CA Ct. of Appeal Reverses Denial of Class Cert in Song-Beverly ZIP Code Case

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In an unpublished opinion issued last week, the California Court of Appeal found that a lower court incorrectly denied class certification in a proposed class action involving the collection of consumers’ ZIP codes at Party America retail stores. Aguirre v. Amscan Holdings, Inc., No. C073059 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 11, 2015) (slip op. available here). The plaintiff alleged that Amscan, d/b/a Party America, collected and recorded customers’ ZIP codes at the point of sale, in violation of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act.

The trial court examined the criteria for class certification and denied the plaintiff’s motion based on lack of ascertainability, because the plaintiff could not “clearly identify, locate and notify class members through a reasonable expenditure of time and money.” Slip op. at 13. However, this is a much stricter definition of ascertainability than is generally imposed on class action plaintiffs, and the appellate court categorically rejected the trial court’s conclusion, stating that “the representative plaintiff need not identify, much less locate, individual class members to establish the existence of an ascertainable class.” Slip op. at 11-12 (relying on Daar v. Yellow Cab Co. (1967) 67 Cal.2d 695, 706).

The Amscan court found that an ascertainable class exists, since the class definition “describes a set of common characteristics sufficient to allow a member of that group to identify himself or herself as having a right to recover based on the description.” Slip op. at 19 (citing Bartold v. Glendale Federal Bank (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 816, 828). The case was remanded back to the trial court with instructions to reevaluate their class certification determination in light of the appellate court’s finding of an ascertainable class.