As discussed in a prior article, the Ohio Supreme Court recently considered four jurisdictional memoranda raising fundamental challenges to class action law in Ohio.  The Court has now made its jurisdictional decisions in each case. 

First, the Court has accepted jurisdiction in Cullen v. State Farm and will consider a wide range of fundamental class action issues in that appeal, including the role of Daubert at the class certification stage and the parameters of a proper class definition. 

Second, after initially declining jurisdiction, the Court granted reconsideration and has accepted jurisdiction on the first proposition of law in Stammco v. United Tel. Co. of Ohio, and will consider a prior decision regarding evaluating the merits of class claims in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

Third, after initially declining jurisdiction, the Court granted Appellant’s motion for reconsideration in Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Agrawal.  However,the Court ordered that the cause be held for the decision in Cullen v. State Farm, and that the briefing schedule be stayed.

Finally, after initially declining jurisdiction the Court granted Appellant's motion for reconsideration in Wolfe v. Grange Indemnity Ins. Co.  However, as in Agrawal, the Court ordered that the cause be held for the decision in Cullen and the briefing schedule be stayed.

We will be closely watching each of these cases as they continue to unfold and as the Court nears its decisions.

Cullen v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2012-0535

We previously discussed the facts of Cullen and the Eighth District Court of Appeal's decision affirming class certification here.  

The Ohio Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction on June 20, 2012.  The following propositions of law proposed by Appellant State Farm will be at issue on appeal: 

  1. In Ruling on Class Certification, Courts May and Should Examine Merits Issues that Are Relevant to the Civil Rule 23 Requirements. 
  2. The Lower Courts' Reliance on Plaintiffs Proposed Expert Testimony as a Basis for Class Certification Was an Abuse of Discretion in the Absence of an Adjudication of State Farm's Daubert Challenges. 
  3. A Class Definition May Not Condition Class Membership on Disputed, Individual Elements of Liability. 
  4. Plaintiffs Assurance that Unspecified, Hypothetical Computer Algorithms Can Be Used to Identify Class Members Does Not Satisfy the Requirement that Class Members Can Be Identified with Reasonable Effort. 
  5. Where Class Members Not Only Heard Allegedly Scripted Statements, But Had Individual Unscripted Discussions and Were Influenced by Other Individual Considerations, Individual Questions Predominate. 
  6. It Is an Abuse of Discretion to Certify a Subclass Without a Representative Who Is a Member of the Subclass. 
  7. Rule 23(B)(2) Does Not Authorize Class Actions Where the Named Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Seek Declaratory or Injunctive Relief or Where the Relief Sought Merely Lays a Basis for Money Damages.

The record was filed in the case on July 9, 2012.  We will be closely following the briefing, argument and decision in this case as it is likely to have a significant impact on class action jurisprudence in Ohio. 

Stammco v. United Tel. Co. of Ohio

Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2012-0169

In June 2005, Stammco filed a class complaint against United Telephone Company of Ohio ("UTO") and Sprint Nextel Corporation, alleging that Stammco and other customers of UTO and Sprint had been damaged by UTO and Sprint's negligent acts and billing practices. Specifically, Stammco alleged that UTO and Sprint had engaged in the practice of “cramming,” or causing unauthorized charges to be placed on their customers’ telephone bills. 

The trial court granted Stammco’s motion for class certification, and the Sixth District Court of Appeals affirmed.  In Stammco’s first trip to the Ohio Supreme Court in March of 2010, the Court reversed class certification, holding that the class as defined was not readily identifiable.   The Court, then, remanded the case tasking the trial court with redefining the class.

On remand, the trial court denied class certification, holding that: (1) Plaintiffs' revised class definition was failsafe, (2) the action was brought against the wrong party, and (3) the action imposed a duty on UTO and Sprint that was not required by law.  

The Sixth District Court of Appeals reversed, relying on Ojalvo v. Bd. Of Trustees of Ohio State Univ., 12 Ohio St.3d 230, 466 N.E.2d 875, holding that any consideration of merits issues in deciding class certification is error. But Appellants point out in their jurisdictional memo that the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 180 L.Ed.2d 374 (2011), "now makes it clear that Ojalvo was wrongly decided." 

The Court accepted jurisdiction on June 20, 2012 as to Appellants UTO and Sprint's first proposition of law: 

"Wal-Mart v. Dukes Rejects Ojalvo'sIncorrect Reading of Eisen: A Trial Court Does Not Abuse Its Discretion By Evaluating The Merits Of The Plaintiffs' Claims When Denying Class Certification."

Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Agrawal

Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2012-0462

We previously discussed the facts of Agrawal and the Eighth District's decision affirming class certification here.  

On appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Ford Credit requested that the Court accept jurisdiction on the following proposition of law: "Claims for breach of contract, fraud, and nondisclosure involving a standardized contract cannot be certified as a class action when individualized inquiries are necessary to determine (a) whether each claimant's contract was actually violated or misrepresented, and (b) whether each claimant suffered economic harm as a result."

The Court declined jurisdiction on June 6, 2012.  Ford Credit filed a motion for reconsideration on June 15, 2012.  On July 25, 2012, the Court granted Ford Credit’s motion for reconsideration, but ordered that the cause be held for the decision in Cullen v. State Farm, and that the briefing schedule be stayed.

Wolfe v. Grange Indemnity Ins. Co.

Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2012-0497

We previously discussed the facts of Wolfe and the Eighth District's decision affirming class certification here.  

The Ohio Supreme Court declined jurisdiction on June 6, 2012.  Grange filed a Motion for Reconsideration on June 15, 2012.  The Ohio Chamber of Commerce also filed a Memorandum in Support of Reconsideration as amici curiae in support of Grange's motion.  

On July 25, 2012, the Court granted Grange's motion for reconsideration, and accepted Grange's first proposition of law:  

"Civ. R. 23 requires the party moving for class certification to offer evidence of compliance with commonality, typicality, and the other criteria of Rule 23 and fierther requires the court hearing the action to evaluate the evidence presented by the parties to determine whether the rule's criteria in fact have been met, even if the court's evaluation touches upon the merits of the underlying claims sought to be certifted for class action treatment."

As in Agrawal, however, the Court held the cause for the decision in Cullen v. State Farm Mutual and stayed the briefing schedule.