Nothing in Common (Or Not Enough to Satisfy Rule 23’s Commonality Requirement)

April 25, 2018 - Sarah P. Spruill

In BLH v. SCDSS issued today, the Court of Appeals overturned a trial court order granting class certification in an action stemming from alleged breaches of adoption assistance subsidy agreements.

As an initial matter, the Court allowed an interlocutory appeal in this case because it found the trial court’s order on class notice would result in irreparable harm if immediate review was not allowed because the notice might reveal children’s adoption status. “[T]his case involves the disclosure of personal and potentially sensitive information for which there would be no appellate remedy . . . likely to repair any damage done by an improper disclosure.” (quotation and citation omitted).

The Court then determined that the element of commonality had not been met and class certification was improper. The Court noted that there were more than “minor factual differences” between putative class members and that “[s]everal issues here will require individualized inquiry, such as whether each set of adoptive parents accepted or consented to the reduction in payments, exhausted any available administrative remedies, entered into renewal agreements, or at any pertinent time terminated their agreements.” Thus, it was not enough to establish commonality that the adoptive parents signed the same agreements and that they were paid on the same schedule. The Court further reiterated that failure to meet any of the requirements of Rule 23, SCRCP is fatal to class certification.

The full opinion can be found here

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