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California Supreme Court Loosens Rules for Class Action Standing

By Kevin Fayle on May 19, 2009 3:40 PM

The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday that only the representatives of a class, and not the entire class, must meet standing requirements under amendments to the state's unfair competition law.

The decision came as part of a long-running class-action suit against cigarette manufacturers, and overturned a ruling by the Court of Appeals which decertified the class because not all of its members met the standing requirements as individuals. 
The plaintiffs in the case claim that the defendant-companies engaged in unfair competitive practices by misleading the public about the dangers of smoking.

After an initial class certification, voters in the state approved Proposition 64 which, among other things, added new standing requirements for class-action lawsuits.

The Court of Appeals interpreted these new requirements as mandating a show of causality by each plaintiff for their injuries in fact, but the Supreme Court ruled that if a class representative can demonstrate that they have standing, then thecertification of the class can stand.

The Supreme Court's ruling will make it easier for individuals to band together to sue businesses as a class, which could elevate the risks of doing business in the state.

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