The 2018-2019 term of the U.S. Supreme Court opened with a newly configured court in which Justice Kavanaugh joined as an Associate Justice following the retirement of Justice Kennedy. Since October of last year, the Court has heard 69 argued appeals, several of which arose from class action litigation. Over the past nine months, the Court has addressed issues relating to class action practice concerning arbitration provisions, federal removal statutes, consumer antitrust law, FDA preemption, and the equitable tolling of interlocutory appeals. Although presented with class action questions related to cy pres awards, data privacy litigation standing, issue class certification, securities laws, and TCPA claims, the Court declined to resolve these issues. Reflective of the Court’s decisions this term at large, rulings were unanimous or sharply divided along ideological lines, with the Court declining to hear a number of controversies. The below summary provides an overview of class action decisions by the Court this term, including recent remands and certiorari decisions.
In his October 17th post, Josh Dunlap describes in detail the First Circuit’s landmark ruling in In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation concerning classes that include uninjured members. As Josh points out, although the district court had referred to ascertainability in its decision certifying the class, the First Circuit opinion reversing class certification did not, and for good reason. The case did not raise an ascertainability issue at all, but rather an issue of an overly broad class definition that encompassed significant numbers of uninjured class members (the court estimated 10 percent of potential class members had not been harmed because they would have purchased the branded drug even had the generic been allowed on the market). The ill-fated class was defined to include all purchasers of the defendant’s product, not just all such persons who would have purchased the generic alternative. Presumably, all purchasers of the drug could have been identified through prescription records, but plaintiffs failed to show that it
When last I wrote about ascertainability, I noted that a debate over the propriety of “ascertainability-by-affidavit” continued to percolate within the First Circuit even as lower courts relied on In re Nexium Antitrust Litigation to certify classes containing uninjured class members. Specifically, I noted a couple of developments. First, in In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation, Judge Casper of the District of Massachusetts had rejected defendants’ ascertainability arguments and certified a class containing uninjured individuals, relying on In re Nexium for the proposition that uninjured individuals could be identified and excluded after certification via submission of affidavits. Second, I also observed that Judge Kayatta had continued, via his dissent from denial of a Rule 23(f) petition in In re Dial Complete Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, to express concern about the “casual reliance on ‘say-so’ affidavits” apparently sanctioned by In re Nexium. In his words, the First Circuit
As various contributors to this blog have noted (here, here, and here), a divided panel of the First Circuit adopted a “loose” approach to the ascertainability requirement in In re Nexium Antitrust Litigation. Specifically, while acknowledging that “the definition of [a] class must be ‘definite,’” the majority concluded that this requirement could be satisfied by a claims process by which class members would submit affidavits to show that they were injured. According to the majority, such a process would be sufficiently feasible and protective of the defendants’ Seventh Amendment and due process rights. Judge Kayatta authored a vigorous dissenting opinion, noting the “limitations of using affidavits in the manner proposed by the majority.”
Recently, the District of Massachusetts relied on In re Nexium to find that a proposed class was sufficiently ascertainable under similar circumstances. In that case, In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation, end-payor purchasers of