Mountain States v. District Court

In Mountain States v. District Court (Colo. 1989) 778 P.2d 667, the defendant was obliged to help notify the class not because it contributed to the problem but because it possessed a means of providing notice easily and at little expense. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed an order directing the defendant public utility to provide class representatives access to its monthly billing envelopes as a means of providing notice of the pendency of the class action to 1.5 million members of the certified class. According to the court, the means of notice ordered "does no more than provide Mountain Bell customers with factually accurate information with respect to their right to join in or be excluded from pending litigation over inside wire maintenance service--a matter directly bearing on the commercial relationship between Mountain Bell and its customers--and is reasonably related to the substantial governmental interest of providing a fair and cost-effective method for resolving a multitude of claims involving common issues of fact or law in one lawsuit, thereby preventing the unnecessary waste of judicial resources in repetitious litigation. ... There is nothing about the nature or content of the notice in this case ... that is violative of Mountain Bell's right to free speech. The notice involved here is a message from the court, calculated to inform Mountain Bell customers of the nature of the pending litigation in which the customers might have some interest. Mountain Bell may protest and contest the filing of the lawsuit, but it has no basis to disagree with the fact that a class action complaint has been filed against it by some of its customers." (Id. at pp. 674-675.) In reaching this conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court distinguished Pacific Gas and Electric Co. v. Public Utilities Commission (1986) 475 U.S. 1, in which the Supreme Court vacated an order of the California Public Utilities Commission requiring a private utility to include in its billing envelopes the messages of a consumer interest group with which the utility disagreed. (Mountain States v. District Court, supra, 778 P.2d at pp. 675-676.)