The Retail Litigation Center (RLC) joined three other national trade associations today in an amicus curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court asking the Court to grant ceriotriari in order to consider a lower court’s ruling in Butler v. Sears. The amici argue that the lower court ignored the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Walmart v. Dukes and applied a new and overly simplistic standard for certifying a multi-state, breach-of-warranty class action against Sears, Roebuck and Co.
In Butler v. Sears, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit certified a class of consumers linked only by their purchases since 2001 of 27 different models of the same brand of washing machine, despite the fact that the vast majority of those appliances showed no sign of a problem. Rather than applying the Supreme Court standard for class certification, which is intended to ensure due process, the Seventh Circuit substituted its own new “efficiency” test. But, efficiency cannot substitute for fairness. As the brief notes, a coin flip is the essence of efficiency but the antithesis of fairness. The class action device cannot be used when it would extinguish a defendant’s due process rights to a fair hearing.
According to the brief:
“The Seventh Circuit’s decision thus effectively deems every product brand to have its own intrinsic consumer class and allows class actions to proceed whenever there is some customer that can allege injury from a possible manufacturing defect. If left uncorrected, the decision threatens to greatly expand the class-action exposure of merchants and manufacturers across the country. It also threatens to eviscerate Rule 23’s protections as a fundamental bulwark against class action abuse and to transform them into easily evaded formalities that turn on a court’s gestalt judgment about the efficiency of class action litigation.”
Over the last year, the RLC has focused on the importance of sound class action certification standards, weighing in on several cases that explore this evolving area of law, including Walmart v. Dukes, Comcast v. Behrand, and Standard Fire v. Knowles, which were all decided in accordance with the views expressed by the RLC.
“A robust standard for granting certification is essential to protecting businesses from a deluge of class action lawsuits based on questionable legal theories,” said RLC president Deborah White. “A weakening of class certification standards, such as what the lower court has done here, would lead to increased abuse of the class action litigation device and undoubtedly subject businesses to dubious claims filed simply to induce financial settlements.”
The full brief can be found here.
King and Spalding, LLP attorneys Daryl L. Joseffer, Ashley C. Parrish, Karen F. Grohman and Adam Conrad authored the brief.
The Retail Litigation Center is a public policy organization that identifies and engages in legal proceedings which affect the retail industry. The RLC, whose members include some of the country’s largest retailers, was formed to provide courts with retail industry perspectives on significant legal issues, and highlight the potential industry-wide consequences of legal principles that may be determined in pending cases.