Consumer Class Action Blog

News, analysis and commentary on state and federal consumer class action litigation

Plaintiff May Use Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Class-Wide Reliance

Posted by Philip Kay on February 20, 2010

Good news for plaintiffs in Colorado.  A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals held that in class actions premised on misrepresentation or fraud, the named plaintiff may demonstrate ignorance or reliance (and thus causation) on a class-wide basis using circumstantial evidence that is common to the class, and need not present direct individualized evidence of each class member’s reliance.  In Patterson v. BP American Production Co., 2010 WL 547644 (Colo.App., Feb. 18, 2010), the court rejected the defendant’s argument that each class member must present direct individualized evidence of actual reliance and thus individual questions predominate over questions of law or fact common to the class.  The court’s holding clarifies the recent decision in Garcia v. Medved Chevrolet, Inc., 2009 WL 3765481 (Colo.App.2009), which declined to allow a class-wide presumption of reliance in misrepresentation cases involving face-to-face negotiations between the proposed class members and the defendant.   The Garcia court held that in such cases, individual questions regarding each class member’s reliance predominated over common questions.  While the Patterson court did not go so far as to permit a presumption of reliance, it did somewhat limit Garcia’s predominance analysis to cases in which the proposed class members engaged in individual negotiations with the defendant.  The Patterson court made clear that in misrepresentation or fraud cases where the class members had little or no personal interaction with the defendant, direct evidence of class member reliance is not required and such reliance may be proved on a class-wide basis by circumstantial evidence.


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