In Ramirez v. Balboa Thrift and Loan, Court of Appeal directs reconsideration of certification denial in UCL case

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The Rees-Levering Motor Vehicle Sales and Finance Act protects consumers involved in, you guessed it, motor vehicle sales and finance transactions.  In Ramirez v. Balboa Thrift and Loan (pub. Ord. April 12, 2013 and published April 22, 2013), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) concluded that the trial court's decision to deny class certification of Plaintiffs' UCL claim asserting violation of the Rees-Levering Act was predicated upon an erroneous legal analysis.

Ramirez financed a car, but didn't make many payments in a timely manner.  Ramirez then voluntarily surrendered the car.  Balboa sold the car and asserted a deficiency.  Ramirez then sued, contending that the NOI failed to comply with the Act.

On the legal issue, the Court said:

[A] seller cannot recover a deficiency unless the NOI specifically and timely notifies the buyer of the conditions precedent to loan reinstatement OR timely notifies the buyer that there is no right of reinstatement and provides a statement of reasons for this conclusion. Reading together sections 2983.2 and 2983.3, a seller/holder who wishes to preserve its rights to claim a deficiency must determine within a 60-day period after repossession whether a buyer is entitled to a reinstatement, and then notify the buyer of this decision. Given the Legislature's manifest intent to set forth the exclusive process for creditors to obtain a deficiency balance after a vehicle repossession or surrender, there is no room for reading additional exceptions into the statutory scheme.

Slip op., at 18.  More interesting for class purposes, the Court also noted the following:

Equally important for class certification purposes, even assuming the statutory exception could be asserted after the statutory time period had expired, Balboa did not proffer any facts showing that any such exception would apply to any of the other class members. Instead, it merely stated that individual issues would predominate because it should be provided the right to "investigate" each class member to determine whether it could find any facts showing the applicability of any of the statutory exceptions. Without any foundational basis showing that such evidence could or would be discovered, this possibility does not raise a likelihood that individual issues would predominate over common issues in the litigation. (See Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 1025 [in deciding certification question court must examine the plaintiff's theory of recovery and "assess the nature of the legal and factual disputes likely to be presented," italics added].)

Slip op., at 20.  While plaintiffs often consider their obligations only at the time of certification, this is a reminder to examine the defendant's showing in opposition carefully; if the defendant failed to support a contention, point it out.