District Court Independently Analyzes Class Action Certification Requirements of ERISA Class Action Complaint, despite Lack of Defense Objection to Class Action Treatment, and Concludes Class Action Certification Warranted Texas Federal Court Holds
Plaintiffs, retirees of BellSouth Corporation, a subsidiary of AT & T, filed a class action against AT&T and BellSouth alleging violations of the he Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA); specifically, the class action complaint alleged “that (1) a benefit known as telephone concession, which was provided to certain employees of BellSouth after retirement, constitutes a defined benefit pension plan under ERISA (hereinafter, ‘plan claims’); and (2) that Defendants violated ERISA in administering and maintaining the telephone concession plan (hereinafter, ‘benefit claims’).” Boos v. AT&T, Inc., 252 F.R.D. 319, 321 (W.D. Tex. 2008). Plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a motion with the district court to certify the litigation as a class action. Id. Defense attorneys did not oppose plaintiffs’ motion for class action treatment; nonetheless, the district court conducted a thorough analysis of the propriety of class action certification under Rule 23 because Rule 23(c)(1)(A) requires that the district court “determine by order whether to certify the action as a class action.” Id. The federal court further observed at page 321 that “[t]he Fifth Circuit has also held that in order to certify a class, a district court must specifically find that the proposed class satisfies the requirements of Rule 23.” (citing Vizena v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 360 F.3d 496, 503 (5th Cir. 2004)). Based on its detailed analysis, see id., at 321-26, the district court concluded that the requirements for class action certification had been satisfied and therefore granted plaintiffs’ motion. Id., at 326-27.
NOTE: We discuss this case only to make the point that Rule 23 requires a district court to independently determine whether class action treatment is warranted, whether the defendant objects or whether the parties stipulate to class action certification as part of a settlement agreement.