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In the litigation world, few words trigger more attention and more debate than the term "class action." At the term's first appearance, the playing field is set. Plaintiffs urge that class actions are a necessary vehicle to litigate paltry and duplicitous claims otherwise inconvenient or uneconomical to prosecute. In response, defendants argue class actions constitute an abuse complicated by individuality and unmanageability. Rarely do the parties agree to the utility of class actions. Notwithstanding this classic disagreement, this type of litigation serves a useful purpose, filling a vacuum left otherwise empty when legislatures fail to legislate and attorneys general fail to prosecute matters that adversely affect certain segments of our society.

Georgia's class action statute ("Georgia Rule 23"), is loosely modeled on rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 23"). Because there are so few definitive Georgia decisions interpreting Georgia Rule 23, Georgia courts historically rely upon federal decisional law for guidance. By virtue of this and through judicial fiat, the Georgia Supreme Court authorizes class actions in addition to the provisions of Georgia Rule 23 when there are common questions of law or fact involved and a common relief is sought. Still, there exists significant procedural differences between the state statute and its federal counterpart. How then will recent developments in federal class action jurisprudence play out in class actions brought in the Georgia courts?

Regardless of the advocacy, it is well established that the discretion of the trial judge in certifying or refusing to certify a class action is respected in all cases in which discretion is not abused. Like all jurisdictions, Georgia courts bear out the definitive ruling that class certification is strictly a procedural matter; the decision is not based on whether the complaint states a cause of action or whether the plaintiffs may ultimately prevail on the merits. The proper focus is whether numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy of representation are satisfied.

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