The Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that, under the Proposition 64 revisions to the Unfair Competition Law [UCL] (Business & Professions Code § 17203), a representative claim must be brought as a class action because the UCL now requires compliance with the class action provisions of Code of Civil Procedure § 382; however, the Private Attorneys General Act [PAGA] expressly allows a person to prosecute a representative claim without requiring that it be brought as a class action. In Arias v. The Superior Court of San Joaquin County (Angelo Dairy) (2007) __ Cal.App.4th __, plaintiff brought an action for overtime wages, and meal and rest period claims on behalf of a group of dairy workers. He did not style the complaint as a class action, but alleged claims under the UCLA and PAGA.
As to the UCL claim, Arias argued that the plain language of Proposition 64 is clear and unambiguous, and that it contains no requirement that a representative suit be brought as a class action. The court disagreed, holding that
although Proposition 64 does not on its face require a representative claim to be pled as a class action, it requires that the claim comply with section 382, which is commonly understood to authorize class actions. The requirement that a representative claim comply with section 382 makes plain that a representative UCL claim must be pursued as a class action. To the extent that Proposition 64 presents any ambiguity, we resolve it by the indicia of the voters’ intent. That intent, as set forth in the official ballot pamphlet, was that representative claims under the UCL be brought as class actions.
Thus, the court upheld the trial court's order granting a motion to strike the UCL claims. However, with respect to the PAGA claim, Arias's writ petition was granted. The court held that, unlike the UCL,
the Labor Code statute authorizing a private enforcement action is an exception to the class action requirement.
So, one must allege class allegations to bring a representative claim under the UCL, but need not do so under the PAGA. Both issues are of potential interest to the Supreme Court, so we'll be watching to see if this one gets review, and if so, as to what issues. The full text of Arias can be found at the court's opinion pages, in pdf or word format.