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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fairbanks v. Farmers New World Life: Court Affirms Denial of Class Cert. in Universal Life Insurance Class Action

In Fairbanks v. Farmers New World Life Insurance Co. (July 13, 2011) --- Cal.App.4th ----, 2011 WL 2714173, the Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court (Los Angeles Superior, Judge Mohr) denying class certification:
Plaintiffs and appellants Pauline Fairbanks and Michael Cobb appeal from an order denying their motion for class certification in their action against Farmers New World Life Insurance Company and Farmers Group, Inc. (collectively, Farmers). Plaintiffs' action alleges violations of the Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof.Code, § 17200, henceforth UCL) in connection with Farmers' marketing and sale of universal life insurance policies. The trial court denied the motion for class certification on the basis that common issues did not prevail, specifically concluding that Farmers did not use a common marketing strategy with respect to the policies. As such, the trial court concluded that whether any proposed class member actually heard any alleged misrepresentation was an issue incapable of common proof, requiring denial of the class certification motion.

As substantial evidence supports the trial court's factual finding, we affirm. On appeal, plaintiffs argue that the order denying class certification can be reversed on bases other than those argued to the trial court below. Specifically, although they argued before the trial court that a class action should be certified on the basis of the common marketing of the policies in combination with certain other allegedly improper practices of Farmers, plaintiffs now argue that the other allegedly improper practices standing alone support class certification. As this argument was not made before the trial court, we need not reach or consider it.
Slip op. at 1. I wanted to note this case, but it seems to me to be of limited usefulness, particularly because the plaintiffs failed to preserve their arguments for appeal. Frankly, I'm a little surprised the Court chose to publish the decision, which is available here.

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