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U.S. Chamber Applauds Supreme Court Ruling in Wal-Mart v. Dukes

Sunday, June 19, 2011 - 8:00pm

Conrad Calls it the ‘Most Important Class Action Case in More Than a Decade’

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center, issued the following statement today in response to the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling in the case Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, et al.

“This is without a doubt the most important class action case in more than a decade. We applaud the Supreme Court for affirming that mega-class actions such as this one are completely inconsistent with federal law. Every single Supreme Court justice disagreed with the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which radically lowered the standard for certifying class actions, and opened the door to even more bet-the-business blockbuster class actions.

“Today’s ruling reinforces a fundamental principle of fairness in our court systems: that defendants should have the opportunity to present individualized evidence to show they complied with the law. Too often the class action device is twisted and abused to force businesses to choose between settling meritless lawsuits or potentially facing financial ruin. Our economy would be better served if businesses could spend more resources creating jobs and fewer resources fighting frivolous litigation.”

The U.S. Chamber filed two amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Wal-Mart. One brief supported certiorari and one was filed on the merits.

In this case, the plaintiffs sought to certify a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart employees alleging gender bias in pay and promotions. In order to avoid more rigorous class certification standards, the plaintiffs sought class action status under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 23(b)(2), which prescribes the rules for class actions seeking injunctive relief rather than money damages. However, the plaintiffs in the case are seeking billions of dollars in damages in addition to their request for injunctive relief. In a contentious 6-5 ruling, a narrowly divided Ninth Circuit adopted a loose approach to class certification that effectively barred Wal-Mart from presenting individualized evidence to prove it had complied with the law.

In its brief supporting review, NCLC asked the Supreme Court to clarify when a class may be certified under Rule 23(b)(2). In its brief on the merits, NCLC urged the Supreme Court to decertify the class. NCLC argued that the class does not meet cohesiveness and typicality requirements as the claims turn on the defendant's individual dealings with each plaintiff. NCLC warned that this case could pave the way for class actions against a host of industries, from antitrust cases to product liability actions to medical-monitoring claims.

NCLC release from September 2010: "U.S. Chamber Urges Supreme Court to Review Largest Employment Class Action in History" (9/2010)
NCLC release from March 2009: "Chamber Challenges Largest Discrimination Class Action in History" (3/2009)
NCLC release from December 2004: "U.S. Chamber Files Brief in Wal-Mart Class Action" (12/2004)

NCLC is the public policy law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that advocates fair treatment of business in the courts and before regulatory agencies.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

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