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Copyright (c) 1985 California Law Review
California Law Review

COMMENT: Jurisdiction over Unnamed Plaintiffs in Multistate Class Actions.


73 Calif. L. Rev. 181


Barbara A. Winters *


Plaintiff class actions permit adjudication of multiple claims in a single suit while requiring the presence and active involvement of only an adequate class representative. A valid judgment binds unnamed class members, barring them from bringing individual actions on the same claim. 1 This rule is subject to a possible constraint: it is a basic principle of adjudication that a judgment cannot bind a party over whom the court lacked jurisdiction. 2

According to the traditional model of jurisdiction, a court cannot bind parties unless they have minimum contacts with the forum or have waived objection to jurisdiction. 3 Courts 4 and commentators 5 applying this model have concluded that the "contactless" plaintiff class members sometimes involved in multistate class actions cannot be bound unless they choose to be included in the suit.

In contrast, certain courts 6 and commentators 7 recently have argued that the traditional model is inapplicable to class actions. They have expressed this view in various ways. In its strongest form, their claim is that courts can bind absent class members without having jurisdiction over them. 8 This version advocates an exception to the basic rule that jurisdiction is a prerequisite for a judgment to have binding effect. The slightly less controversial variant recognizes that jurisdiction is required but contends that the traditional conditions for jurisdiction need not be satisfied in the class action context. 9 Whichever conceptualization of this approach is adopted, the consequence is the same: courts can bind contactless ...
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