In Comcast v. Behrend, Supreme Court Ups the Ante for Class-Action Certification

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that should change the nature of class-action lawsuits in the United States.

In Comcast v. Behrend, more than two million current and former Comcast customers sought class certification to sue the cable company for overcharging its subscribers. The issue before the court? Joshua Roberts at law firm Carlton Fields explains:

“… this case concerned what kind of evidence must be presented during the certification stages of class litigation, before a judge can allow a class action to proceed. The specific issue in Comcast dealt with whether a class could be certified without the district court considering whether plaintiffs’ damage models were actually tied to their class-based liability theory. Was the fact that damages could be calculated on a class-wide basis enough without determining the merits-related issue of whether the damages model had a sufficient ‘fit’ with the specific, alleged basis for antitrust liability?”

No, responded the Supreme Court. Roberts continues:

“[T]he Court ruled that it is not enough for plaintiffs to merely offer damage models that may be subject to common proof. Rather, to satisfy the requirements of commonality under Rule 23(a) and predominance under Rule 23(b)(3) at the class certification stage, such damage models must actually match up or ‘fit’ with the theory of impact or harm that allegedly resulted from the antitrust violation.”

Three takeaways:

1. Class certification just got a lot harder:

“By clarifying that a trial court must apply a ‘rigorous analysis’ to each of the Rule 23 prerequisites, including predominance — even where such analysis entails an overlap with the merits underlying the plaintiff’s claims — the Court has indicated that lax class certification standards have no place in federal class action practice. In addition, those lower courts that have resisted the Supreme Court’s recent class certification decisions may be more inclined to deny class certification in cases involving individualized damages determinations.” (Skadden Arps)

2. The ruling favors employers:

“The Behrend decision raises the class action bar one more notch in favor of employers. Specifically, Behrend requires that plaintiffs not only show that they could prove their claims through common evidence at trial, but puts an affirmative burden on plaintiffs to establish, prior to certification, that there is reliable and admissible evidence of common injury and damages on a class-wide basis.” (Fisher & Phillips)

3. Fewer cases are likely to proceed to trial:

“The Supreme Court is inviting litigants to delve even deeper into the merits of the case at the class certification stage and engendering further litigation over where the line falls between class certification and the substantive merits. Class-action defendants will be happy to accept such an invitation.” (Proskauer)

The updates:

Find additional Class-Action updates on JD Supra Law News>>