"Code of Civil Procedure section 382 authorizes class actions 'when the question is one of a common or general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court...'" Sav-On v. Sup. Crt., 34 Cal.4th 319, 326, 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 906, 911 (2004); California Code of Civil Procedure Section 382.
In determining whether an action should be certified as a class action, the court considers whether : 1) predominant questions of law and fact exist; 2) class representatives have claims or defenses typical of the class; and 3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class, Lockheed v. Sup. Crt., 29 Cal.4th 1096, 1104, 1 Cal.Rptr.3d 7; Savon at 911. Community of interest means all of the following: 1) can liability be determined by facts common to all members of the class; 2) is there is dissimilarity that has the capacity to undercut the prospects of joint resolution of class members' claim, Brinker v. Sup. Crt., 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1021-1022 (2012). The ultimate question for class certification is whether the issues which may be jointly tried are so numerous or substantial, compared to the issues that are separate, that it would be advantageous to the judicial process and the litigants to treat the case as a class action, Lockheed v. Sup., 29 Cal.4th 1096, 1104-1105 (2003).
If numerous and substantial issues are common amongst the class members, when compared to separate adjudication, the maintenance of a class action is advantageous to the judicial process and litigants, Lockheed, 1104-1105, citing to Collins v. Rocha, 7 Cal.3d 232, 238, 102 Cal.Rptr. 1 (1972); Linder v. Thrifty, 23 Cal.4th 429 435 (2000).
Typical in class actions does not mean identical, Classen v. Weller, 145 Cal.App.3d 27, 45 (1983). The issuance of an employee handbook to all of the putative class members instructing them how to conduct themselves in respect to the challenged wage and hour practice is evidence of a community of interest, Ghazaryan v. Diva, 169 Cal.App.4th 1524, 87 Cal.Rptr.3d 518 (2008 review denied).
Numerous claims are a reason for class certification, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 382. There is no minimum number of plaintiffs required as a matter of law to maintain a class action, Rose v. City of Hayward, 126 Cal.App.3d 926, 934 (1981). Under federal law numerosity is generally met if the potential number of plaintiffs exceed 40, Stewart v. Abraham, 275 F.2d 220, 226-227 (3rd Cir. 2001). Classes in California have been certified with as few as 10 beneficiaries to a trust, Bowles v. Nickel, 44 Cal.2d 574, 587 (1955), and 35 farmworkers suing for fraud and breach of contract, Collins v. Rocha, 7 Cal.3d 232, 234 (1972).
Class actions are favored if they eliminate repetitious litigation of small claims, or create unjust advantage to the wrongdoer because the claims are of insufficient size to warrant individual action, Linder v. Thrifty Oil, 23 Cal.4th 429, 435, 97 Cal.Rptr.2d 179, 183 (2000). Without certification, the Sav-on court held that each individual plaintiff would have to present separate, duplicative proceedings with the same arguments, Id. at Cal.4th 339-340. This would result in multiple trials conducted at enormous expense to both the judicial system and litigants, Id. This would be neither fair, nor efficient, Id. However, merely asserting there will be numerous similar claims is not enough. Courts these days want to see commonality in the claims for a class action to be certified.
Bell v. Farmers, 115 Cal.App.4th 715, 744 (2004) held average claims of $37,394 for overtime that could include interest and attorney fees were small enough to believe the maintenance of a class action was the superior method of dealing with the claims. The Bell court also believed a class action was the superior method of adjudicating the claims because five years had already gone by at the time of the opinion and many of the claims only became large due to the passage of time which had a negative effect on memories should there be numerous individual lawsuits, at 745. The Bell court believed many of the current employees would not be motivated to bring individual claims due to fears of retaliation, and in order for there to be effective enforcement of the statutory policies behind the Labor Code a class action was the superior method of dealing with the situation.
"Individual issues do not render class certification inappropriate so long as such issues may effectively be managed, " Sav-On at Cal.4th 334 citing to Richmond v. Dart, 29 Cal.3d 473, 174 Cal.Rptr. 515. A party may propose the use of subclasses and other innovative procedural tools to obtain certification of a manageable class, Occidental Land v. Sup. Crt., 18 Cal.3d 355, 364 n3 (1976).
"The certification question is 'essentially a procedural one that does not ask whether an action is legally or factually meritorious,'" Lockheed Martin v. Sup. Crt., 29 Cal.4th 1096, 1104, 131 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 6 (2003) citing to Linder v. Thirty Oil Co., 23 Cal.4th 429, 439-440, 97 Cal.Rptr.2d 179 (2000); Sav-On v. Sup. Crt., at 326. Certification should not be conditioned upon a showing that class claims for relief are likely to prevail, Linder, 443, 189. On this note, the focus during certification is what common factual and legal issues might arise, Savon, at 326 citing to Linder and Lockheed.
To determine if your wage and hour dispute may be a class action, or you should bring an individual case, contact 1-877-525-0700 to speak to an experienced California labor lawyer.