Plaintiffs brought suit under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and various state laws against Dometic Corporation relating to a defect in some of its gas-absorption refrigerators. They moved for class certification under Rule 23(b)(3), proposing a class of all persons who purchased in selected states certain models of Dometic refrigerators that were built since 1997. The District Court denied class certification because the class representatives failed to prove administrative feasibility. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.
Initially the Court explains that: “Without an adequate class definition, a district court would be unable to evaluate whether a proposed class satisfies Rule 23(a). For example, if a class is defined in terms so vague as to be indeterminate, then a district court lacks a way to assess whether there are questions of law or fact common to the class. A clear definition too is necessary for a district court to determine whether the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, and whether the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class. So a district court must decide that a class is ascertainable before it may turn to the requirements of Rule 23(a).”
At the same time, however: “Our ascertainability precedents do not mandate proof of administrative feasibility. A class is ‘clearly ascertainable’ if we are certain that its membership is ‘capable of being’ determined. But membership can be capable of determination without being capable of convenient determination. Administrative feasibility is not an inherent aspect of ascertainability.”
In addition: “Administrative feasibility does not follow from the text of Rule 23(a). Unlike traditional ascertainability, administrative feasibility does not bear on the ability of a district court to consider the enumerated elements of that subsection. A plaintiff proves administrative feasibility by explaining how the district court can locate the remainder of the class after certification. The plaintiff satisfies this requirement if the district court concludes that the proposed process will be manageable and successful. But neither foreknowledge of a method of identification nor confirmation of its manageability says anything about the qualifications of the putative class representatives, the practicability of joinder of all members, or the existence of common questions of law or fact. Because administrative feasibility has no connection to Rule 23(a), it is not part of the ascertainability inquiry.
“Nor does a requirement of administrative feasibility follow from Rule 23(b). To be sure, administrative feasibility has relevance for Rule 23(b)(3) classes, in the light of the manageability criterion of Rule 23(b)(3)(D)…. A difficulty in identifying class members is a difficulty in managing a class action. But because Rule 23(b)(3) requires a balancing test, it does not permit district courts to make administrative feasibility a requirement. The manageability inquiry focuses on whether a class action will create relatively more management problems than any of the alternatives, not whether it will create manageability problems in an absolute sense. And the district court must balance its manageability finding against other considerations. So administrative difficulties — whether in class-member identification or otherwise — do not alone doom a motion for certification. Indeed, we have made clear that manageability problems will rarely, if ever, be in themselves sufficient to prevent certification.”
Cherry v. Dometic Corp., No.19-13242, 2021 WL 346121 (Feb. 2, 2021).
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