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Walker v. Wilderness Alternative School, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

April 5, 2019

JOHN WALKER, LISA WALKER, C.G., a minor child, ROY PROVOST, AMY PROVOST, and J.P. a minor child, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILDERNESS ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL, INC., a Montana Corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DONALD W. MOLLOY, DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiffs John Walker, Lisa Walker, and their minor son C.G. along with Roy Provost, Amy Provost, and their minor son J.P. (collectively "Plaintiffs") represent a putative class challenging the marketing practices of Defendant Wilderness Alternative School ("Wilderness"), a residential addiction treatment center in Marion, Montana. Pending before the Court are Wilderness's Motion to Deny Class Certification (Doc. 15) and Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification (Doc. 25). Argument was heard on April 5, 2019. For the following reasons, class certification is denied.

         Factual Background

         C.G. and J.P.'s parents sent them to the Wilderness Alternative School for treatment in April 2018. (Doc. 12 at 4-5.) John Walker claims he spoke with Wilderness employee Chase Sewall about concerns that C.G. would attempt to run away if sent to the program. (Doc. 1 at 7, ¶ 23.) According to Walker, Sewall responded that Wilderness was a suitable place for C.G. and that there was "nowhere to run." (Id.) Similarly, Roy and Amy Provost claim they spoke with Wilderness employee Ben Dorrington about concerns that J.P. was a flight risk. (Id. at 9, ¶ 29.) They claim Dorrington assured them that J.P. would be unable to escape. (Id. at 9, ¶ 30.) Both the Walkers and Provosts claim they relied on these assurances in deciding to send their sons to Wilderness. (Id. at 8-9, ¶¶ 24, 31.)

         C.G. arrived at Wilderness on April 13. (Doc. 12 at 4.) J.P. arrived on April 18. (Id. at 5.) On April 19, J.P. broke into multiple Wilderness buildings, apparently looking for cigarettes. (Id. at 4.) The next day, J.P. and another resident left Wilderness, purportedly by hitchhiking, and were later returned by police. (Doc. 1 at 9, ¶ 32; Doc. 13 at 7, ¶ 32.) On April 23, 2018, C.G. and J.P. left together in a truck owned by Wilderness. (Doc. 1 at 9-10, ¶ 34; Doc. 13 at 7, ¶ 34.) Plaintiffs claim Wilderness left the truck's keys unsecured, which allowed the boys to escape. (Doc. 1 at 10, ¶ 35.) Wilderness denies leaving the keys unsecured and responds that C.G. and J.P. committed a criminal act in taking the truck. (Doc. 13 at 7-8, ¶¶ 34-35.) In any event, C.G. and J.P. did not return to Wilderness after leaving in the truck on April 23. (See Doc. 12 at 4-5.)

         On September 5, 2018, Plaintiffs sued Wilderness for fraud in the inducement, negligent misrepresentation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. (Doc. 1.) The crux of the Complaint is that Wilderness falsely represented it would provide a safe place for C.G. and J.P. Plaintiffs sought to represent a putative class of

All United States persons who have purchased Services from WTC and persons who have been provided Services from the applicable limitation period(s), through the filing date of this Complaint.

(Id. at 11, ¶ 45.) This Court's December 5, 2018 Scheduling Order set a March 6, 2019 deadline for class certification motions to be fully briefed. (Doc. 12 at 1.) Wilderness filed a motion to deny class certification on February 19. (Doc. 15.) On February 27, Plaintiffs received an extension of the March 6 deadline. (Docs. 21, 23.) They filed a motion for class certification on March 11, 2019. (Doc. 25.) Their motion amends the class definition to

All United States persons who have purchased Services from WTC and persons who have been provided Services who were misled by WTC regarding the nature and extent of WTCs services, were induced into purchasing Services from WTC in reliance on WTC's misrepresentations and did not receive the promised Services.

         (Doc. 26 at 2.)

         Legal Standard

         A class must meet Rule 23 (a)'s threshold requirements as well as the requirements of either Rule 23(b)(1), (b)(2), or (b)(3). Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. This class is proposed under Rule 23(b)(3), which requires "that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy." The party seeking class certification has the burden to show that Rule 23 is satisfied. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350 (2011).

         Analysis Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) establishes four prerequisites for class certification: (1) numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) adequacy of representation. Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 613 (1997). Here, the proposed class fails to meet the numerosity and typicality requirements.

         A. ...


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