St. Mary's Law Journal


Historically, Texas plaintiffs enjoyed tremendous flexibility in gaining certification for class action lawsuits because of a liberal approach employed by Texas trial courts. Because certification assignment occurred early in the judicial proceedings, Texas case law encouraged trial courts to grant certification of a class. Putative classes chose to seek relief in state court because of the state’s lax view regarding class actions, particularly when compared to federal courts. Concerns arose throughout Texas about the growing liberal methodology courts used to evaluate putative classes during certification. Federal influence, state lobbies, and legislative pressure led the Texas judiciary, through application of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, to render a dramatic shift in class action methodology. This came by way of a trio of decisions herein referred collectively as the “Triad”: Southwestern Refining v. Bernal, Intratex Gas Co. v. Beeson, and Ford Motor Co. v. Sheldon. Proponents of the new approach to class certification claim this method will have a positive fiscal impact on Texas’s business climate. This Comment analyzes the new conservative approach towards class action certification established by the Texas Supreme Court. Part II examines Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 42 and considers judicial treatment of Rule 42 leading to the Supreme Court’s shift. Part III analyzes the Triad and discusses post-Triad case development. Part III also analyzes the future of Texas’s judicial climate regarding class certification. Part IV proposes potential modifications to the new certification formula created by recent Supreme Court case law. Part IV also suggests the Court’s new approach positively improves the health of Texas class action jurisprudence and effectively rejuvenates Texas business. Finally, Part V concludes previous judicial treatment of class actions created a bastion of judicial arbitrariness and potential indiscretion.


St. Mary's University School of Law