Wednesday, August 22, 2007

11th Circuit Holds Notice Provided to Defendants in Class Action Suit Was Adequate

Per Adams v. Southern Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co., --- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 2119182 (11th Cir.(Ga.) Jul 25, 2007) (NO. 06-13162):

The district court found that the notice provided to the appellants in this case was adequate and thorough, and that it comported with both the requirements of Rule 23 and of due process. FN5 We agree. First, the notice was thorough, consisting as it did of 48-pages of explanatory text. Cf. Twigg, 153 F.3d at 1228-1229 (finding a two-page notice with a vague, one sentence description of the type of claim involved, to be violative of due process). Second, the language of the notice was clear and comprehensible, and it adequately described both the substantive claims at issue in the Adams Class Action and the "information reasonably necessary to make a decision to remain a class member and be bound by the final judgment," such as the relief available, the steps necessary to opt out, and the implications of remaining a member of the class. See Nissan, 552 F.2d at 1104-05. Finally, we find, as the district court did, that the steps taken by Southern Farm in distributing the notice--via multiple first class mailings and publication in a national newspaper--as well as providing a telephone number, website, and mailing address to field queries from class members, constituted "the best notice practicable under the circumstances." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c).

FN5. Our case law makes clear that Rule 23's mandate that absentee class members be given "the best notice practicable under the circumstances," Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c), is consistent with the due process requirements of the Constitution, and, in fact, that Rule 23 goes beyond those requirements. Nissan, 552 F.2d at 1103-1104 (citation omitted).

The appellants argue that their case is analogous to Twigg, in which we concluded that the notice afforded class members was insufficient because it did not adequately describe the type of claim involved in the earlier class action. Twigg, 153 F.3d at 1228-1230. In Twigg, the notice had indicated--in a pithy, one sentence description--that the class action involved "unnecessary and/or improper repairs" performed by the defendant, Id. at 1229-30, that is, repairs that were performed that were not needed. The appellant's action in a later suit, however, was based on services for which he had paid, but which had not been performed. Id. at 1224. Because we found that the notice in the earlier action had failed to advise the appellant whether "claims like his were being litigated [or] had been settled" in the earlier action, we concluded that permitting res judicata to bar the appellant's present claims would be inconsistent with due process. Id. at 1228-29.


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