March 29, 2011

Supreme Court hears arguments in world's largest class action lawsuit

By Supreme Court hears arguments in world's largest class action lawsuit

Author: Timothy Sandefur

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Dukes v. Walmart this morning. That’s the discrimination case in which the plaintiff class is larger than the entire American military. The Court will decide a critically important question about how class action cases work.

Class actions were invented so that where a large group of people suffer the same injury from the same defendant, they can all bring their cases at the same time. So if a company makes glass bottles that break and a thousand people get hurt from the faulty bottles, they don’t have to have s thousand separate cases about the same issue. But where the facts of each case are really different, the class action procedure is not appropriate. If everyone suffers different kinds of injuries under different circumstances, you shouldn’t be able to ignore all those differences. Doing so would deprive the defendant of the constitutionally guaranteed right to defend itself against each charge. That’s what’s going on here–this is less like a real lawsuit than like an episode of Frasier. So PLF submitted this friend of the court brief in the case, arguing that the case shouldn’t have been allowed to go forward as a class action.

We’ll have more once the argument transcript becomes available.

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