12/7/2013 11:43:00 AM
CASES & PROBLEMS
Salazar Construction Inc. (SCI) badly run company, generates remarkable level of ill
will among workers
Antonio Salazar (AS) founder of company 30 years ago, sold it many years ago,
bothers him that company has treated workers so poorly, decides enough is enough
AS wants to bring class action against SCI on behalf of current and former
employees: he believes there are 3 sets of claims:
one group underpaid for past decade;
second group former employees forced into early retirement due to injuries suffered
third group are a few female secretaries, 3 or 4, who have been subject of sexual
Question: Is AS entitled to bring class action against SCI on those bases? What benefits
do class action proceedings generally create?
1. The concept of a class action exists to a multitude of similar claims to be resolved
in a single set of proceedings.
The benefits are largely those of expediency and expense. To the extent that many
people are pursuing similar claims against the same defendant, it makes sense to save
time and money by bringing the actions together into a single case.
Class actions also serve the interest of access to justice. Without the possibility of a
class action, individuals who personally have little to gain—but cumulatively hold
rights of considerable value—are unlikely to vindicate their claims.
By banding together, however, it becomes feasible for the individuals members of the
class to receive the redress that they deserve.
The corollary of that proposition is equally important. To the extent that individual
claimants are economically dissuaded from suing, a wrongdoer is able to escape
In the absence of class action proceedings, a wrongdoer is likely to escape liability,
despite injuring many people, as long as the individual claims are of relatively little
value. By changing the economics of the situation, class action proceedings consequently
serve the societal interest in imposing responsibility for those who wrongfully injure.
Against that backdrop, it may seem that Antonio Salazar’s proposal makes sense. By
means of a class action, he could bring together three categories of employees who
otherwise might be unlikely to enforce their rights against SCI.
Salazar’s attempt to commence a class action nevertheless will fail. A court
undoubtedly would deny certification and thereby prevent him from proceeding. That
is true for several reasons.
Cause of Action
Most significantly, Salazar himself has no interest in the litigation. A class action is
available only to someone who is among the class of individuals with a right to sue.
Salazar, however, has no cause of action against SCI.
Representative Plaintiff For the same reasons, Salazar obviously would not be
suitable as a representative plaintiff.
Common Issues A class action also presumes that the claims available to the various
members of the class contain common issues.
o A class action saves time and money because it allows a court, with a single
determination, to resolve an issue that otherwise would have to be decided
several times over. In this instance, however, it does not appear that there is
any single issue of fact or law that would have to be settled for each of the
o (It may be, however, that a much small class action would be appropriate for
the members of any given category of claimants—eg the employees who were
o For all of the preceding reasons, it would be preferable to use some other
procedure for resolving the various claims against SCI.
o The individual categories of claimants might support three different class
o Alternatively, each employee with a valid claim might individual sue the
. 12/7/2013 11:43:00 AM
Case and Problems
Glenn Brendel (GB)is classical musician who is now internationally famous; his
career began by recording piano pieces by Bach and Beethoven – recordings sat
unnoticed in basement of Vancouver studio where made for many years
Owner of studio, Trilby Svengali (TS) rediscovers recordings, realizes they have
value, releases them as CDs, and go to top of charts
GB upset that recordings released without his knowledge, not paid for them either; TS
responds that he signed contract in 1971 which she believes gives her ownership of
GB sues TS in Federal Court for breach of copyright – at beginning of dispute GB
offers to settle h