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Florida Supreme Court Reverses Third DCA Following In-Depth Discussion of Class Certification Standards

On July 7, 2011, the Florida Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Third District Court of Appeals reversing a trial court's class certification; in doing so, the Court also resolved a conflict created between the Third DCA and Fourth DCA concerning the proper standard of review on appeal. In Sosa v. Safeway Premium Fin. Co., 36 Fla. L. Weekly S373 (Fla. 2011), the Court held that because class certification involves factual findings, the correct standard of review is not a de novo analysis of the facts, but whether the trial court abused its discretion. Moreover, class certification should involve findings limited to the requirement for class certification and should not address the cause of action's merits.

The key determination by the Third DCA was that the plaintiffs had failed to sufficiently allege a key element of their claim and, therefore, the class could not be certified. Underpinning this conclusion was, according to the Florida Supreme Court, an improper conflation of class certification requirements with a question for the trier of fact. Class certification does not, under Florida law, involve an examination into the lawsuit's merits; rather, the trial court examines the four proof elements articulated by Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.220(a): numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. The trial court's decision is reviewed only for an abuse of discretion in certifying (or failing to certify) the class.

Sosa v. Safeway Premium Fin. Co. is helpful to practitioners and the lower courts because the Florida Supreme Court, after holding that the Third DCA had applied an incorrect standard, proceeded to review the trial court's class certification. The Sosa court's discussion is in-depth and assembles, in one place, the key principles needed to analyze the four class certification elements.

You can read a copy of the Court's Opinion here.

Categories: LitigationAppellate Law & Practice
Tags: Class CertificationFlorida Supreme CourtJamie A. ColeEdward G. GuedesMichael S. PopokJoseph H. SerotaFort Lauderdale Business Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Business Litigation LawyersMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Commercial Litigation LawyerSouth Florida Commercial Litigation AttorneySouth Florida Commercial Litigation LawyerSouth Florida Business Dispute Litigation AttorneysSouth Florida Business Dispute Litigation LawyersMatthew H. MandelFort Lauderdale Commercial Real Estate AttorneysMiami Commercial Real Estate AttorneysSouth Florida Commercial Real Estate AttorneysFort Lauderdale Appellate Law AttorneysMiami Appellate Law AttorneysSouth Florida Appellate Law AttorneysFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsSouth Florida LitigatorsFlorida Commercial Litigation LawyerFort Lauderdale Civil Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Commercial Litigation AttorneysMiami Commercial Litigation AttorneyMiami Litigation Attorney
Author(s): Eric P. Hockman