Haynes v. Planet Automall, Inc.: A consumer’s uncommon story

Rule 23(a)(2)’s commonality requirement often falls prey to the fiction that consumer claims are always uniquely suited to class treatment, and that common legal issues are enough to satisfy the Rule. Yet a careful analysis of the underlying transaction often yields a different result.

Not all transactions are uniform, and not all consumers are alike. Indeed, “common” legal issues are often advanced as a basis for commonality precisely because the underlying transactions are not so common after all. This is exactly what happened in a recent case decided by Judge Jack B. Weinstein denying class certification captioned Haynes v. Planet Automall, Inc., 2011 WL 3555613, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89640 (E.D.N.Y. August 12, 2011).  The Haynes decision provides a thoughtful analysis of a consumer claim, and illustrates the benefits of a “rigorous analysis” of the underlying transaction to determine whether common questions really exist.

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