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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hawaiian Seniors Win Class Certification

(CN) - Hawaiian seniors who say they bought deceptively marketed life insurance annuities that can sue Midland National Life Insurance Co. as a class, the 9th Circuit ruled, as "there is no reason to look at the circumstances of each individual purchase."

Through independent brokers, Midland sold life insurance annuities to Hawaiian seniors from 2001 through 2005. The insurance company's brochures failed to disclose that the annuities were too risky and thus unsuitable for seniors, the investors claim.

The district court denied class certification under Hawaii law, ruling that "each plaintiff would have to show subjective, individualized reliance on deceptive practices within the circumstances of each plaintiff's purchase of the annuity."

It said Hawaii state law requires a showing of individualized reliance.

But the 9th Circuit panel in Honolulu found that the class certification hinged on whether the alleged misrepresentations would likely deceive a reasonable consumer, not the individual damages. If the plaintiffs succeed under this standard, the three-judge panel ruled, there might be an issue of individual damages at a later point in litigation.

Judge Mary Schroeder said the district court's ruling was based on a "misinterpretation of Hawaii law." "Hawaii's state courts have made clear that Hawaii's consumer protection laws are flexible and may be enforced through the class action mechanism," she wrote.

"Because there are no individualized issues of subjective reliance under Hawaii law," Schroeder added, "we hold that the district court erred when it denied class certification."

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