Cables Sliced on Class Action in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

March 29, 2013

Comcast Corp. v. Behrend continues the Supreme Court trend toward a tighter analysis of class certification. In Comcast, the Court held that a class was improperly certified because the method proposed for proving classwide damages did not match the theory of liability accepted in the case. While the notion of “fit” between an expert opinion and the facts or theories of the case is not new, the Court plowed new ground by holding that damages issues are at play at the class certification stage, which provides defendants with a new weapon in their arsenal. The Court further clarified that its 2011 Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision, which reiterated the need for “rigorous analysis” of class certification in the context of employment litigation, applies to antitrust cases as well, even if this requires a court to consider issues that bear on the merits of the case. By emphasizing these principles in the context of the analysis of an expert report, the Court strongly implied that a district court must probe the validity of an expert’s application of his or her methodology to the facts of the case, not just consider whether the methodology is appropriate in the abstract. This means that the trend of substantial merits discovery prior to class certification, and enhanced class certification hearings, should continue. Courts looking to avoid the strictures of the decision may cite the dissent which attempts to limit the decision to the precise facts before the Court.

Read “Cables Sliced on Class Action in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend.”