Almost 2 weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court announced some bad news for consumer advocates. The Court handed down an opinion in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend that will make it a lot harder to bring class action lawsuits against companies on behalf of consumers. In that case, a group of about two million consumers had sued Comcast as part of a class action suit. Before a class action lawsuit can proceed, a judge has to decide that the claim is proper to bring as a class action lawsuit by making sure that everyone in the class has enough in common – the judge looks at things like whether each person in the class has more or less the same damages and whether their damages arise from the same bad conduct by the company being sued. This process is called class certification.
The Supreme Court just made class certification more difficult to achieve in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, especially for consumers seeking class action suits against companies. A judge had granted class certification to a group of consumers that sued Comcast. The consumers had said that Comcast was breaking an anti-monopoly law by doing things that drove up cable prices on purpose. In trying to get the class certified, the lawyers that represented the consumers hired an expert to explain to the judge how much money Comcast’s bad behavior had cost its customers and why the customers had enough in common to proceed as a class. The expert used a statistical model to convince the judge that the consumers had enough in common to sue Comcast as part of a class action, and the judge granted class certification.
Comcast appealed, and its appeal made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the class certification, saying that the statistical model was too general, and that it couldn’t account for specific bad things that Comcast had done. The Supreme Court said that general statistical models are not good enough to achieve class certification, and they must be more specific than the one the consumers had used. The bottom line of the Supreme Court’s decision here is that now it will be take a lot more work from class action lawyers, and it will cost a lot more money to achieve class certification in consumer class action lawsuits.
At the same time the Supreme Court announced its opinion in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, it also reversed two other consumer class action suits, signaling that the new decision will make it a lot tougher for consumers to get certified as a class. Hopefully class action lawyers will figure out how to satisfy the new, stricter standard. In any case, lawyers that represent consumers against businesses are not happy to hear about this news.
If you want to learn more about consumer class action lawsuits and how they work, here are some links to check out:
- How Do Consumer Class Action Lawsuits Work?:
- Class Action Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
- Some Legal Commentary on Comcast v. Behrend: