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Class Action Defense Cases—Trevizo v. Adams: Tenth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of § 1983 Class Action Claims Against City And Denial Of Class Certification

District Court did not Abuse Discretion in Denying Class Certification for Lack of Commonality and Numerosity even though Class Contained 84 Members and in Granting Defense Motion for Summary Judgment Tenth Circuit Holds

Thirty-three individuals filed a putative class action against Salt Lake City and certain law enforcement officers alleging “gross improprieties from the SWAT-style police raid” and setting forth “a litany of horrific facts to support their claims.” Trevizo v. Adams, 455 F.3d 1155, 1158, 1159 (10th Cir. 2006). The district court denied a motion to certify the action as a class action, and subsequently granted a defense motion for summary judgment that dismissed all claims as to the ten plaintiffs who failed to appear for deposition. The court denied class certification based on numerosity and commonality. Id., at 1162. The Tenth Circuit affirmed.

As to the defense summary judgment motion, the Circuit Court held that because plaintiffs did not appear for deposition “it was incumbent upon [them] to provide – at the very least – affidavits detailing what happened to them” but they didn’t. Trevizo, at 1160.

As to class certification, the district court concluded that even though there were 84 putative class members, this “was not such an overwhelmingly large number as to be prohibitive of joinder.” Trevizo, at 1162. The Circuit Court rejected plaintiffs’ claim that “numerosity may be presumed at a certain number.” Id. “Our circuit has never adopted such a presumption. To the contrary, we have specifically stated there is ‘no set formula to determine if the class is so numerous that it should be so certified.’” Id. (citations omitted). Rather, the Tenth Circuit leaves the question of numerosity to the sound discretion of the trial court, and it found no abuse of discretion in the court’s conclusion. Id.

Next, the Circuit Court held that commonality, too, is left to the discretion of the district court and again found no abuse of discretion. “In light of the district court’s thorough examination of the relevant facts, and acknowledging the court’s broad discretion in assessing commonality, we conclude it did not abuse its discretion in determining the essential element of commonality was not met.” Trevizo, at 1163.

NOTE: The Tenth Circuit did not reach the issue of whether the district court was correct in alternatively holding that dismissal was appropriate due to plaintiffs’ failure to appear for deposition. Trevizo, at 1160, n.3.

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