Monday, June 21, 2010

Consumer Protection Class Action Certified Against Kansas Gas Stations

This posting was written by Jody Coultas, Editor of CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law.

A class of Kansas motor fuel purchasers who purportedly did not receive the amounts of fuel that they paid for were certified to proceed with a Kansas Consumer Protection Act (CPA) claim.

The multidistrict class action was filed by persons who purchased motor fuel from a number of gas stations in Kansas that sold fuel from various oil companies and fuel retailers across the country. The claim was based on the sale of motor fuel for a specified price per gallon without disclosing or adjusting for temperature expansion.

Class Certification Standard

In order to obtain class certification, the purchasers had to meet the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) requirements. Specifically, the purchasers needed to show that the class was so numerous that joinder of all members was impracticable, questions of law or fact were common to the class, the claims of the representative parties were typical of the class’ claims, and the representative parties would fairly and adequately protect the class’ interests.


Although the companies argued that the issues of the class representatives were not typical because one of the representatives bought the fuel for his business, the court found that the purchasers met the typicality requirement of Rule 23. The claims of the representatives need not be identical to the rest of the class. The claims of the representatives were based on the same legal and remedial theories and arose out of the same pattern of conduct.

However, the representatives did not have standing to bring claims against companies they did not buy fuel from because the claims would not be typical to the rest of the class that did purchase fuel from those defendants. Thus, certain claims were dismissed based on the named representatives’ lack of requisite injury caused by certain defendants.

In order to obtain class certification, the representatives needed to satisfy Rule 23(a)(4) by showing that their interests did not conflict with the rest of the class and would prosecute the action vigorously through qualified counsel.

Conflict of Interest

Because certification would not benefit some consumers at the expense of others, the court certified the class. The companies argued that the representatives could not adequately represent the class because a conflict of interest existed because not every class member wanted temperature adjustment of retail motor fuel sales. However, class certification is precluded only when class members would be benefited unevenly by a certain outcome.

Finally, an action under Rule 23(b)(2) requires the purchasers to show that the defendant’s actions were based on grounds applicable to all class members and that the injuries to the class members were similar enough to be remedied by a single injunction.

The purchasers presented sufficient evidence that the conduct at issue, purchasing motor fuel, was common to all class members. Also, a court could construct an injunction that would benefit all class members because the injuries were not incohesive.

The decision, In re: Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, appears at CCH State Unfair Trade Practices Law ¶32,066.

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