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Experian v. Superior Court: Successful Defense of Class Certification Bars Letter to Potential Class Action Members Informing Them Of Their Possible Legal Rights California Court Holds

After a California state court denied a motion for class certification in a putative class action brought under the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (CCRAA), California Civil Code §§ 1785.1 et seq., plaintiff’s lawyer convinced the trial judge to allow communication by letter with potential class members that advised them of their potential legal rights against the defendant in the class action and sought their cooperation in pursuing the plaintiff’s damage claim in her lawsuit. Experian Information Solutions, Inc. v. Superior Court, 138 Cal.App.4th 122, 127-29 (Cal.App. 2006). Defendant thus succeeded in its defense of the class action, but the court order opened the floodgates to potential new lawsuits. A California appellate court granted defendant’s petition for writ of mandate and, in an opinion issued on March 30, 2006, held that it is improper for plaintiffs’ attorneys to advise putative class members in class actions that they may have individual claims against the defendant:

After a class-certification motion is denied, can a court order a plaintiff or a neutral third party to send a letter to former potential class members notifying them of possible claims against the defendant? No. There is no legal basis to permit such a communication.

Experian, at 131 (italics added). In so holding, the California appellate court observed, “In non-class action litigation, it is not the court’s role to order notification to third parties of their possible legal claims. . . . Thus, after class certification has been denied by a trial court, court-ordered notifications to former, potential class members that they might have legal claims against a defendant are impermissible.” Id., at 131-32 (citation omitted).

NOTE: The court did permit limited communication for the purpose of obtaining evidence relevant to plaintiff’s individual claim, but the basis for that communication falls outside the scope of this summary.

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