Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Third District Issues New Certification Opinion in McAdams v. Monier

On February 24, 2010, the Third District issued a new opinion reversing a trial court’s denial of certification in McAdams v. Monier, __ Cal.App.4th __ (2010). The opinion comes on the heels of its previous opinion in McAdams v. Monier, Inc., 151 Cal. App. 4th 667 (2007), which was depublished subsequent to the California Supreme Court’s grant and hold of the matter pending review in Tobacco II.

The Court’s opinion dealt with the trial court’s refusal to certify claims under the CLRA and UCL predicated upon the defendant’s alleged failure to disclose that the color composition of its roofing tiles would erode away well before the end of the tiles' represented 50-year life, leaving plain (noncolored) concrete. The trial court denied certification, in large part, based on its conclusion that individualized issues relating to class member reliance and damage would predominate. The CAP held that this was an error, as the trial court misperceived the nature of the plaintiff’s CLRA and UCL causes of action, which, in the CAP’s view, was “based on a single, specific, alleged material misrepresentation: Monier knew but failed to disclose that its color roof tiles would erode to bare concrete long before the life span of the tiles was up.” See Slip Opinion, at 9 and 25.

With regard to the CLRA claim, the Court reasoned that the singular nature of the representation permitted reliance to be inferred with regard to the class as a whole:

The record here permits an inference of common reliance among the CLRA class. Plaintiff alleges that Monier made a single, material misrepresentation to class members that consisted of a failure to disclose a particular fact regarding its roof tiles. Plaintiff has tendered evidence that Monier knew but failed to disclose to class members that the color composition of its roof tiles would erode to bare concrete well before the end of the tiles' represented 50-year life; and that this failure to disclose would have been material to any reasonable person who purchased tiles in light of the 50-year/lifetime representation, or the permanent color representation, or the maintenance-free representation. If plaintiff is successful in proving these facts, the purchases common to each class member—that is, purchases pursuant to this alleged failure to disclose in light of the 50-year life, permanent color, or maintenance-free representations—would be sufficient to permit an inference of common reliance among the class on the material misrepresentation comprising the alleged failure to disclose. This is also why the CLRA class definition is subject to the proviso specified at the end of this opinion's introduction. (See p. ___, ante.)
See Slip Opinion, at 13.

With regard to the UCL claim, the Court similarly concluded that the singular nature of the challenged representation/omission, plus the fact that reliance is not a component of absent class member’s UCL claims, rendered the class ideally suited for class adjudication. See Slip Opinion, at 25-28.

However, notwithstanding the forgoing analysis, the CAP concluded that the class would have to be limited to persons exposed to the challenged statement.  See Slip Opinion, at 3, 28 (“[t]he definition of the CLRA and UCL classes is subject to the following proviso: The members of these classes, prior to purchasing or obtaining their Monier roof tile product, had to have been exposed to a statement along the lines that the roof tile would last 50 years, or would have a permanent color, or would be maintenance-free.”). 

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