Missouri Class Action Law
The Missouri Supreme Court in State ex rel. McKeage v. Cordonnier, SC91658, 2012 WL 135393 (Mo. Jan. 17, 2012) recently ruled with regard to a nationwide class action filed against Bass Pro for improper document preparation fees.
Facts of the Case
The Plaintiffs were purchasers of boats and boat trailers form Bass Pro. They were required to pay a $75.00 document preparation fee. Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the fee and to rescind the sale. Plaintiffs sought class certification of a class of both Missouri and out-of-state class members for recovery of document preparation fees.
Class Action Legal Analysis
The circuit court classified a putative class limited to class members located within Missouri. The Plaintiff appeal the class definition which was reviewed by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Missouri law for class certification requires: (1) the class be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) questions of law or fact common to the class exist; (3) the claims of the representative parties are typical of the claims of the class; and (4) the representative parties will protect fairly and adequately the interests of the class. Rule 52.08(a); State ex rel. American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Clark, 106 S.W.3d 483, 486 (Mo. banc 2003).
Bass Pro argues that a nationwide class is not proper because there are not common issues that predominate because a putative class should not include persons who did not enter the purchase agreement in Missouri and would require the court to apply the law of many different states.
The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed and stated that the predominance requirement does not require every issue to be identical and there may be individual determinations relative to damages. The Court noted that all of the purchase agreements were drafted by Bass Pro and required that claims be litigated in Missouri and under Missouri law. The contract included a choice of law provision and therefore there was no need to engage in a state by state legal analysis.
The Missouri Supreme Court noted that the trial court was not correct in limiting the putative class to Missouri and changed the class definition to a nationwide class. The class was established by the Missouri Supreme Court as a nationwide class of persons who were charged a document preparation fee by Bass Pro and the contract included a Missouri choice of law provision.