9th Circuit Affirms Class Certification in RICO Suit

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Last week, the Ninth Circuit affirmed certification of nationwide classes in a suit featuring RICO, contract, and other claims.  The published opinion dealt with a range of issues, including typicality, predominance, and superiority.

The case is Just Film, Inc. v. Buono.  No. 14-16132, 2017 WL 510452 (9th Cir. Feb. 7, 2017).  The full opinion is worth a read; a few highlights follow.

Typicality

One argument defendants raised was that the named plaintiffs’ injuries differed from the injuries suffered by other class members.  The Ninth Circuit held that the differing injuries did not defeat typicality:

The requirement of typicality is not primarily concerned with whether each person in a proposed class suffers the same type of damages; rather, it is sufficient for typicality if the plaintiff endured a course of conduct directed against the class. Although Campbell was able to fend off the attempted fraud before it reached into and diminished her bank account, there is no reason why she cannot prove the nature of the fraudulent scheme for benefit of all class members, whether or not their precise injuries are identical.

Predominance

Defendants challenged predominance on several grounds, including that damages would vary by class member and would require individualized evidence.  … Read more

Superiority Not Defeated Just Because More Money Was Theoretically Available in Non-Class Proceedings

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In Corvello v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. 10-cv-5072 (N.D. Cal.), the defendant contested class certification by arguing that class treatment would not be the superior form of adjudication.

Wells Fargo argued that whereas the FDCPA sets a $500,000 limit on statutory damages in class actions, class members could obtain up to $1,000 each in statutory damages if they proceeded individually.  In other words, absent class members would be better off without the class action device — they should file individual cases and claim their thousand dollars.

Judge Chhabria rejected the argument.  First, he noted that the statutory damages were not the sole source of damages available; class members may also be able to recover actual damages or restitution.  He went on to debunk the assumption that affected individuals would do better without the class device:

Moreover, even with respect to statutory damages, Wells Fargo appears to assume that every borrower who pursued [his or her] claim would be able to recover the maximum amount of statutory damages (namely, $1,000).  But the maximum statutory damages award of $1,000 is not automatic.  Instead, the amount of statutory damages (if any) depends on a court’s analysis of many factors.  Individual class members would not be sacrificing an automatic higher award of statutory damages, but the opportunity to argue for one on a case-by-case basis.

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