Shortly after Lightfoot was founded in 1990, Alabama's class-action boom began. Enterprising plaintiffs' attorneys attempted to force an extraordinary variety of common-law and statutory claims into the class-action mode. Persuaded by the argument that certification was conditional and could be reconsidered after discovery, many Alabama trial courts entered orders granting class certification very early in cases, sometimes even before the defendant was served. An aggressive plaintiffs' bar, together with trial courts which were largely unfamiliar with class actions, produced an extremely dangerous litigation environment for corporate America.
Lightfoot, Franklin & White rose to this challenge. We have defended hundreds of class actions involving a broad array of legal claims and factual scenarios. By way of example, our firm has defended class claims based on the following alleged conduct: charging race-based life insurance premiums; accounting malfeasance; polluting air, surface water and groundwater; overstating mortgage escrow requirements; securities fraud; misleading product labeling; manufacturing and selling defective vehicle seatbacks, engine components and suspension systems; sending unsolicited advertisements by facsimile; including post-petition charges in bankruptcy proofs of claim; discrimination in employment practices, and charging late fees, overnight mailing fees and excessive mortgage points. We have also dealt with attempts to certify defendant classes. Many class certification issues never reach the appellate courts, but the following list of reported decisions provides a sense of the depth of our experience in this field.
- Voyager Ins. Companies vs. Whitson (vacating plaintiff class in credit-insurance case: plaintiffs did not prove, inter alia, uniformity of reliance on allegedly fraudulent representations and were barred from class treatment by need to determine whether individual class members entered respective transactions under mistaken view of facts).
- ALFA Life Ins. Corp. vs. Hughes (vacating plaintiff class on fraud, contract, and supervision claims: plaintiffs did not establish uniformity in alleged oral and written representations, in class members' reliance thereon, or in training/supervision of defendant's agents).
- Providian National Bank vs. Pritchett (vacating certification of plaintiff class: claims were barred by settlement in previous class suit in foreign jurisdiction).
- Payton vs. Monsanto Co. (plaintiffs' claims were barred under double-recovery proscription and res judicata effect of previous class settlement).
- Ex parte Anderson (objectors to class settlement did not have standing and were not allowed to intervene).
- Ex parte Rowan (barring discovery on behalf of putative statewide class because statutory cause of action limited to county of mortgage recording).
- Ex parte Exxon Corp. (vacating certification of nationwide plaintiff class: class treatment barred by choice-of-law principles and inability of private plaintiffs to maintain deceptive-trade claim in Alabama).
- Ex parte Federal Express Corp. (vacating certification of plaintiff class: circuit court erred by certifying class on day complaint was filed and without a hearing or responsive pleading from defendant).
- Grimes vs. Liberty Nat'l Life Ins. Co. (settlement of earlier class suit barred plaintiff from relitigating released claims).
- DuBose v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. (reversing certification of statewide class of automobile lessors in action against financing company in connection with rental tax that lessors were required to pay.)
- Ex parte American Bankers Life Ass. Co. of Florida (reversing certification of plaintiff class: circuit court failed to identify how each element of class-action rule was satisfied and thus failed to make minimally acceptable analysis; circuit court also erred by shifting burden to defendants to disprove propriety of class treatment).
- Ex parte Mercury Finance Corp. of Alabama (vacating certification of plaintiff classes: circuit court failed to explain how requisites of class-action rule were satisfied, and improperly presumed that plaintiffs had met their burden under that rule).
Our firm has defended class actions in numerous courts throughout the Southeast. We have defeated class actions at the certification stage and on appeal. We also have tried class actions, and settled class actions both in federal and state courts.