Two California federal courts recently certified nationwide and California-only classes of senior deferred annuity purchasers in strikingly similar cases. In each instance, the courts held that written marketing material allegedly misrepresenting and/ or omitting essential characteristics of the products were sufficient to determine that common questions predominated over individual ones as to the elements of plaintiffs’ claims.
In the In re National Western Life Insurance Deferred Annuities Litigation proceeding, plaintiffs had filed a motion to certify a nationwide class based on violations of RICO, and a California-only class based on false advertising, financial elder abuse and violation of California’s unfair competition law. Plaintiffs alleged a common course of conduct to misrepresent the essential characteristics of the deferred annuities in the use of standardized written materials, and also that the defendant had concealed hidden costs.
While the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California initially denied plaintiffs’ class certification motion, plaintiffs’ renewed motion, which narrowed their allegations to just four annuity products, achieved a different result. The court focused primarily on the predominance requirement, finding the requirement satisfied because the defendant made its allegedly false and misleading claims in writing, uniform in material part, to each class member.
Likewise, in Kennedy v. Jackson National Life Insurance Company, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found sufficient evidence of a common course of conduct in the defendant’s alleged uniform misrepresentation of the annuities’ “bonus” feature and alleged failure to disclose the market value adjustment feature of the annuities and the effects of its agent commissions even though defendant did not enforce a standardized sales pitch or uniform presentation scripts.