Law School Case Brief
Simer v. Rios - 661 F.2d 655 (7th Cir. 1981)
A court's inquiry into the issue of predominance when analyzing the propriety of class certification takes two steps. Its first focus must be on the substantive elements of plaintiffs' cause of action and it must inquire into the proof necessary for the various elements. Second, after examining the proof necessary, it must inquire into the form that trial on the issues would take. At this point, it also becomes necessary to examine the procedural devices and alternatives available in trying class actions. This discussion interfaces with many aspects of the issue of manageability and the possibility of a fluid recovery alternative. Again, at this point, the substantive policies of the legal rights at issue bulk large in the analysis.
Plaintiffs, Elsie Simer and others, alleged that Community Services Administration, and Richard Rios, Acting Director of Community Services Administration wrongfully conditioned the grant of assistance payments upon the production of a shut-off notice from a utility company. The suit was initiated as a class action but was eventually settled. At settlement, the issues of class certification and notice to the putative class were not discussed. The trial court later vacated the settlement and decided against class certification. On appeal, plaintiffs sought class certification.
Was class certification appropriate in a case that raised many issues concerning the legality and eventual vacating of a settlement agreement entered into by the plaintiffs, who alleged that defendant community social services agency had wrongfully conditioned the grant of assistance payments upon the production of a shut-off notice from a utility company?
The United States Court of Appeals held that the problem of identifying all of the potential class members made the class action device unmanageable. Further, plaintiffs did not seek merely to declare the regulation invalid but also sought monetary damages for individuals who did not seek assistance. Thus, according to the Court, the relief requested in the case required individualized proof as to each class member's state of mind: specifically, were the individuals discouraged from applying for assistance because of the existence of the invalid regulation? In such cases, associational standing was inappropriate. The order denying class certification was affirmed.
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