Defining or Challenging Class Membership: Evaluating Ascertainability, Overbreadth and Failsafe Class Issues

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926
Course Materials

This CLE course will provide class counsel with guidance for addressing class definition in light of new and evolving case law. The panel will review the elements of ascertainability and overbreadth as well as cases that have applied both terms in assessing class certification. The panel will also examine court rulings that reject “failsafe” class definitions.


Defining the class and the class claims, issues, or defenses is a prerequisite to obtaining certification and an area of ongoing difficulty for class action practitioners. Pre-certification challenges are often made based on the adequacy of the proposed class definition.

Ascertainability requires that a class representative can show that class membership can be objectively determined. Impermissible failsafe classes require a merits issue determination for a person to be included in a class. Defendants can raise challenges to the scope of the class definition, including challenges to whether the class is overbroad.

Counsel must be mindful of potential challenges to class certification based on class definition and develop strategies to bring or defeat such challenges.

Listen as our authoritative panel of class action litigators discusses issues that arise in defining class membership. The panel will discuss the evolving requirement that class membership be ascertainable, the concepts of overbroad and failsafe classes, and the approaches for courts to scrutinize these elements in assessing class certification motions.



  1. Ascertainability (including failsafe classes) and court cases applying the concept
  2. Overbreadth and court cases applying the concept
  3. Best practices for drafting or challenging class definitions


The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • What are some of the criteria identified by courts that make class members too difficult to identify and too burdensome to determine?
  • How can counsel identify which courts are increasingly rejecting class definitions as a “failsafe” class?
  • What are examples of overbroad classes and how can you separate out those who have experienced harm without running afoul of ascertainability and “failsafe” class problems?


Ira Neil Richards
Ira Neil Richards

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis

Mr. Richards has successfully represented clients in complex litigation matters, including multidistrict antitrust...  |  Read More

Sparkes, Robert
Robert W. Sparkes, III

K&L Gates

Mr. Sparkes has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial litigation and regularly represents banking,...  |  Read More

Andrew J. Trask
Andrew J. Trask

McGuire Woods

Mr. Trask has defended more than 100 class actions, involving all stages of the litigation process. While his work has...  |  Read More

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Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

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