A few weeks ago, I received a copy of the Fourth Edition of Class Actions & Other Multi-Party Litigation in a Nutshell in the mail. Since this is one of the "go-to" references for many practitioners, it seems worth discussion whether it’s worth the investment to pick up the new edition.
A few disclaimers before I start. I received this copy without paying for it, presumably so I would review it. Dean Robert Klonoff was kind enough to provide a nice blurb for the first edition of the Class Action Playbook. (That said, it hasn’t stopped me from disagreeing with his work at times.)
So, how is the new Nutshell? Like the previous editions, it’s a great introduction to class-action law for law students and young practitioners. In just 470 pages, it manages to provide the basics behind each of the various concepts underlying Rule 23 and mass tort cases. Dean Klonoff clearly knows his stuff on Rule 23, and his updates manage to hit a number of major trends, including the effect of the Supreme Court’s Dukes opinion, the move towards motions to strike class allegations, and the more nuanced analysis of the numerosity requirement that has occurred over the last few years. Like its predecessors, the Fourth Edition of the Nutshell appears aimed more at the law student than the practitioner. While there is a chapter on litigating class actions, it does not receive as much attention as discussions of the various legal doctrines underlying class-action litigation. That’s a feature, not a bug. It’s important to have a primer on the basic law governing class actions, and given how fast-moving that area of law has been, an up-to-date primer is essential.
I have only two very small criticisms of the Nutshell. First, in a few areas, it stretches to preserve the sense of conflict in the law where case law may actually have been largely settled. (The most striking example is in his discussion of claim-splitting, where Dean Klonoff offers only a 1978 district court case, Sullivan v. Chase Inv. Servs., Inc., 79 F.R.D. 246 (N.D. Cal. 1978) to counter the numerous appellate courts that have held that plaintiffs who split claims are not adequate class representatives.) The second small issue is that, because this is the Fourth Edition of the Nutshell, there are a few places where, structurally, the analysis dives into slightly more history than may be strictly necessary to understand some concepts. (For example, in the wake of CAFA, I’m not sure that an extended discussion of Zahn v. Int’l Paper Co. is strictly necessary to understand federal jurisdiction over class actions.) I get the impression these are holdovers from previous drafts that might go if the Nutshell were being written from scratch today instead of receiving a thorough updating. Of course, getting more analysis rather than less is hardly a major problem, and may provide valuable context to the law student.
The bottom line is that, like previous editions, this Nutshell is an excellent, inexpensive introduction to the law of class actions. Recommended.