California Code of Civil Procedure Section 382 - Case Law

Code of Civil Procedure section 382 provides in part that "when the question is one of a common or general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court, one or more may sue or defend for the benefit of all." Two basic requirements must be met for a class action: the existence of an ascertainable class, and a well-defined community of interest in the questions of law and fact involved. (Villacres v. ABM Industries, Inc. (2010) 189 Cal.App.4th 562, 573.) Whether a class is "ascertainable" is determined by evaluating the class definition, the size of the class, and the means available for identifying class members. (Reyes v. Board of Supervisors (1987) 196 Cal.App.3d 1263, 1271.) A community of interest exists where three factors are present: "(1) predominant common questions of law or fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class." (Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court (2004) 34 Cal.4th 319, 326.) In Raven's Cove Townhomes, Inc. v. Knuppe Development Co. (1981) 114 Cal.App.3d 783, the court held that the homeowners association had the capacity to sue, in a representative capacity, the developer for damages to the common area and exterior of individual units based on defective landscaping. (Id. at p. 796.) In Knox v. Streatfield (1978) 79 Cal.App.3d 565, the plaintiff, the owner of a condominium, filed a class action on behalf of owners of the complex who had been damaged by certain other property owners in the complex, who were named as defendants. (Id. at p. 568.) Plaintiff charged that defendants violated the declaration of restrictions of use of the complex by constructing various improvements, including addition of a storage shed, painting, installation of fencing, and construction of a log gate and dog pen, which improvements caused plaintiff to be unable to sell his unit. (Id. at p. 569.) Knox identified "the first problem" with the case as the ascertainability of the class. "If we follow plaintiff's allegations in his complaint to the letter, that he brings the action on behalf of all the owners in the Malibu Bay Club, there is no true class for the following reasons: Some of the owners, those who allegedly violated some of the restrictions, would be at the same time plaintiffs and defendants, thus presenting an insurmountable conflict." (Id. at p. 571.) Knox relied on Horton v. Citizens National Bank (1948) 86 Cal.App.2d 680, where a lot owner in a tract brought an action on behalf of all lot owners in the tract against a bank to enforce provisions in a declaration of restrictions. The court held there could be no common class where enforcement of an agreement in favor of some would adversely affect the interests of others. (Id. at pp. 683-684.)