The need to individually examine each class member's records to determine whether he or she qualifies for inclusion in the class does not establish a lack of ascertainability or manageability or establish that common questions of fact or law do not predominate, therefore, an order decertifying class was error and must be reversed. Harper v. 24 Hour Fitness, Inc. (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 966.
Putative class representatives Bryan Harper and Mark Salzwedel appeal from the trial court’s order decertifying a limited class that had previously been recognized for their unfair competition claims under Business and Professions Code sections 17200 and 17500 (UCL claims) challenging a form contract 24 Hour Fitness, Inc. used to enroll new members. Because the trial court’s decertification order is largely predicated on its erroneous legal assumptions concerning the scope of relief available in an individual action under sections 17200 and 17500, we reverse.
If you prosecute wage and hour class actions, the heart of the opinion can be found here:
The other factor central to the trial court’s analysis, the ongoing difficulty in properly identifying the members of the certified class from 24 Hour Fitness’s records, may be considered as part of a properly conducted evaluation of the superiority of proceeding by class action. However, the need to individually examine each member’s contract to ultimately determine whether he or she qualifies for inclusion in the class does not, as suggested, demonstrate a lack of ascertainability or manageability or establish that common questions of fact or law do not predominate. (See Lee v. Dynamex, Inc. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 1325.) [fn. 5]
With respect to the difficulty in confirming the identity of all class members prior to a determination on the merits, Division One of this court recently affirmed certification of a class consisting of FedEx drivers over FedEx’s objection “the members of this class shifted ‘in and out, sometimes on a day-to-day basis.’” (Estrada v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 1, 14.) The court explained, “The class is ascertainable if it identifies a group of unnamed plaintiffs by describing a set of common characteristics sufficient to allow a member of that group to identify himself as having a right to recover based on the description. [Citation.] [¶] . . . If FedEx’s claim is that every member of the class had to be identified from the outset, FedEx is simply wrong.” (Ibid.; accord, Lee v. Dynamex, Inc., supra, 166 Cal.App.4th at p. 1335; see also Sav-On Drug Stores, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 333 [“‘a class action is not inappropriate simply because each member of the class may at some point be required to make an individual showing as to his or her eligibility for recovery’”]; Bufil v. Dollar Financial Group, Inc. (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1193, 1207 [class of employees ascertainable in spite of absence of specific rest period records; “speculation that goes to the merits of ultimate recovery [is] an inappropriate focus for the ascertainability inquiry”]; Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 715, 744 [fact that class may ultimately turn out to be overinclusive not determinative; most class actions contemplate eventual individual proof of damages, including possibility some class members will have none].)
[Fn. 5: It appears this difficulty in identifying class members and, in particular, in determining which contracts have the words “bonus,” “bonus time” or similar handwritten notations on their face is attributable, at least in substantial part, to the inadequacy of 24 Hour Fitness’s computer records. We have previously cautioned an employer may not avoid class certification by making a business decision to commingle or fail to document particular job assignments or tasks. (Aguiar, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at p. 134.) A similar principle would seem applicable here.]
The opinion is bit unusual in that it reverses an order granting a motion to decertify a class, thus the standard of review on appeal was abuse of discretion. It was also noteworthy that the opinion was 2-1, with a dissent by Justice Woods.