Challenges to ascertainability have become noticeably more popular over the last few years. As a result, defendants will sometimes challenge the class definition even though there are deeper problems with the class. As a recent case shows, however, it is usually worth probing deeper than the definition in one’s arguments.

Steimel v. Minott, No. 1:13-cv-957-JMS-MJD, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38228 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 24, 2014) offers some object lessons in what ascertainability problems can really mean. In Steimel, the plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration after a change in policy (transferring developmentally … Continue Reading

This week, we get our yearly reminder not to take the humble numerosity requirement for granted. In Spread Enterprises, Inc. v. First Data Merchant Services Corp., No. 11-CV-4743, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22972 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2014), the named plaintiff–a prepaid phone minutes company–sued a bank and a credit card payment processor for charging "excessive" fees for certain transactions on one of the processing platforms.

When the plaintiff moved for class certification, the defendants opposed on numerous grounds, including challenging commonality and predominance. They also argued that the definitions of each subclass, each of which referred to merchants who … Continue Reading

 At this point in my practice, there are certain judges whose opinions I just automatically look for: the Chicago triumvirate of Posner, Easterbrook, and Wood; the often-covered Judge Rakoff in the S.D.N.Y.; and Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California. Regardless of the result–and there have been a few I’ve privately bemoaned–you can guarantee that Judge Alsup’s opinions will be well-reasoned and as fair as he can make them. [Disclosure: I have never practiced in front of Judge Alsup, and have no cases pending in front of him.]

Judge Alsup has issued a new opinion denying … Continue Reading

Northside Chiropractic doctor Michael Dubick made the mistake of–after a cold call from salesmen–buying advertising space in Yellowbook. He negotiated for a certain kind of advertisement, but the published ad looked nothing like what he had asked for, and lacked even basic information about his business (like his name). So he sued, and added class allegations to his complaint. Yellowbook also listed his advertisement under "Massages – Non-Therapeutic," a possible crack about chiropractors at best, and solicitation of a whole different kind of client at worst.

So Dr. Dubick filed a class action against Yellowbook, and moved for certification. (… Continue Reading

Andrew Marshall was an employee of the City of Spokane, Washington. After a minor work-related injury to his eye, he wound up in a billing dispute with the company that ran the emergency room he visited. So he did what many of us have felt the urge to do after diving into a morass of paperwork surrounding a minor medical claim: he filed a class-action lawsuit against the insurance company and the medical company, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. He sought to represent a class of employees of the City of Spokane. The case, … Continue Reading

It’s summertime, when kids attend camp. We tell ourselves this is play, but a lot of camps focus intensively on building up certain skills. This summer, Class Action Countermeasures will be doing the same thing, presenting a number of posts that introduce you to the very basics of class-action practice. (For those who read my post a few weeks ago about cutting down the costs of legal education, consider this a first stab at the case syllabus I was talking about.)  Like in most summer camps, you’ll have to do a fair amount of the work yourself.  I am … Continue Reading

Today’s case is interesting in no small part because it shows just how far class-action arguments have come in the last 18 months. In the latter half of 2010, most defendants faced with a class action would look primarily at adequacy (are the named plaintiffs good representatives?), typicality (do the named plaintiffs have the same injury and proof as the class?), and predominance (are there more individual issues than common issues?). Now, however, given recent trends in case law–particularly the increased focus on a "rigorous analysis"–more defendants are looking at numerosity [] (can the plaintiffs show that there are … Continue Reading

Robert Klonoff, Dean of the Lewis & Clark Law School, has produced a new article, The Decline of Class Actions (forthcoming from the Washington University Law Review), that provides a much-appreciated overview of recent developments in class action law from a plaintiff’s perspective. (Disclosure: Dean Klonoff provided a very nice blurb for the Class Action Playbook.) Regular readers of this blog know that I am actually a big fan of plaintiffs’ perspectives: I think understanding them is crucial to a conscientious and seals defense of class action litigation. And while there is much to like in … Continue Reading

There’s an intuition among defense lawyers that property-based cases are difficult to certify; not impossible, but certainly difficult. This week’s case, Burdette v. Vigindustries, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15412 (D. Kan. Feb. 8, 2012), offers several reasons why that is the case.

Burdette is a case about sinkholes. It involves a neighborhood in Hutchinson, Kansas that had been located next to a series of salt solution mines. After a sinkhole developed in the Careyville neighborhood in 2005, the defendant, which owned the nearby salt mine property, created a buffer zone between the neighborhood and its own … Continue Reading

Like many health-minded individuals, Norma Rothman has shopped at GNC stores.  And, like many others, she has bought items there with her credit card.  And, like many consumers everywhere, she didn’t like it when the cashier allegedly asked her for her ZIP code when she made her purchase.  Unlike many consumers, Ms. Rothman tried to turn this momentary dissatisfaction into a class action, alleging that GNC had violated the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act and California’s infamous § 17200.  (Song-Beverly class actions have become very popular in California since its Supreme Court ruled that requesting a ZIP code can violate Continue Reading