WALSH v. NATIONAL SAFETY ASSOCIATES

SC 15596

241 Conn. 278 (1997) | Cited 3 times | Supreme Court of Connecticut | June 3, 1997

Opinion

The issues presented by this appeal are: (1)whether the trial court properly granted the plaintiff's motionfor class action certification, where the defendant argues thatthe plaintiff failed to meet the requirements of Practice Book §§87 and 881 by establishing that (a) the class is so numerousthat joinder of all members is impracticable, (b) there are questionsof law or fact common to the class, (c) the claims of therepresentative parties are typical of the claims of the class, (d)the representative parties will adequately and fairly protect theinterests of the class, (e) the questions of law or fact common tothe members of the class predominate over any questions affectingonly individual members, and (f) a class action is superior to theother available methods for the fair and

[241 Conn. 280]

     efficient adjudication of the controversy; and (2) whether the trialcourt properly defined the class of plaintiffs in this case, where thedefendant argues that the class is fatally flawed because it isindefinite and overbroad. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The plaintiff, Robert Walsh, initiated this action againstthe defendant, National Safety Associates, Inc., alleging unfairpractices in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade PracticesAct, General Statutes § 42-110a et seq.,2 and an illegalcontingent transaction in violation

[241 Conn. 281]

     of General Statutes § 42-144 et seq.3 The defendant is aTennessee corporation that manufactures air and water treatment devicesand markets them through a multilevel sales force of independentdistributors and dealers. The plaintiff became a dealer of thedefendant's product after responding to a newspaper advertisement andattending a recruitment meeting. In his complaint, the plaintiff allegesthat, as a result of the defendant's unfair and deceptive tradepractices and illegal pyramid scheme, he lost his investment, wasnot paid for his labor, lost the opportunity to seek otheremployment and suffered humiliation, degradation and emotionaldistress. Thereafter, pursuant to Practice Book §§ 87 and 88, thetrial court granted the plaintiff's motion for classcertification, concluding that the plaintiff had satisfied therequirements for a class action. This appeal ensued.4

[241 Conn. 282]

Our careful examination of the record on this appeal, and thebriefs and arguments of the parties, persuades us that thejudgment of the trial court should be affirmed. The issuespertaining to whether the class should be certified were properlyresolved in the thoughtful and comprehensive memorandum ofdecision filed by the trial court. Walsh v. National SafetyAssociates, Inc., 44 Conn. Sup. 569, 695 A.2d 1095 (1997). Becausethat memorandum of decision fully addresses the arguments raisedin the present appeal, we adopt the trial court's well reasoneddecision. It would serve no useful purpose for us to repeat thediscussion therein contained. See Molnar v. Administrator,Unemployment Compensation Act, 239 Conn. 233, 235, 685 A.2d 1107(1996); Greater Bridgeport Transit District v. State Board ofLabor Relations, 232 Conn. 57, 64, 653 A.2d 151 (1995); AdvancedBusiness Systems, Inc. v. Crystal, 231 Conn. 378, 380-81,650 A.2d 540 (1994).

The judgment is affirmed.

1. Practice Book § 87 provides: "One or more members of aclass may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf ofall only if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of allmembers is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or factcommon to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of therepresentative parties are typical of the claims or defenses ofthe class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly andadequately protect the interests of the class." Practice Book § 88 provides: "An action may be maintained asa class action if the prerequisites of Sec. 87 are satisfied andthe court finds that the questions of law or fact common to themembers of the class predominate over any questions affecting onlyindividual members and that a class action is superior to otheravailable methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of thecontroversy."

2. General Statutes § 42-110b provides in pertinent part:"Unfair trade practices prohibited. . . . (a) No person shallengage in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptiveacts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. . . ." General Statutes § 42-110g provides in pertinent part:"Action for damages. Class actions. Costs and fees. Equitablerelief. Jury Trial. (a) Any person who suffers any ascertainableloss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of theuse or employment of a method, act or practice prohibited bysection 42-110b, may bring an action in the judicial district inwhich the plaintiff or defendant resides or has his principalplace of business or is doing business, to recover actual damages.Proof of public interest or public injury shall not be required inany action brought under this section. The court may, in itsdiscretion, award punitive damages and may provide such equitablerelief as it deems necessary or proper. "(b) Persons entitled to bring an action under subsection(a) of this section may, pursuant to rules established by thejudges of the Superior Court, bring a class action on behalf ofthemselves and other persons similarly situated who are residentsof this state or injured in this state to recover damages. "(c) Upon commencement of any action brought undersubsection (a) of this section, the plaintiff shall mail a copy ofthe complaint to the Attorney General and the Commissioner ofConsumer Protection and, upon entry of any judgment or decree inthe action, shall mail a copy of such judgment or decree to theAttorney General and the Commissioner of Consumer Protection. "(d) In any action brought by a person under this section,the court may award, to the plaintiff, in addition to the reliefprovided in this section, costs and reasonable attorneys' feesbased on the work reasonably performed by an attorney and not onthe amount of recovery. In a class action in which there is nomonetary recovery, but other relief is granted on behalf of aclass, the court may award, to the plaintiff, in addition to otherrelief provided in this section, costs and reasonable attorneys'fees. In any action brought under this section, the court may, inits discretion, order, in addition to damages or in lieu ofdamages, injunctive or other equitable relief. . . . "(f) An action under this section may not be brought morethan three years after the occurrence of a violation of thischapter. . . ."

3. General Statutes § 42-145 provides: "Contingentconsideration void. The advertisement for sale, lease or rent, orthe actual sale, lease or rental of any merchandise, service orrights or privileges at a price or with a rebate or payment orother consideration to the purchaser which is contingent upon theprocurement of prospective customers procured by the purchaser, orthe procurement of sales, leases or rentals of merchandise,services, rights or privileges, to other persons procured by thepurchaser, is declared to be an unlawful practice rendering anyobligation incurred by the buyer in connection therewith,completely void and a nullity. The rights and obligations of anycontract relating to such contingent price, rebate or paymentshall be interdependent and inseverable from the rights andobligations relating to the sale, lease or rental."

4. The defendant appealed from the judgment of the trial courtto the Appellate Court, and we transferred the appeal to thiscourt pursuant to Practice Book § 4023 and General Statutes §51-199(c). The defendant appealed the class certification under theprovisions of General Statutes § 42-110h, which provides: "Classactions. As soon as practicable after the commencement of anaction brought as a class action, the

Opinion

The issues presented by this appeal are: (1)whether the trial court properly granted the plaintiff's motionfor class action certification, where the defendant argues thatthe plaintiff failed to meet the requirements of Practice Book §§87 and 881 by establishing that (a) the class is so numerousthat joinder of all members is impracticable, (b) there are questionsof law or fact common to the class, (c) the claims of therepresentative parties are typical of the claims of the class, (d)the representative parties will adequately and fairly protect theinterests of the class, (e) the questions of law or fact common tothe members of the class predominate over any questions affectingonly individual members, and (f) a class action is superior to theother available methods for the fair and

[241 Conn. 280]

     efficient adjudication of the controversy; and (2) whether the trialcourt properly defined the class of plaintiffs in this case, where thedefendant argues that the class is fatally flawed because it isindefinite and overbroad. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The plaintiff, Robert Walsh, initiated this action againstthe defendant, National Safety Associates, Inc., alleging unfairpractices in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade PracticesAct, General Statutes § 42-110a et seq.,2 and an illegalcontingent transaction in violation

[241 Conn. 281]

     of General Statutes § 42-144 et seq.3 The defendant is aTennessee corporation that manufactures air and water treatment devicesand markets them through a multilevel sales force of independentdistributors and dealers. The plaintiff became a dealer of thedefendant's product after responding to a newspaper advertisement andattending a recruitment meeting. In his complaint, the plaintiff allegesthat, as a result of the defendant's unfair and deceptive tradepractices and illegal pyramid scheme, he lost his investment, wasnot paid for his labor, lost the opportunity to seek otheremployment and suffered humiliation, degradation and emotionaldistress. Thereafter, pursuant to Practice Book §§ 87 and 88, thetrial court granted the plaintiff's motion for classcertification, concluding that the plaintiff had satisfied therequirements for a class action. This appeal ensued.4

[241 Conn. 282]

Our careful examination of the record on this appeal, and thebriefs and arguments of the parties, persuades us that thejudgment of the trial court should be affirmed. The issuespertaining to whether the class should be certified were properlyresolved in the thoughtful and comprehensive memorandum ofdecision filed by the trial court. Walsh v. National SafetyAssociates, Inc., 44 Conn. Sup. 569, 695 A.2d 1095 (1997). Becausethat memorandum of decision fully addresses the arguments raisedin the present appeal, we adopt the trial court's well reasoneddecision. It would serve no useful purpose for us to repeat thediscussion therein contained. See Molnar v. Administrator,Unemployment Compensation Act, 239 Conn. 233, 235, 685 A.2d 1107(1996); Greater Bridgeport Transit District v. State Board ofLabor Relations, 232 Conn. 57, 64, 653 A.2d 151 (1995); AdvancedBusiness Systems, Inc. v. Crystal, 231 Conn. 378, 380-81,650 A.2d 540 (1994).

The judgment is affirmed.

1. Practice Book § 87 provides: "One or more members of aclass may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf ofall only if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of allmembers is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or factcommon to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of therepresentative parties are typical of the claims or defenses ofthe class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly andadequately protect the interests of the class." Practice Book § 88 provides: "An action may be maintained asa class action if the prerequisites of Sec. 87 are satisfied andthe court finds that the questions of law or fact common to themembers of the class predominate over any questions affecting onlyindividual members and that a class action is superior to otheravailable methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of thecontroversy."

2. General Statutes § 42-110b provides in pertinent part:"Unfair trade practices prohibited. . . . (a) No person shallengage in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptiveacts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. . . ." General Statutes § 42-110g provides in pertinent part:"Action for damages. Class actions. Costs and fees. Equitablerelief. Jury Trial. (a) Any person who suffers any ascertainableloss of money or property, real or personal, as a result of theuse or employment of a method, act or practice prohibited bysection 42-110b, may bring an action in the judicial district inwhich the plaintiff or defendant resides or has his principalplace of business or is doing business, to recover actual damages.Proof of public interest or public injury shall not be required inany action brought under this section. The court may, in itsdiscretion, award punitive damages and may provide such equitablerelief as it deems necessary or proper. "(b) Persons entitled to bring an action under subsection(a) of this section may, pursuant to rules established by thejudges of the Superior Court, bring a class action on behalf ofthemselves and other persons similarly situated who are residentsof this state or injured in this state to recover damages. "(c) Upon commencement of any action brought undersubsection (a) of this section, the plaintiff shall mail a copy ofthe complaint to the Attorney General and the Commissioner ofConsumer Protection and, upon entry of any judgment or decree inthe action, shall mail a copy of such judgment or decree to theAttorney General and the Commissioner of Consumer Protection. "(d) In any action brought by a person under this section,the court may award, to the plaintiff, in addition to the reliefprovided in this section, costs and reasonable attorneys' feesbased on the work reasonably performed by an attorney and not onthe amount of recovery. In a class action in which there is nomonetary recovery, but other relief is granted on behalf of aclass, the court may award, to the plaintiff, in addition to otherrelief provided in this section, costs and reasonable attorneys'fees. In any action brought under this section, the court may, inits discretion, order, in addition to damages or in lieu ofdamages, injunctive or other equitable relief. . . . "(f) An action under this section may not be brought morethan three years after the occurrence of a violation of thischapter. . . ."

3. General Statutes § 42-145 provides: "Contingentconsideration void. The advertisement for sale, lease or rent, orthe actual sale, lease or rental of any merchandise, service orrights or privileges at a price or with a rebate or payment orother consideration to the purchaser which is contingent upon theprocurement of prospective customers procured by the purchaser, orthe procurement of sales, leases or rentals of merchandise,services, rights or privileges, to other persons procured by thepurchaser, is declared to be an unlawful practice rendering anyobligation incurred by the buyer in connection therewith,completely void and a nullity. The rights and obligations of anycontract relating to such contingent price, rebate or paymentshall be interdependent and inseverable from the rights andobligations relating to the sale, lease or rental."

4. The defendant appealed from the judgment of the trial courtto the Appellate Court, and we transferred the appeal to thiscourt pursuant to Practice Book § 4023 and General Statutes §51-199(c). The defendant appealed the class certification under theprovisions of General Statutes § 42-110h, which provides: "Classactions. As soon as practicable after the commencement of anaction brought as a class action, the

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