Rule 23 Class Certification In Montana
Rule 23(a) and (b), M.R.Civ.P., as interpreted by the Montana Supreme Court in McDonald v. Washington, 261 Mont. 392, 400, 862 P.2d 1150, 1155 (1993), outlines the procedure for determining whether the action should be certified as a class action by Court.
As historically stated by the United States Supreme Court:
We find nothing in either the language or history of Rule 23 that gives a court any authority to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the merits of a suit in order to determine whether it may be maintained as a class action. Indeed, such a procedure contravenes the Rule by allowing a representative plaintiff to secure the benefits of a class action without first satisfying the requirement for it. He is therefore allowed to obtain determination on the merits of the claims advanced on behalf of the class without any assurance that a class action may be maintained. Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 178-79, 94 S. Ct. 2140, 2152 (1974).
Moreover, the Court stated:
. . a preliminary determination of the merits may result in substantial prejudice to a defendant, since of necessity it is not accompanied by the traditional rules and procedures applicable to civil trials. the court's tentative findings, made in the absence of established safeguards, may color the subsequent proceedings and place an unfair burden on the defendant. Eisen, 417 U.S. at 179, 94 S. Ct. at 2153.
Montana's class action rule provides as follows.
Rule 23(a) provides: One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable,
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class,
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
Rule 23(b) provides:
An action may be maintained as a class action if the [four] prerequisites of subdivision (a) are satisfied, and in addition:
(1) the prosecution of separate actions by or against individual members of the class would create a risk of
(A) inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual members of the class which would establish incompatible standards of conduct for the party opposing the class, or
(B) adjudications with respect to individual members of the class which would as a practical matter be dispositive of the interests of the other members not parties to the adjudications or substantially impair or impede their ability to protect their interests; or
(2) the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to the class, thereby making appropriate final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief with respect to the class as a whole; or
(3) the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy. the matters pertinent to the findings include:
(A) the interest of members of the class in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions;
(B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already commenced by or against members of the class;
(C) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; (D) the difficulties likely to be encountered in the management of a class action.