Yesterday, the Retail Litigation Center (RLC) filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to address efforts by lower courts to expand their appellate jurisdiction and to underscore the validity of existing precedent on the requirements for class certification. The brief outlines the dangers posed to retailers by lax class certification standards, noting that often companies are forced to settle unmeritorious claims in the interest of avoiding the exceedingly complex, expensive and unpredictable nature of class action litigation.
In Family Dollar Stores, Inc.,v Scott, et al., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit expanded its jurisdiction to address issues neither party raised, thus increasing the confusion among the circuits about the applicability of the doctrine of pendent appellate jurisdiction. Additionally, the federal court certified a class action, side-stepping stringent precedent set by the Supreme Court in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, specifically by ignoring the “commonality” requirement.
“The reinterpretation of class standards and the confusion around pendent appellate jurisdiction is exceedingly troublesome for retailers,” said RLC President Deborah White. “The decision here is incompatible with existing precedent and creates a great deal of uncertainty, thus exposing companies to burdensome litigation and encourages forum shopping. The Supreme Court would be well-served to take the opportunity presented by Family Dollar to clarify the jurisdiction of lower courts and underscore the importance of stringent class action standards in the interest of protecting the rights of defendants to due process.”
From the brief filed with the Supreme Court:
“Jurisdictional rules should be clear and simple, especially in the context of appeals from class certification decisions under Rule 23(f). Pendent appellate jurisdiction is a judge-made doctrine.”
“The reason that plain¬tiffs and their lawyers are so eager to obtain class certification is simple: Class actions almost always settle before they are subject to adversarial testing in the courtroom. Modern class actions are large, ex¬pensive, and highly unpredictable—so much so that rational corporate decisionmakers can seldom afford to do anything but settle.”
“The decision below, however severely undermines the protections recognized in Wal-Mart, conflicts with that decision, and creates a circuit conflict that, if left uncorrected, will encourage forum-shopping and impose serious and unwarranted burdens on retailers and other class-action defendants.”
The full RLC brief can be found here and was written by Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP attorneys Mark T. Stancil and Alan Untereiner.
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.