California Class Action Law

The class certification stage requires an evidentiary hearing. (Hamwi v. Citinational-Buckeye Inv. Co., 72 Cal. App. 3d 462, 140 Cal. Rptr. 215 (2d Dist. 1977).) Declarations, discovered evidence, and matters judicially noticed determine the evidence submitted at the hearing. Evidence to be considered at the hearing must be presented in accordance with California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1306. (California Rules of Court, Rule 3.764(d).)

Typically, the hearing should address the constitution of the class, including the approximate number, geographic location, status of members, description of subclasses, and method of identifying class members. Counsel for the class needs to frame common as well as similar questions of law together with those unique to class members. The hearing must also deal expressly with the superiority of class action for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy, the status of class representatives as members of the class, and the representatives' ability to protect the interests of the class.

The parties are encouraged to resolve uncontroverted issues by written stipulation before the hearing. (California Rules of Court, Rule 3.764(e).)Since court unification a "limited civil case" under California Code of Civil Procedure § 85.1 is one with less than $25,000 in controversy. In Stern v. Superior Court, 127 Cal. Rptr. 2d 402 (App. 2d Dist. 2002), opinion vacated, 105 Cal. App. 4th 223, 129 Cal. Rptr. 2d 275 (2d Dist. 2003), the trial court had found the matter was not a class action and ordered reclassification as a limited civil case without notice or an opportunity to present evidence. This was an abuse of discretion.

Common behavior towards similarly-situated plaintiffs can be shown through pattern and practice, statistical, or sampling evidence and may make class certification appropriate. Sav-on Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, 34 Cal. 4th 319, 326, 327, 17 Cal. Rptr. 3d 906, 96 P.3d 194 (2004).