On Wednesday, May 13, an Appellate Court decision made it a little bit easier for plaintiffs to proceed with class action suits in New Jersey. In the past, it has been unclear whether courts in New Jersey should require, in consumer class action matters with low amounts of damages at stake, that members of the allegedly injured class be objectively identifiable in order to allow a class action suit to proceed. However, in this case, which seeks damages to compensate consumer losses due to the expiration of certain Hollister Co. gift cards, the Court has confirmed that plaintiffs’ rights to pursue such a case cannot be limited by an inability to identify members of the affected class, at least where low amounts of damages are at stake. The Court even went so far as to express concerns that such limitations should not apply at all in class action cases in New Jersey, worrying that defendants might too often be inappropriately relying on these limitations as a shield to help them unfairly avoid liability to consumer classes.
Developments in NJ Class Action Law
This decision represents a promising development in New Jersey law for consumer class action plaintiffs, and is expected to encourage more plaintiffs to try to keep their class action cases in the New Jersey courts rather than having these cases overseen in Federal courts. In Federal Third Circuit Courts, standards were recently tightened on the requirement for members of a class to be readily identifiable, in the 2013 decision of Carrera v. Bayer Corporation, No. 12-2621 (3d Cir. Aug. 21, 2013). In the Hollister case, the Court recognized that under N.J. Court Rule 4:32-1, the requirements for instituting a class action in New Jersey courts are intended to be read liberally, in favor of allowing plaintiffs to proceed with class action suits where possible. The liberal interpretation of these requirements in favor of class action plaintiffs should help to level the playing field for the little guy in consumer matters, and keep justice within reach for those fighting against corporate defendants.
The decision is expected to be further appealed to the state’s highest Court.
If you have been affected by an issue that may present an opportunity to file a class action lawsuit, please call us to discuss your options today.