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WBK Industry News - Litigation Developments

District Court’s Certification of Plaintiff Class Vacated Because of Improper “Predominance” Determination

In Brown v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc., plaintiffs alleged Electrolux sold front-loading washing machines with defective rubber seals.  The rubber seals supposedly caused mildew.  The district court certified two statewide classes:  one for California plaintiffs; and another for Texas plaintiffs.  Each class covered two different types of claims:  (1) violations of state consumer protection laws; and (2) violations of warranty.  Electrolux filed an interlocutory appeal.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the class certification order and remanded the matter for further proceedings, explaining that the district court had abused its discretion in determining the “predominance” requirement had been met for class certification.

On appeal, Electrolux argued that the district court made three crucial errors.  First, the calculation of damages for each member of the class prevented a finding of predominance.  Second, the district court had mistakenly resolved doubts in favor of class certification.  Third, the court had improperly found predominance, because individual issues of causation and other requirements under state law actually predominated.  The 11th Circuit agreed with Electrolux on two of its three arguments.

As to the damages issue, the 11th Circuit disagreed with Electrolux.  “[T]he presence of individualized damages issues does not prevent a finding that the common issues in the case predominate.”

As to resolving doubts in favor of certification, the 11th Circuit agreed with Electrolux. The district court was wrong to “resolve doubts related to class certification in favor of certifying the class.”  Instead, the party seeking class certification bears the burden of proof.

The main part of the 11th Circuit’s decision, however, was that the district court misapplied California and Texas law when it concluded that the plaintiffs could prove causation for their state consumer protection law claims on a class wide basis.  Likewise, as to the warranty claims, the 11th Circuit held that the district court had abused its discretion in certifying plaintiff classes.  The district court should have resolved certain threshold questions of state law before determining “predominance” for purposes of class certification:  whether the plaintiffs had to prove they provided Electrolux pre-suit notice and an opportunity to cure, as well as proving manifestation of the alleged defect.  The 11th Circuit found that each of these state law elements of the claims could require individual proof, and would bear on the question of “predominance.”

Without expressing an opinion on whether a finding of predominance would ultimately be appropriate, the 11th Circuit vacated the class certification order and remanded.

Weiner Brodsky Kider regularly represents financial services companies throughout the United States, including class actions alleging violations of federal and state laws.