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2013 Legislative Update: Class Action Certification

Louisiana Legislature Clarifies Requirements for Class Action Certification

Historically, Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure art. 591(A)(5) stated: “the class is or may be defined objectively in terms of ascertainable criteria, such that the court may determine the constituency of the class for purposes of the conclusiveness of any judgment that may be rendered in the case.” However, in the summer of 2013, the Louisiana Legislature modified art. 591(A)(5) to provide additional clarification regarding the criteria utilized by the courts to certify a class.  These modifications result in a more rigorous standard for class action certification, providing that “this prerequisite shall not be satisfied if it is necessary for the court to inquire into the merits of each potential class member’s cause of action to determine whether an individual falls within the defined class.” Thus, if a court has to delve into individual facts and characteristics in order to determine whether a plaintiff would qualify as a member of the class, then a class will not be certified by the court.

This modification to the law narrows the ascertainable criteria used by courts to certify a class and will likely promote judicial efficiency and economy in class action certifications. Yet, this modification does not limit a Plaintiff’s right of action.  Although a more rigorous standard is set forth for class actions, Plaintiffs retain the option to pursue their claims individually. Under Louisiana law, all parties, whether individually or as a class, maintain their right to pursue their claims, regardless of class certification.

Changes to the Law on Class Action Certification Increases the Burden on Plaintiffs

In further clarifying the requirements to certify a class, the Louisiana Legislature amended La. C.C.P. art. 592(A)(3)(b) to add a provision that places the burden of proof squarely upon the proponent of the class action.  Jurisprudentially, the party seeking a class had the burden of proving that prerequisites of class certification were satisfied, but a court was nonetheless charged with finding whether or not the action should be maintained as a class action, without limitation.  The new addition to Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 592 emphasizes that potential class members have the burden of proving that all of the requirements for class certification have been met. Accordingly, the changes to the law emphasize the burden of the petitioner for a class action to satisfy the statutory requirements set forth in article 591 without requiring the courts to examine each member of the class. 

Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.