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Supreme Court Hears Class Action Reform Issue

Posted by admin | Posted in Personal Injury News


The Supreme Court of the United States has heard two cases which have the potential to make class action lawsuits more difficult.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Court seems divided on where it will come down on the issue.

The recent trend at the national level is to make class actions more difficult for plaintiffs.  “Last year, the Supreme Court raised the bar for some class action suits when it sided with Wal-Mart against up to 1.6 million of its female employees who complained of sex discrimination.  In the Wal-Mart case, the court said there were too many women in too many jobs at the nation’s largest private employer to wrap into one lawsuit.”

Class actions put pressure on businesses to settle because of the extreme risk they entail.  If, for example, the Wal-Mart class action had been allowed to proceed, then billions of dollars would have been on the line for Wal-Mart.

Often, there is a level of resentment against major corporations (particularly when faced against specific people with emotional stories).  It is easier for a juror to relate to a wronged person that a multi-billion dollar corporation.

As a result, corporations try and fight class actions as much as possible.

But class actions are an important tool for those in the class.  Without the aid of class action, a single plaintiff (who may have only been wronged out of a few thousand dollars or less) would have to fight a corporation with seemingly endless money.  This makes it very difficult for any recovery to happen.

The two cases, one involving a biotech company Amgen Inc., and another involving cable provider Comcast Corp., have the potential to drastically affect the structure of class action lawsuits in America.

The issues involved have to do with the burden of proof on plaintiffs when the case is in the pretrial phase.  “The issue at the Supreme Court is whether the pension funds have to show at an early stage of the lawsuit that Amgen’s claims about the safety and the effectiveness of the drugs Aranesp and Epogen affected the stock price.”

In the Comcast case, the justices will also have to decide the level of proof required at early stages of the litigation.  The more proof that plaintiffs need to show, the more likely the cases will be kicked out of court.

These cases will decide just how accessible class action suits will be for plaintiffs.  Often times, the evidence needed to win the case isn’t available until the suit is underway, and all the tools of discovery are available.

These cases are often decided along voting trends.  The Court has a typical 5-4 split.  The ruling on the class action cases should be released by June.

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