports, Legal Sites and Blogs of Note by Scott Russell.

Consumer Class Actions

By Pamela A. MacLean. She is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area (California). She has reported on state and federal courts for more than 25 years.

Early in 2012 the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals put the brakes on applying California’s consumer-friendly laws to national class actions – in the process possibly curbing the ability of plaintiffs lawyers to roll up class members in other states.

The ruling came on an interlocutory appeal in a class action involving a sophisticated automobile braking system first offered by American Honda Motor Co. in 2005. Honda promised in its advertising that the system, available as part of a $4,000 optional package on certain Acura models, would reduce the danger of rear-end collisions with a three-step process: first warning the driver, then braking, and tightening the occupants’ seat belts.

What Honda didn’t mention in its marketing was that the three stages sometimes overlapped, potentially causing the system to shut down completely in rain, snow, or fog – when drivers might need it most.

In 2007 Michael and Janet Mazza purchased an Acura equipped with the braking system in Orlando, Florida. Later that year plaintiffs filed a class action in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of Acura consumers in 44 states. They alleged that ads by American Honda, headquartered in Torrance, misrepresented or failed to mention the braking system’s flaws in violation of the state Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200-17210); the False Advertising Law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500-17509); and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) (Cal. Civ. Code § 1750-1785).

U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank granted the plaintiffs’ renewed motion for nationwide class certification in 2008, concluding that common questions predominated over individual ones. In addition, Fairbank ruled that California law could be applied to all class members because Honda had failed to show that differences in state consumer protection laws were material (Mazza v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc., 254 F.R.D. 610 (C.D. Cal. 2008)).

Honda appealed, disputing the plaintiffs’ commonality and alleging that material differences did exist between California’s laws and those of the other 43 states. The Ninth Circuit accepted the case but deferred consideration pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011)).

In January 2012, a three-judge panel vacated the class as overbroad. It found that plaintiffs had satisfied their commonality burden under the new Wal-Mart guidelines – but that the district court erred by concluding California law could be applied to the entire class and by presuming that all consumers had relied on Honda’s advertisements (Mazza v. American Honda Motor Co. Inc., 666 F.3d 581 (9th Cir. 2012)).

Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould found “the district court erred by discounting or not recognizing each state’s valid interest in shielding out-of-state businesses from what the state may consider to be excessive litigation.” He added, “[I]f California law were applied to the entire class, foreign states would be impaired in their ability to calibrate liability to foster commerce.”

Perhaps just as important, Judge Gould also found that the trial court could not presume that class members had relied on Honda’s allegedly misleading advertisements. In the Tobacco II ruling, the state Supreme Court held that Prop. 64 – passed by voters in 2004 – had imposed reliance requirements only on the named plaintiff in consumer litigation, not on unnamed class members. The ruling permitted a presumption of consumer reliance on smoking ads because tobacco advertising had lasted for decades and was broadly disseminated. (In re Tobacco II Cases, 46 Cal. 4th 298, 313-314 (2009)).

Judge Gould ruled in Mazza that absent a similar promotional campaign, consumer class members must be “exposed to advertising that is alleged to be materially misleading.”

In dissent, Judge Dorothy W. Nelson warned, “The majority’s proposed standard will prove devastating to consumers.” She predicted, “[If] a nationwide class action is not a potential consequence, corporations can choose increased revenues over the consumer with impunity.”

In February plaintiffs petitioned for en banc review. “The panel opinion does not merely torpedo this particular nationwide class action against Honda, it also threatens to sink the nationwide class action device itself,” Theodore Maya, an associate with Los Angeles’s Ahdoot & Wolfson, wrote in the plaintiffs’ petition. Rebecca M. Labat, another of the plaintiffs’ counsel at Initiative Legal Group APC in Los Angeles, declined to comment while the petition is pending.

Others in the plaintiffs bar contend the panel’s decision is just wrong-headed. “I think that the decision misapplies California choice of law rules and misapplies the UCL,” says Kimberly A. Kralowec, a specialist in UCL litigation for the Kralowec Law Group in San Francisco.

In particular, Kralowec calls Judge Gould’s application of the state’s governmental interest test for determining choice of law “deeply flawed.” Under California law, a trial court must decide whether laws on an issue differ in the affected jurisdictions, if conflict exists between those laws, and which jurisdiction would be more impaired if its law were not applied. Applying that test, Judge Gould found that differences in the scienter and reliance requirements in various state consumer protection laws “will spell the difference between the success and failure of a claim.”

Kralowec, however, contends proof of consumer reliance is not an element of a UCL claim. “One only has to show that consumers were likely to be deceived,” she says. “Yet the court held there was no reliance [on the advertising].” As for judicial deference to states with more business-friendly climates, Kralowec calls Judge Gould’s comments dicta. “He says other states have an interest, but he doesn’t cite anything to show it.”

Neither Honda nor its lawyer, Eric Y. Kizirian of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith in Los Angeles, would comment on the appeal. But Anna S. McLean, a partner in the business trial practice group at the San Francisco office of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, says the appellate ruling follows a general trend away from applying one state’s law nationwide.

“Courts can’t assume reliance when it is not clear that consumers saw the ads,” McLean says. As a result of Mazza, she predicts, courts “will need to look at choice of law in light of other state policy decisions. That will be part of the analysis. And on reliance, that will be a higher hurdle for plaintiffs to meet.”

McLean admits that plaintiffs lawyers might adjust by simply filing more lawsuits on behalf of smaller classes. Still, Mazza promises to “decrease the bet-the-company-size cases,” she says. “One jurisdiction, one court, one jury deciding a case can have a profound effect. I think defendants prefer multiple courts rather than one.”

Class Action Lawsuit

For information about Class Actions lawsuits there is an entry in this legal reference which provide a broad appreciation of the Class Actions legal topic. See Class Action lawsuit here.

Class Actions Under Federal Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act

This section examines the Class Actions Under Federal Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act subject in its related phase of trial. In some cases, other key elements related to trials, such as personal injury, business, and criminal litigation, are also addressed.

Class Actions Explained

References

See Also

  • Civil Procedure
  • Federal Courts

Class Actions (Civil Procedure)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of class actions. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Civil Procedurein relation to class actions is provided. Note that a list of bibliography resources and other aids appears at the end of this entry.

Class Actions

In Legislation

Class Actions in the U.S. Code: Title 28, Part V, Chapter 114

The current, permanent, in-force federal laws regulating class actions are compiled in the United States Code under Title 28, Part V, Chapter 114. It constitutes “prima facie” evidence of statutes relating to Judiciary (including class actions) of the United States. The reader can further narrow his/her legal research of the general topic (in this case, Judicial Procedure of the US Code, including class actions) by chapter and subchapter.

Resources

See Also

  • Class Action
  • Class Action Lawsuit
  • Class
  • Several Actions
  • First Class Misdemeanant
  • Rescissory Actions
  • Joinder Of Actions
  • First Class
  • Feudal Actions
  • Accessory Actions

Further Reading

Class Actions: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Class Actions. This part provides references, in relation to Class Actions, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Class Actions by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Class Actions and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Class Actions or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Class Actions and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Class Actions. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Class Actions should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Class Actions when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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