On December 31, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in dismissing a class action appeal as moot, ruled that the putative class representative had not retained a personal stake in the class certification motion after voluntarily settling his individual claims.
In Campion v. Old Republic Protection Company, Inc., the plaintiff had filed a putative class action alleging a variety of causes of action, including violation of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act (“CCLRA”) and California Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”). The trial court ultimately denied the plaintiff’s motion to certify a class and later granted the defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment on the CCLRA claims. The plaintiff appealed those orders. Before the appeal was decided, the parties reached a settlement agreement that provided for the dismissal of the plaintiff’s individual claims in exchange for payment of their full amount. The parties also agreed to dismiss without prejudice any class claims under the UCL; however, the plaintiff reserved his rights in the appeal that had already been filed.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit dismissed the case as moot because the plaintiff had no “financial interest” in class certification and, therefore, lacked a personal stake because he had voluntarily settled his individual claims. The appellate court ruled that this personal-stake inquiry “turn[ed] on the language of the settlement agreement.”
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that he had retained a personal stake in the class certification motion as a private attorney general. The court found that he had completely dismissed all of his individual claims in their entirety and had no potential for monetary gain in pursuing the appeal. “The papers and oral argument make it clear that, no matter what happens on appeal, Campion would not get a penny more,” the opinion stated. The court distinguished cases in which: (a) the plaintiff was to receive an award enhancement fee were he to win the appeal; (b) the plaintiff had not settled the amount of her attorney’s fee award and had won a remand on appeal; and (c) a private attorney general-interest had been accepted, yet the plaintiff’s individual claims had expired involuntarily.
The court added: “But when the plaintiff voluntarily settles his or her individual claims, we have found no case that has held that the ‘private attorney general’ interest suffices; all cases look to whether the plaintiff has the requisite financial, or otherwise personal, stake in the outcome of the class claims.”