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Grant v. State Road Auto Sales, Inc.

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, Business Litigation Session

June 21, 2016

Sharon Grant
v.
State Road Auto Sales, Inc. No. 134247

          Filed June 22, 2016

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF CLASS CERTIFICATION AND DISCOVERY

          Kenneth W. Salinger, Justice

         Sharon Grant claims that the motor vehicle lease she entered into with State Road Auto Sales, Inc., in February 2013 contained unlawful terms that violate the federal Consumer Leasing Act (15 U.S.C. § 1667 et seq.) and G.L.c. 93A.

         In its prior ruling, the Court allowed Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the claim under c. 93A because Grant does not allege that she suffered any actual injury from State Road's allegedly deceptive conduct; it denied judgment on the pleadings as to Grant's other claims. The Court then denied Grant's motion for class certification on the grounds that some class members allegedly suffered actual injury because their leases with State Road contained illegal provisions; Grant's claims are not typical of all class members and she could not adequately represent the interests of those class members that are entitled to sue State Road under c. 93A; and it would not be feasible to certify a class that only included plaintiffs who suffered no actual injury, and thus have no viable claim under c. 93A, because doing so would require the kind of highly individualized discovery and adjudication that class actions are designed to avoid.

         1. Reconsideration

         Grant seeks reconsideration on the ground that the Court could and should have certified a class consisting of all people who leased cars from State Road subject to terms that violate the federal Consumer Leasing Act, while specifying that no claims under G.L.c. 93A will be litigated or decided in this action. Grant argues that this would be proper because such a class action would have no preclusive effect with respect to any class member's claim against State Road under c. 93A. Grant asserts that the Court therefore " made a clear error of law" in not certifying a class that would only proceed as to the federal claim, and not with respect to any claim under c. 93A.

         Grant failed to make this argument in support of its prior motion. She instead raises it for the first time in her motion for reconsideration. Grant has no right to do so. See, e.g., Commissioner of Revenue v. Comcast Corp., 453 Mass. 293, 312, 901 N.E.2d 1185 (2009) (affirming Superior Court judge's ruling that argument raised " for the first time in a motion to reconsider" was waived), quoting Commonwealth v. Gilday, 409 Mass. 45, 46 n.3, 564 N.E.2d 577 (1991). On the other hand, since final judgment has not entered, the Court has " broad discretion" to reconsider all prior rulings in this case. Genesis Technical & Fin., Inc. v. Cast Navigation, LLC, 74 Mass.App.Ct. 203, 206, 905 N.E.2d 569 (2009); accord Herbert A. Sullivan, Inc. v. Utica Mut. Ins. Co., 439 Mass. 387, 401, 788 N.E.2d 522 (2003) (" it is within the inherent authority of a trial judge to 'reconsider decisions made on the road to final judgment.'") (quoting Franchi v. Stella, 42 Mass.App.Ct. 251, 258, 676 N.E.2d 56 (1997)).

         The Court concludes, in the exercise of discretion, that it is appropriate to reconsider its prior rulings in light of Grant's new argument in favor of certifying a class for a limited purpose. If Grant were correct that State Road has violated the legal rights of thousands of consumers by inserting unlawful provisions in their motor vehicle leases, that a class action would allow those consumers to seek to vindicate their rights under the Consumer Leasing Act, and that none of those consumers who suffered actual injury would be precluded from bringing a claim against State Road for damages under c. 93A if a class were certified only to litigate Grant's claims under federal law, then it would be in the interests of justice to determine whether the requirements for class certification are met and a class should be certified.

         2. Class Certification

         Upon reconsideration, the Court concludes that if it certifies a class to proceed only with respect to relief sought under the federal Consumer Leasing Act, then class members who suffered actual injury from the allegedly deceptive conduct by State Road would have incentive and indeed no opportunity to seek relief in this action under G.L.c. 93A, and as a result litigation of this case as a class action would not have claim preclusive effect and operate as a bar as to claims under c. 93A against State Road on behalf of any class members. Longval v. Commissioner of Correction, 448 Mass. 412, 417-18, 861 N.E.2d 760 (2007) (prior class action by state prisoners seeking declaratory and injunctive relief did not bar later claim by individual class member seeking damages under G.L.c. 93A); see also Aspinall v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 442 Mass. 381, 397 n.19, 813 N.E.2d 476 (2004) (class certified to proceed " only on an economic theory of damages" under c. 93A would not bar " future pursuant of claims for personal injury").

         The Court also finds and concludes that the prerequisites for certifying a class on claims other than under c. 93A are all satisfied in this case. The Court finds that the requirements of Mass.R.Civ.P. 23(a) are satisfied because the proposed class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, there are questions of law or fact common to the class, the claims or defenses of Sharon Grant are typical of the claims or defenses of the proposed class, and Ms. Grant will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. The Court also finds that the requirements of Rule 23(b) are met because the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members and a class action is superior to other available members for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.

         In the exercise of its discretion, the Court will certify an appropriate class--defined in the order below--to proceed solely on the claims asserted under the federal Consumer Leasing Act and for declaratory relief in the third amended complaint.

         3. Discovery

         Now that the Court has certified a class with respect to the federal Consumer Leasing Act claim, State Road's relevance objection ...


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