Because of the significant size of the jury verdicts or, more likely, the settlements of class actions, questions of class certification carry significant weight. However, it is not just monetary consideration that makes class actions so important. One element of aggregate litigation that is most frequently discussed is the due process considerations that need to be made. Class actions may mask distinctions between class members that makes defending the claim more challenging. Because of these pressing considerations, the decision and reasoning to allow or deny certification of a class of plaintiffs, based on the criteria of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is tremendously important.
A survey of Sixth Circuit cases from 2015 revealed only 10 appeals of district court decisions involving class certification. The cases uncovered through this survey included cases involving post-judgment appeals and Rule 23(f) petitions. Of the 10 cases that dealt with questions of class certification presented to the Sixth Circuit, the Sixth Circuit denied five 23(f) petitions, denying the petitioners’ right to appeal the district court’s decision. Of the remaining five cases, two district court decisions were affirmed; two district court decisions were reversed; and one district court decision was vacated, remanded, and then denied permission to be appealed.
Circuit courts have considerable discretion when determining how to handle appeals of class certification decisions, particularly because the Sixth Circuit allows Rule 23(f) appeals infrequently. As we enter the new year, we will continue to monitor the Sixth Circuit for important class litigation and will provide updates as soon as possible.