Eighth Circuit Class Action Litigation | Winter 2019/2020
Eighth Circuit determines that differences in state consumer-protection laws may preclude nationwide class certification.
This case involved a proposed nationwide putative class action alleging that Emerson Electric Company violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) by marketing its RIDGID brand vacuum cleaner as capable of achieving “peak horsepower,” which is only possible in a lab setting. The plaintiffs also brought claims for breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and violations of other states’ consumer-protection laws.
After the district court certified a nationwide class under Rule 23(b)(3), the defendant filed an interlocutory appeal to the Eighth Circuit, challenging whether the claims of non-Missouri residents relate to “trade or commerce . . . in or from the state of Missouri,” and whether “the district court should have conducted separate choice of law analyses for the breach of warranty and unjust enrichment claims.”
Agreeing with the defendant, the Eighth Circuit held that the claims from non-Missouri plaintiffs did not involve commerce in or from the state of Missouri, that the MMPA would not cover those transactions, and that the laws of the states where the transactions occurred should govern. As a result, the Eighth Circuit concluded that class certification was inappropriate for the non-Missouri plaintiffs.
The Eighth Circuit also noted that a district court “must conduct an individualized choice-of-law analysis” to ensure that application of a given state’s law is neither arbitrary nor unfair, but that the district court here did not do so. Given those errors, the Eighth Circuit decertified the class and remanded back to the district court.