On June 20, 2012, the Supreme Court of Ohio accepted an appeal from the Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County), which affirmed class certification on the basis of plaintiff’s allegations and “theory of the case.” Cullen v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., Case No. 2012-0535. http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/tempx/192032.pdf Acceptance of this appeal provides the Court with the opportunity to (1) clarify the requisite “rigorous analysis” of Rule 23 that it mandated over a decade ago in Hamilton v. Ohio Sav. Bank (1998), 82 Ohio St. 3d 67, 71, 694 N.E.2d 422, and (2) align Ohio law with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011).
As explained in State Farm’s memorandum in support of jurisdiction (p. 1), which was filed with the Supreme Court in March of this year, “Dukes calls into question the correctness of the many decisions by Ohio appellate courts that interpret this Court’s opinion in Ojalvo v. Board of Trustees, 12 Ohio St.3d 230, 466 N.E.2d 875 (1984).” In Dukes, the U.S. Supreme Court held that class certification “generally involves considerations that are enmeshed in the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff’s cause of action” and that plaintiffs “must affirmatively demonstrate” compliance with Rule 23. 131 S. Ct. at 2551 (emphasis added).
Ohio courts have long looked to federal authority when evaluating Rule 23. Yet, those same courts struggle with the application of Dukes and the depth to which judges may dive into the merits of a case at the class certification stage. Cullen may finally provide some definitive guidance, and, potentially, alter the landscape of class action litigation in Ohio.