Alternatives for Class Certification

According to Rule 23(b), there are three alternative grounds for class certification. If these alternative grounds are inapplicable, then class certification will be rejected. Rule 23(b) is meant to be applied liberally, not restrictively, because courts are usually in favor of class action certification. They have a favorable view because class action certification often produces significant public policy benefits.

Under Rule 23(b)(1), an action is eligible “if individual adjudication of the controversy would prejudice either the party opposing the class (b)(1)(A), or the class members themselves, (b)(1)(B).” Therefore, Rule 23(b)(1) allows class certification if a defendant could be faced with conflicting orders of conduct from individual suits. Class certification under Rule 23(b)(1)(A) is applicable if there is a situation “in which different results in separate actions would result in the opposing parties’ inability to pursue a clear course of conduct.” On the other hand, 23(b)(1)(A) certification is not simply justified when it is apparent that some plaintiffs may win and some may lose in separate lawsuits against the same defendant. Under Rule 23(b)(1)(B), class certification is obligatory when it is evident that individual claims would exhaust the limited fund and disallow succeeding plaintiffs from recovery. Therefore, “a (b)(1)(B) class action is commonly utilized to avoid an unfair preference for the early claimants at the expense of later claimants.”

According to Rule 23(b)(2), actions are “limited to those class actions seeking primarily injunctive or corresponding declaratory relief” (Barnes v. The American Tobacco Company). A (b)(2) class must be unified and homogeneous; therefore, it must be evident that the defendant has acted on grounds that are applicable and relevant to all of the class members. Furthermore, class certification under Rule 23(b)(3) is appropriate when “the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.”

Essentially, in order for there to be class certification, it must be confirmed and demonstrated that class action litigation is the best choice for the situation. Class action is considered to be superior if there are numerous class members who have small claims that are not worthy of individual adjudication. In other words, if there are multiple people who hold “negative value suits” against the same defendant, then class action is the justifiable superior method. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the combination of individual claims with unique damages can cause a class action case to be unmanageable.