CIVIL PROCEDURE: CLASS ACTIONS: CERTIFICATION: TORTS: TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH DEAD BODIES: INTENTIONAL OR RECKLESS INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS: GROSS NEGLIGENCE: INJUNCTIVE RELIEF: ERROR TO ADOPT PROCEDURE FOR DETERMINING CLASS MEMBERSHIP THAT WOULD IN EFFECT GRANT THE PLAINTIFFS’ CLAIM FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF: CLAIM FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF BARRED BY RES JUDICATA BASED UPON PRIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION BY DEPARTMENT OF BANKING AND FINANCE: CLAIMS FOR MONETARY RELIEF WERE NOT SUITABLE FOR DETERMINATION BY CLASS ACTION BECAUSE OF THE INDIVIDUALIZED NATURE OF THE CLAIMS

Alderwoods Group, Inc. v. Garcia, ___ So. 3d ___, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1646 (Fla. 3d DCA July 31, 2013)

Three plaintiffs brought a class action against the owner of cemetery because the cemetery was unable to locate the burial plots of the plaintiffs’ family members.  The plaintiff’s sued for tortious interference with dead bodies, intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and injunctive relief.  The trial court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, but the appellate court reversed.  (1) The trial court abused its discretion by adopting a procedure to determine membership in the class that essentially granted, and in effect entered a direct verdict on, the plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief.  “Such a course of action would impose a de facto punishment on [the defendant] before any determination of liability.” (2) The plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief was barred by the doctrine of res judicata because the plaintiffs were attempting to relitigate an administrative action brought by the Department of Banking and Finance under the Cemetery Act to promote the public welfare. (3) The claims for monetary relief were not suitable for class action treatment because they involved highly individualized inquiries, such as whether the defendant (a) caused a particular plaintiff to suffer severe emotional distress, (b) interfered with each body in a particular section of the cemetery, or (3) “acted willfully or with malicious intent toward the entire putative class.”