Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has heard several cases involving class action procedure, including China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh; CalPERS v. ANZ Securities, Inc.; and Microsoft Corp. v. Baker. Today, the Supreme Court continued this trend, granting review to decide whether Rule 23(f)’s 14-day deadline to file a petition for permission to appeal an order granting or denying class certification is subject to equitable exceptions.  Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, No. 17-1094.

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330px-Supreme_Court_Front_DuskThe Supreme Court will decide before the end of this Term whether to hear any or all of four important cases that raise recurring questions of class action law that have sharply divided the lower courts. These cases address questions that we have blogged about before (e.g., here and here): whether a class full of uninjured members may be certified, and whether plaintiffs may rely on experts and statistics to gloss over individualized differences among class members in order to prove their class claims and damages. These questions strike at the heart of what it means to be a “class,” because class actions generally must be litigated using common evidence to show that each class member has been harmed.
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There seem to be two prevailing conceptions of class actions.  In one view, a class action is a way of determining many similar claims at once by evaluating common evidence that reliably establishes liability (and lays a ground work for efficiently calculating damages) for each class member.  That is, the class device produces the same results as individual actions would, but more efficiently.  In the other view—one we consider misguided—a “class” of plaintiffs complaining about similar conduct can have their claims determined through statistical sampling even if no common evidence will provide a common answer to common factual or legal questions. Instead, this theory holds, the results of mini-trials can simply be extrapolated to the entire class, even if individual results would vary widely.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit took a step deeper into the second camp in Jimenez v. Allstate Insurance Co. (pdf), delivering a ringing endorsement of statistical sampling as a way to establish liability as well as damages.

Can you have a class action if you can’t figure out who’s in the proposed class? According to many in the plaintiffs’ bar, the answer is “yes.” But as we have discussed in prior blog posts, there is an emerging consensus to the contrary. Most courts agree that plaintiffs in consumer class actions have

At its conference on January 10, the Supreme Court can get serious about fixing consumer class actions. The Justices should take up that challenge, because it will consider two certiorari petitions that seek review of class certifications—involving alleged “moldy odors” in high-tech front loading washing machines—that are prime examples of what has gone wrong with

While the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals have in recent years demanded rigorous scrutiny before authorizing certification of class actions, the Supreme Court of Canada has charted a different course. In a trio of recent decisions in antitrust class actions, Canada’s high court rejected key U.S. precedents on the scope and nature

Today, Mayer Brown filed a pair of certiorari petitions that challenge efforts by two federal appellate courts to narrow the Supreme Court’s recent class-action decisions in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes to tickets good for a single ride only. The Supreme Court previously remanded both cases for reconsideration after Comcast

Class-action lawyers on both sides of the “v.” have been debating the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend. Last week, the D.C. Circuit delivered its answer in In re Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation, the most significant opinion thus far to address Comcast. As the D.C. Circuit put it in a unanimous opinion by Judge Brown, “[b]efore [Comcast v.] Behrend, the case law was far more accommodating to class certification under Rule 23(b)(3).” But Comcast places that case law in doubt: When class certification rests on expert economic testimony—which is increasingly the case—“[i]t is now clear . . . that Rule 23 not only authorizes a hard look at the soundness of statistical models that purport to show predominance—the rule commands it” (emphasis added). That powerful holding makes the Rail Freight decision especially important for defendants opposing class certification.


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When the Comcast Corp. v. Behrend decision came down, my colleagues summarized the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Since then, I’ve put together an analysis of the decision and its potential implications.  Lexis has now published the piece as a part of its ongoing Emerging Issues Analysis series.  It is available here:  2013 Emerging Issues 6992 ($).  

An important and recurring issue in class actions is whether a district court must consider particular merits issues when deciding whether to certify a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Today, in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend (pdf), No. 11-864, the Supreme Court reversed the certification of an antitrust class action because the