In a precedential opinion in Neale v. Volvo Cars of North America, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that putative class members need not establish Article III standing, and emphasized that the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013) “was not breaking any new ground” because “the predominance analysis was specific to the antitrust claim at issue.”
The appeal concerned the District Court’s certification of six statewide classes of Volvo owners and lessees who alleged a design defect in their vehicles’ sunroof drainage systems. The Third Circuit first considered Volvo’s argument that all putative class members must have Article III standing. The Circuit Court recounted the long history of representative actions, dating back to medieval times, and concluded that “[r]equiring individual standing of all class members would eviscerate the representative nature of the class action.” The Third Circuit held that “a class action is permissible so long as at least one named plaintiff has standing.”
The Court observed that standing must be “satisfied by those who seek to invoke the power of federal courts” and that in the class action context the named plaintiffs fill that role. The Court further opined that requiring that absent class members possess standing would be “inconsistent with the nature of an action under Rule 23,” noting that all class members may not even be known until after discovery and that courts have long permitted individuals who suffered no legal injury to be members of Rule 23(b)(2) classes. Issues concerning whether and how absent class members have been injured should be addressed when deciding whether class certification is appropriate under Rule 23 and not as part of an Article III standing analysis.