Arizona Supreme Court makes class action appeals more difficult

Chris Rizo Aug. 25, 2009, 10:51am

Michael Ryan

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Legal Newsline)-The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday made it more difficult to bring class action lawsuits.

The unanimous ruling said plaintiffs generally cannot appeal trial judge's denial of class-action status for cases.

The ruling, which could force plaintiffs to proceed with their cases on an individual basis, overturned a 1972 state Supreme Court decision.

The ruling follows a subsequent holding by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case decided Monday involves a truck driver who claimed that Swift Transportation Co. Inc. of Phoenix had a pattern of underpaying drivers for miles driven.

Leonel Garza sued the trucking company over the agreement the company had with him to pay by the "dispatched mile." Garza claimed that the system shortchanged drivers.

Swift offered trips through a two-way satellite communication device to drivers who had signed the contract. The device informed the driver of the starting point, the destination, and the estimated mileage for each offered trip. A driver then accepted the offer by notifying Swift through the device.

Garza claimed that Swift had miscalculated the "dispatched" miles he drove by up to 15 percent.

In his lawsuit, Garza claimed $1,500 in damages. He filed a class action complaint on behalf of the 500 to 1,000 drivers who also signed the dispatched mile agreement.

At trial, the court denied class certification, finding that Garza did not have a claim under his proposed definition of the class, the class was not adequately defined and the dispute over the meaning of the contract term "dispatched miles" would require inquiry into extrinsic evidence for each class member.

"In cases in which the court of appeals decides to exercise discretionary special action jurisdiction, the standard of review of a trial court's determination of class certification is not materially different from that of a direct appeal," Justice Michael Ryan wrote for the court.

"We therefore conclude that the special action procedure is the appropriate vehicle to challenge a trial court's grant or denial of class certification."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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