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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On Jan. 23, 2003, Velma Barrera purchased a radar detector from Best Buy for $199.99 plus tax. Barrera was given a receipt for the purchase which contained a statement notifying her that “[a] 15% restocking fee will be charged on returns or exchanges of any opened: notebook computer, camcorder, digital camera or radar detector, unless defective.” The same notice was posted in the store. Two days after her purchase, Barrera returned the detector. Best Buy accepted the return and issued Barrera a receipt, which she signed. The return receipt reflected the restocking charge and bore the same restocking-fee notice that appeared on her original purchase receipt. The receipt also stated that Barrera had “read and agreed to all return and refund policies printed on the back of this receipt and posted in the store,” although Barrera denied reading the receipt. Best Buy subsequently refunded Barrera the purchase price less a $30 restocking fee. Barrera brought a class-action suit against Best Buy Co. Inc. and Best Buy Stores LP (Best Buy) alleging a cause of action for “money had and received/unjust enrichment” and seeking return of the restocking fee. After a hearing, the trial court certified the following class: “All Texas residents who were charged a 15% Restocking Fee when they returned or exchanged an opened notebook computer, camcorder, digital camera or radar detector.” The 13th Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s certification order. HOLDING:The court decertified the class and remanded the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with its opinion. Barrera, the court stated, disavowed an unjust-enrichment theory of recovery and relied solely upon her claim for “money had and received” to support class certification. Best Buy contended that resolution of an equitable claim for “money had and received” would inevitably turn on individual issues that would predominate at trial, and, therefore, under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b)(3) class certification was inappropriate. Barrera responded that common issues would predominate, because the 15 percent restocking fee was a uniform, automatic, mandatory fee that was charged in the exact same way to each member of the class, regardless of his or her individual circumstances. According to Barrera, class certification was appropriate, because the only issue to be decided is whether the 15 percent restocking fee “in equity and good conscience” belonged to the class members, and Best Buy’s liability will turn exclusively on the answer to that question. Following its reasoning in the 2007 decision Stonebridge Life Insurance Co. v. Pitts, the Texas Supreme Court agreed with Best Buy. A claim for “money had and received,” the court stated, is equitable in nature. In defending against such a claim, a defendant may present any facts and raise any defenses that would deny the claimant’s right or show that the claimant should not recover. In Stonebridge, which also involved certification of a “money-had-and-received” class, the court stated that it examined the evidence that would be relevant to determining “equity and good conscience” in the context of a uniform, allegedly misleading, telemarketing “scheme.” Factors relevant to that assessment, the Stonebridge court stated, included individual class members’ knowledge that they were being charged, their desire for the product irrespective of how the charge was made and whether individual class members knowingly consented to the charge. Because the class representatives failed to prove at the outset that individual issues could be considered in a fair, manageable and time-efficient manner on a class-wide basis, the court held that the predominance requirement had not been met. Like the defendant in Stonebridge, Best Buy sought an individualized inquiry into each class member’s actual knowledge regarding the restocking fee. Specifically, Best Buy claimed the notice of the restocking charge that appeared on customer receipts and the posting of signs announcing the restocking policy demonstrate that at least some class members were aware of the restocking policy and voluntarily agreed to it. Best Buy also asserted that, inevitably, some customers purchased merchandise with the intention of returning it after use, presenting an equitable “unclean hands” defense with respect to some class members. The court recognized that the claim Barrera asserted involved issues that are common to the class; presumably, the restocking fee was uniformly calculated and applied when consumers returned the specified items. But just as in Stonebridge, there are “inescapably individual differences between each class member’s experience . . . that could determine in whose favor the equities weigh in resolving their claims.” Thus, the court concluded that Barrera failed to prove at the outset that individual issues governing a class claim for “money had and received” could be considered in a fair, manageable and time-efficient manner on a class-wide basis and thus failed to satisfy Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. OPINION:Per curiam.

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