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Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc.

Supreme Court of California

July 29, 2019, Opinion Filed



 [***237]  [**629]  CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.—This case is a putative class action brought on behalf of retail purchasers of an inflatable outdoor pool sold in packaging that allegedly misled buyers about the pool's size. We must decide whether the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the representative plaintiff's motion for class certification on the basis that he had not supplied evidence showing how class members might be individually identified when the time came to do so. The Court of Appeal upheld this ruling. It reasoned that this evidence was necessary to ensure that proper notice would be given to the class, and that without it, the trial court could appropriately conclude that plaintiff had not satisfied the ascertainability requirement for class certification.

We conclude that the trial court erred in demanding that plaintiff offer such evidence to satisfy the ascertainability requirement. Plaintiff's proposed class definition articulates an ascertainable [****3]  class, in that it defines the class “in terms of objective characteristics and common transactional facts” that make “the ultimate identification of class members possible when  [***238]  that identification becomes necessary.” (Hicks v. Kaufman & Broad Home Corp. (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 908, 915 [107 Cal. Rptr. 2d 761] (Hicks).) As we will explain, the ascertainability requirement  [**630]  does not incorporate the additional evidentiary burden that the courts below would have imposed. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.


I. Background

In November 2013, plaintiff James Noel1 filed a verified complaint in Marin County Superior Court, alleging claims under the unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.) (UCL), the false advertising law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17500 et seq.) (FAL), and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Civ. Code, § 1750 et seq.) (CLRA).

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7 Cal. 5th 955 *; 445 P.3d 626 **; 250 Cal. Rptr. 3d 234 ***; 2019 Cal. LEXIS 5696 ****

DIANA NIEVES NOEL, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. THRIFTY PAYLESS, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

Subsequent History: Reported at Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 5851 (Cal., July 29, 2019)

Prior History:  [****1] Superior Court of Marin County, No. CIV1304712, Paul M. Haakenson, Judge. First Appellate District, Division Four, No. A143026.

Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 17 Cal. App. 5th 1315, 226 Cal. Rptr. 3d 465, 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 1073 (Dec. 4, 2017)


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Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Appellate Review, Prerequisites for Class Action, Certification of Classes, Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices, State Regulation, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Notice of Class Action