The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard a case that addressed the rights of employees to bring certain class-action lawsuits. In Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, et al., which was decided on June 20, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the claims of over one million women, who were suing Wal-Mart based on discrimination in the workplace. There was no decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether or not the women were, in fact, discriminated against on the basis of their gender in decisions regarding pay and promotions. Instead, it was decided that the women could not proceed as a class action to bring their claims. Part of the Court’s rationale was based on the plaintiffs’ inability to show a “communality of issue”, or that the plaintiffs had all suffered essentially the same harm.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 23 (a)(2) requires a party seeking class certification to prove that the class has common “questions of law or fact.” The Supreme Court essentially held that the class in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes was not certified properly, and relied upon its decision in General Telephone Co. of Southwest v. Falcon 457 U.S. 147, 157-158 (1982) to reject the class for a lack of communality. In Falcon, the U.S. Supreme Court found a wide gap between the claims of promotion discrimination and the allegations that the company had a policy to engage in such discrimination.
The impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes will affect the ability of other class-action cases to become certified in areas that certainly include employment, but also include products liability or consumer class-action claims.
If you or someone close to you has been injured by a defective product, or is interested in learning your rights regarding a potential class-action based upon consumer rights in California, please do not hesitate to call the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation.