U.S. Supreme Court rules Comcast class action improperly certified
“Whether a district court may certify a class action without resolving whether the plaintiff class has introduced admissible evidence, including expert testimony, to show that the case is susceptible to awarding damages on a class-wide basis.”
NCLC urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that a trial court may not certify a class action without first resolving whether the plaintiff class has introduced admissible evidence, including expert testimony, to show that the class is susceptible to awarding damages on a classwide basis. In this case, the plaintiff class alleged that the defendant company engaged in unlawful, anti-competitive conduct. In its amicus brief, NCLC argued that the Supreme Court's requirements for the admissibility of expert testimony, articulated in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, apply with full force to expert testimony offered in support of class certification. The Third Circuit's contrary rule conflicts with the Supreme Court's recent decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, which requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that the applicable requirements of Rule 23 have been satisfied—and specifically, with regard to commonality, that it will be possible to use classwide proof to prove the class members’ claims at trial. If adopted by the Supreme Court, the Third Circuit's approach will make it easier for class actions to be certified, which in turn will force defendant businesses to settle more cases, even if the underlying claims are meritless. Billions of dollars are spent settling class actions every year, a drag on the American economy that is ultimately passed on to consumers, employees, and shareholders.
Held: The class action was improperly certified.
The ruling is a major vindication for the Court's Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision, which confirmed that trial courts must conduct a rigorous analysis before certifying a class action.
According to the Court, a "party seeking to maintain a class action must be prepared to show that Rule 23(a)’s numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy-of-representation requirements have been met, and must satisfy through evidentiary proof at least one of Rule 23(b)’s provisions... The Third Circuit ran afoul of this Court’s precedents when it refused to entertain arguments against respondents’ damages model that bore on the propriety of class certification simply because they would also be pertinent to the merits determination."