In Alberghetti v. Corbis Corp., District Court denies certification, but not for the usual reasons

In Alberghetti v. Corbis Corp., 263 F.R.D. 571 (C.D. Cal Jan. 13, 2010), Judge Stephen V. Wilson denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification.  A denial of class certification is not an unusual event.  But, in this case, certification was denied even though the Court found that the plaintiffs satisfied the "commonality," "typicality," and "numerosity" requisites of Rule 23.

In Alberghetti, artists and entertainers filed suit against a photo-licensing company, alleging that it misappropriated plaintiffs' statutory and common law rights of publicity by using plaintiffs' names, images, and likenesses without plaintiffs' consent.  Citing Valentino v. Carter-Wallace, Inc., 97 F.3d 1227 (9th Cir.1996), the Court first concluded that a majority of the class members could not be identified and would have no knowledge that their likenesses had been misappropriated or that their rights would be determined by the action.  The Court concluded that the plaintiffs had not adequately addressed that due process concern.

Second, the Court found fatal conflicts between the plaintiffs themselves and between plaintiffs and their counsel.  "Plaintiffs disagree as to whether injunctive relief is appropriate: one named Plaintiff wants to enjoin all of Defendant's uses of her image; the other named Plaintiff seems to recognize that media-related uses may be beneficial."  Alberghetti, at 577.  The Court also noted a very unusual rift between the plalintiffs and their attorneys: "In the present case, the individual Plaintiffs and their lawyer are all in conflict over whether to seek injunctive relief and how to define the scope of injunctive relief."  Id., at 578.  The plaintiffs and their counsel even disagreed as to who should be included in the class.

Not the usual reasons one sees for a denial of class certification.  It is an interesting opinion for that reason alone.