The decision Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II in the Central District of California affirmed arguments made on behalf of Oklahoma-based Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores, Inc., that the plaintiff, Michael Azoiani, was not an adequate class representative and that the possible statutory recovery by the prospective class - as much as $4 billion - was so disproportionate to any alleged harm suffered that it raised due process concerns.
Mayer Brown lawyer John Nadolenco argued successfully against the motion to certify.
"This ruling gives companies a tool to defend themselves against lawyer-driven litigation where the potential exposure bears no relation to the alleged amount of harm," Nadolenco said.
In 2003, Congress passed 15 U.S.C. ?1681c(g), a provision of FACTA, as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Designed to help protect consumers against identity theft, the provision states that credit and debit card receipts that are provided to cardholders may not include more than the last five digits of the card number or the expiration date. The law has led to more than 300 class-action lawsuits across the United States since becoming effective in December 2006.
In ruling that Azoiani was not an adequate class representative, Judge Wright invoked deposition testimony that established that Azoiani had very little knowledge about the case and that "all he had done is travel 140 miles to fetch a Love's receipt in order to give it to his attorney.''
The judge also sided with Mayer Brown arguments that class certification was not superior given the potential damages certification may have triggered. " . The statutory recovery of $100 to $1,000 per violation would result in a class recovery between $423 million and $4 billion against Love's,'' the judge wrote, adding that those damages were an "undesirable result'' without proof of actual harm.
In addition, Judge Wright noted evidence that lawyers for Azoiani are pursuing a large number of FACTA cases in the Central District and that all of them sought to certify a class. The judge wrote that "the potential for attorney abuse of the class action mechanism provides yet another reason for denying certification.''
The case is Michael Azoiani vs. Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores, Inc., Case No. EDCV 07-90 ODW (OPx).