Legal Memorandum: Certification of a Proposed Class

Issue: What authority exists to prevent certification of a proposed class in federal court?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Class certification; Claim requirements
Jurisdiction: Federal, Louisiana
Cited Cases: 994 F.2d 1101; 884 F.2d 576; 669 F.2d 328; 459 F.2d 566; 498 U.S. 46; 257 F.3d 475; 521 U.S. 591; 194 F.3d 1116; 651 F.2d 1030; 422 F.3d 307; 707 F.2d 829; 409 U.S. 815; 700 F. Supp. 869; 433 F.2d 733; 987 F.2d 931; 987 F.2d 311; 382 F.3d 1241; 929 F.2d 1054; 365 F.3d 408; 675 F.2d 671; 915 F. Supp. 622; 646 F. Supp. 643; 401 F.3d 316; 880 F.2d 954; 702 F.2d 400
Cited Statutes: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23, Rule 23(a), Rule 23(b);
Date: 05/01/2011

A plaintiff seeking class certification must prove that the claims meet the requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Bell v. Ascendent Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 307, 316 n.19 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).  The first question, however, is whether the complaint defines a workable class of plaintiffs.  Next, the plaintiff must show that the action satisfies all four elements of Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Finally, the class action must be of a kind described in Rule 23(b).

A challenge to class certification may be based on the contention that the class of plaintiffs described in the complaint is too vaguely described to be certified.  See 5 Moore’s Federal Practice § 23.21[3][1].  A class “should not be defined in terms of whether its members were treated ‘properly,’ ‘adequately,’ ‘reasonably,’ or ‘constitutionally,’ because then class membership depends on a determination of the merits as to each potential class member.”  Id.

In the Fifth Circuit, the class-action plaintiff must define the class precisely in order to properly identify those persons entitled to relief, those who would be bound by any judgment, and those who are entitled to notice.  In re Monumental Life Ins. Co., 365 F.3d 408, 413 (5th Cir. 2004); DeBremaecker v. Short, 433 F.2d 733, 734 (5th Cir. 1970) (“It is elementary that in order to maintain a class action, the class sought to be represented must be adequately defined and clearly […]

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