Rule 3.771(b) of the California Rules of Court reads as follows: “Notice of the judgment must be given to the class in the manner specified by the court.” So what does this mean? Well, evidently the judges in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Civil Central West Division believe it means that the class must be notified of the entry of judgment. Recently, while appearing in front of Jane Johnson, the court admonished our firm for not complying with said section. The court indicated that the plaintiffs' bar has not been diligent in complying with this Rule and that we should “spread the word.”
Entry of Judgement
The implications of this interpretation of Rule 3.771(b) for practitioners are potentially very costly. What can practitioners do to protect themselves? In a garden-variety, all-cash deal case, a sentence informing the class of the entry of judgment may be inserted into the transmittal letter that accompanies a check to class members. However, in a claims-made settlement, as in our case, where only a small portion of the class will receive a check, another mailing to the remainder of the class – informing the class members that they will not be receiving any money, but that their rights have now been extinguished – would ostensibly be required. This could be very expensive and perhaps not in the claims administrator's original budget. One solution the court recommended would be to establish a website whereon notices to the class could be posted. Thus, if the class was informed in the original notice by mail of such a website and that periodic notices would be posted to update the class on any developments in the case, then a formal, mailed notice at the conclusion of the case would not be required. This issue could prove to be especially important in classes of tens of thousands, or more, where response rates are very low.
The key is to be aware of the rule and plan for notice to the class to eliminate any potential problems.
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