This past Supreme Court Term included several closely-watched cases.  One of the most studied was Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, in which the Court identified at least one area of class action litigation where using statistical evidence instead of plaintiff-specific evidence might be allowed when determining class certification.

Since the Court issued its opinion, defendants have–as one would expect–worked hard to limit the Court’s holding to its specific facts.  (Not necessarily a difficult task, since the Court itself tied its result closely to the statute underlying the Tyson Foods plaintiffs’ claims.)  And, of course, plaintiffs and plaintiff-specific scholars have worked … Continue Reading

Often, when a plaintiffs’ counsel seek to certify a class asserting a hard-to-prove financial injury, they will rely on a statistics or economics expert to demonstrate that there has been some kind of “common overcharge” for the product at issue.  This method is extremely common in antitrust class actions, but also shows up increasingly in various kinds of consumer class actions, including product liability class actions (“we would not have paid this much for a product with a defect”) and food-labeling class actions (“we would not have paid so much for Nutella if we’d known it was sugary”).
The “common
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Ah, class decertification in district court…the rarely glimpsed, late-harvest victory that comparatively few class action defense counsel can claim to have tasted. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California recently delivered one such victory for the 2016 vintage, decertifying a plaintiff class he originally certified in 2012 in a wage-and-hour litigation against auto parts retailer AutoZone, Inc.  In the course of reaching that decision, Judge Breyer’s 49-page order also offers further insights into how the Supreme Court’s decisions in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes are … Continue Reading

 Commonality (Rule 23(a)(2)) and predominance (one half of Rule 23(b)(3)) are often considered the heart of the class action certification inquiry. Rightly so, for they both strike at the real question a judge must ask: do the class members have enough in common to justify binding them all together in a single case? Through the 1990s and 2000s, predominance was considered the more important inquiry. In the 2010s, it appears that commonality is gaining ground.

Ten Cases to Bring You Up to Speed:

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In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, Justice Scalia registered his disapproval of using statistics to litigate liability in a class action, writing

The Court of Appeals believed that it was possible to replace such proceedings with Trial by Formula. A sample set of the class members would be selected, as to whom liability for sex discrimination and the backpay owing as a result would be determined in depositions supervised by a master. The percentage of claims determined to be valid would then be applied to the entire remaining class, and the number of (presumptively) valid claims thus derived

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The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy for appellate decisions involving class actions. In addition to Judge Easterbrook’s In re Aqua Dots opinion, the Sixth Circuit’s Pipefitters opinion, the Second Circuit’s Literary Works opinion, and the Ninth Circuit’s reversal of the Bluetooth settlement, the Third Circuit has offered up a pair of opinions involving predominance and common evidence. In one, Behrend v. Comcast Corp., a panel appeared to limit the reach of In re Hydrogen Peroxide on expert evidence, affirming certification of an antitrust case again the cable provider in part because it held that a DaubertContinue Reading

While I was on my self-imposed editing hiatus (shameless plug: The Class Action Playbook  comes out in September), the Ninth Circuit handed down its en banc opinion in Dukes v. Wal-Mart. The court worked overtime to tie its opinion to the specific facts and arguments in front of it, which may prevent some generalizing about the opinion. (Not that that has ever stopped legal pundits.)  

First, some background: Dukes is a Title VII sex-discrimination case. The plaintiffs alleged that, as women, they received less money for comparable work, and that they were passed over for promotions within … Continue Reading