11th Circuit rejects class action against T-Mobile

By Michael P. Tremoglie | Sep 4, 2012

ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has upheld a federal district court's rejection of a class action request in a case against T-Mobile.

The plaintiffs filed a proposed class action asserting, among other things, that T-Mobile unlawfully reactivated their lost or stolen phones without their permission.

The case had been appealed from the U.S. District Court for Northern Alabama. The plaintiffs also asserted state law claims of conversion, trespass to chattels, and unjust enrichment. They alleged that they had reported to T-Mobile that their cell phones had been lost or stolen, and the phones that were brought to T-Mobile were activated.

According to the opinion issued Aug. 22 by the 11th Circuit, "The district court denied the plaintiffs' motion for class certification on five grounds. The first ground was that the plaintiffs had not satisfied their preliminary burden of establishing that their proposed class was clearly ascertainable. Here, the court reasoned, in part, that the plaintiffs had 'made no effort to separate out those putative class members who may very well be barred from pursuing class claims due to the existence of valid arbitration agreements or class action waivers that potentially prohibit such litigation.'"

The plaintiffs had claimed that that the district made a mistake by concluding that T-Mobile did not waive its right to assert arbitration and class-action waiver defenses, and therefore the court abused its discretion in denying class certification. The 11th Circuit rejected this argument, replying that the plaintiffs do not adequately explain this.

Ultimately the 11th Circuit judges ruled that "we may assume that the district court was wrong about T-Mobile not waiving its arbitration and class-action waiver defenses, and wrong about whether the class was ascertainable and numerous, and wrong about the non-uniformity of conversion law in the fifty states, and wrong about a class action not being the superior method for adjudicating the case."

Judge Edward Earl Carnes authored the opinion.

The judges said that even if they considered all of those assumptions, the denial of class certification would still not be considered eligible as a reason to reverse the district court.

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