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Dallas�The Texas Supreme Court recently derailed a nationwide class action against a computer manufacturer for an alleged defective part, reversing a Texas appeals court decision that had affirmed certification of the class. Lead counsel for the computer company, David Beck of Houston’s Beck, Redden & Secrest, said the Supreme Court’s 8-0 decision in Compaq Computer Corp. v. Lapray, will make it more difficult to certify a class in most cases. Alistair Dawson, one of Beck’s partners and another attorney representing Compaq in the interlocutory appeal, said litigants have been using Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b)(2) to file class actions to get around the requirements under Rule 42(b)(3). For example, (b)(3) requires that individual notice be provided to class members, but (b)(2) does not. A member of a (b)(3) class also is entitled to opt out of a suit to pursue an individual action against a defendant. “It really plugs the (b)(2) loophole,” Beck said of the high court’s decision. Although the Texas Supreme Court’s May 7 decision blocks a nationwide class action in Compaq, attorneys for the class aren’t throwing in the towel and say a statewide class action is still possible. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the 60 th District Court in Beaumont, Texas, where the plaintiffs filed the suit against Compaq in 2000. [See related column, Page 13.] Class counsel Gary Reger of Beaumont’s Orgain, Bell & Tucker said that the “defense bar had hoped this case would kill all class actions. The Supreme Court did the opposite and made it possible for consumers to protect themselves.” Former Texas Tech University School of Law Dean Frank Newton, of counsel for the class, said the Supreme Court in Compaq “gave a clear and detailed map for harmed customers to follow.” Newton, now president of the Beaumont Foundation of America, said some companies have contended that they should get a free pass in a “negative-value” case such as Compaq�a case in which each plaintiff’s claim against a defendant is so small that it would not be feasible to be brought as an individual suit. “This case says [companies] can be held accountable-here’s the way,” Newton said. According to the Texas Supreme Court’s opinion, written by Justice Wallace Jefferson, the plaintiffs in Compaq claim that computer system delays can cause the floppy disk controllers to fail to identify that data has been written incorrectly to the floppy disk, resulting in the loss of some data. The plaintiffs allege that Compaq elected to sell the computers even though the company identified the problem as “a failure” of a “main feature,” Jefferson wrote.

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