Recent Supreme Court Cases Spotlight Power of Class Action Lawsuits to Obtain Justice for Individuals

Class action lawsuits allow a large number of people harmed by the same negligent or fraudulent actions of a company to obtain compensation that they typically couldn't if they pursued lawsuits on their own. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard two cases that, depending on how the Court rules, may limit this important legal remedy.

The cases, heard November 5, 2012, involve class action lawsuits against two companies and two different issues:

  • Comcast, a leading cable provider, is the subject of an anti-trust class action lawsuit that seeks $875 million in damages on behalf of Comcast's Philadelphia customers; as many as 2 million individuals. The plaintiffs argue that Comcast's monopoly in the area allowed it to unfairly raise its prices.
  • In a securities fraud class action lawsuit involving biotech company Amgen, Inc., shareholders allege the company intentionally made misleading statements about the safety of two of its drugs in an effort to artificially inflate the company's stock price.

Both of the companies have appealed to the Supreme Court to have the class action lawsuits de-certified, essentially ending them. The question in both cases is how soon in the legal process should plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit be required to prove their damages.

Not surprisingly, the companies are using these appeals to try and limit the use of class action lawsuits. They are arguing that the individuals who suffered harm must prove they suffered the damages before the class action lawsuits can proceed. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in both actions say that proof of damages should be part of the actual class action trials.

Class Action Lawsuits Help The "Little Guy" Take on Large Corporations

Class action lawsuits are an integral part of our justice system. They allow individuals to unite and stand up in court to take on large corporate entities that have enormous resources. For example, Gray Ritter Graham recently obtained a settlement on behalf of all Missourians who purchased the pain reliever Vioxx.

That's why businesses don't like class action lawsuits. They tilt the scales of justice back towards the "little guy."


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