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Hill v. Hebert

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

June 24, 2015

CHERYL HILL, ET AL
v.
SHERIFF SID HEBERT, ET AL

APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF IBERIA, NO. 114131. HONORABLE CHARLES LEE PORTER, DISTRICT JUDGE.

AFFIRMED; REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

James Patrick MacManus, Law Office of James P. MacManus, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Cheryl Hill, et al.

James L. Pate, Ben L. Mayeaux, Sara Rodrigue, Neuner Pate, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: Sheriff Sid Hebert, et al.

J. Wayne Landry, Attorney at Law, New Iberia, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Iberia Parish Council.

Joy Rabalais, Borne & Wilkes, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Hilda Curry, et al.

Court composed of John D. Saunders, Shannon J. Gremillion, and David Kent Savoie, Judges.

OPINION

Page 732

[15-11 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] GREMILLION, Judge.

The defendants, a sheriff and five of his deputies, appeal the trial court's judgment certifying a class action suit against them. For the following reasons, we affirm and remand with instructions consistent with this opinion.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case involves the defendants' use of tear gas to disburse a crowd on September 24, 2006, during the Sugar Cane Festival in New Iberia, Louisiana. Various deputies deployed the tear gas three separate times at three different locations.

The plaintiffs filed a class action petition for damages in April 2009. Their motion for class certification was filed in August 2011. Following hearings in the summer of 2013, the trial court granted the class certification. In a lengthy judgment rendered in June 2014, the trial court found that the requirements of La.Code Civ.P. art. 591(A) and (B)(3) were met, and that there were questions of law and fact common to the class that predominated over questions affecting only individual members. The defendants appeal that class certification and assign as error:

1. The trial court erred in finding the plaintiffs satisfied the commonality requirement.
2. The trial court erred in finding that questions of law and fact common to the class predominate over questions affecting only individual members.
3. The trial court erred in finding that a class action is superior to other available methods of fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.
4. The trial court erred in finding the typicality requirement was satisfied.
[15-11 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] 5. The trial court erred in finding that the class representatives fairly and adequately protect the interest of the class.

DISCUSSION

The Louisiana Supreme Court has set forth the law regarding class action certification as follows:

" '[A] class action is a nontraditional litigation procedure that permits a representative with typical claims to sue or defend on behalf of, and stand in judgment for, a class of similarly situated persons when the question is one of common interest to persons so numerous as to make it impracticable to bring them all before the court.'" Dupree [ v. Lafayette Ins. Co. ], 09-2602 at 6 [(La.11/30/10)], 51 So.3d [673] at 679, citing Brooks [ v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.,] 08-2035 at 10-11 [(La. 5/22/09)], 13 So.3d [546] at 554. The purpose and intent of the class action is to adjudicate and obtain res judicata effect on all common issues applicable not only to persons who bring the action, but also to all others " similarly situated." Id.
The class action is an exception to the rule that litigation be conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties

Page 733

only. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, __ U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550 [], 180 L.Ed.2d 374 (2011). Thus, the determination of whether a class action meets the requirements imposed by law requires a " rigorous analysis." Dupree, 09-2602 at 6, 51 So.3d at 697; Brooks, 08-2035 at 10, 13 So.3d at 554. Such an analysis requires the district court to " evaluate, quantify and weigh [the relevant factors] to determine to what extent the class action would in each instance promote or detract from the goals of effectuating substantive law, judicial efficiency, and individual fairness." McCastle [ v. Rollins Environmental Services of Louisiana, Inc. ]456 So.2d [612] at 618 [La.1984]. In so doing, the court " must actively inquire into every aspect of the case and should not hesitate to require showings beyond the pleadings." Id. In practice, the analysis will frequently entail overlap with the merits of the underlying claim. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 131 S.Ct. at 2551.
Class action rules do not set forth a mere pleading standard; rather " [a] party seeking class certification must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with the Rule-that is, he must be prepared to prove that there are in fact sufficiently numerous parties, common questions of law or fact, etc." Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 131 S.Ct. at 2551.
While any errors to be made in deciding class action issues should, as a general rule, be in favor of and not against the maintenance of the class action because a class certification is always subject to modification or decertification if later developments so [15-11 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] require, see La. C.C.P. art. 592(A)(3)(c), that general rule cannot and should not be used as a substitute for the rigorous analysis required to determine whether the prerequisites of Louisiana's class action provisions have in fact been satisfied. See ...

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