In February 2017, Representative Goodlatte introduced the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017. The Act, as with its 2015 predecessor, covers a lot of ground. It permits certification of damages classes only where “each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury.” It precludes certain conflicts of interest between class counsel and the named plaintiff. It resolves the Circuit split on ascertainability, adopting the view of the Third and Eleventh Circuits (and perhaps the First Circuit as well, as my colleague Katherine Kayatta recently noted) that the named plaintiff has the burden to show that identifying the class members is administratively feasible. It alters or creates certain procedural and disclosure requirements, such as giving a party an interlocutory appeal as of right of the class certification decision and staying all discovery during the pendency of certain motions. And it clarifies that Rule 23(c)(4) is an administrative tool for making class actions work, not a mechanism to permit evasion of the
As my colleague, Katherine Kayatta, alluded to in her detailed post earlier this week, much of the initial commentary on the Supreme Court’s Tyson Foods decision has been to the effect that the decision may crack open the door to representative proof in class cases. While plaintiffs will no doubt seek to use it that way, I don’t read the decision as providing a lot of meaningful support for such an effort. And, indeed, I think defendants should embrace rather than fear the decision in many respects.
We have commented previously on several aspects of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Tyson Foods. One additional important aspect that deserves special attention in the First Circuit is the issue of how to cull uninjured class members prior to judgment, an issue a divided panel of the First Circuit addressed in In re Nexium last year.
The First Circuit’s split decision last week affirming class certification in the Nexium antitrust case is sure to receive much attention in product defect class actions. Over the last several years, a chief battleground in such actions has been the import of the fact that many of the people that bought the particular product – indeed, often an overwhelming majority of those people – had no problem at all with it after many years of use…