Amchem Prods. v. Windsor
Supreme Court of the United States
February 18, 1997, Argued ; June 25, 1997, Decided
[***697] [*597] [**2237] JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case concerns the legitimacy under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure of a class-action certification sought to achieve global settlement of current and future asbestos-related claims. The class proposed for certification potentially encompasses hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of individuals tied together by this commonality: each was, or some day may be, adversely affected by past exposure to asbestos products manufactured by one or more of 20 companies. Those companies, defendants in the lower courts, are petitioners here.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania certified the class for settlement only, finding that the proposed settlement was fair and that representation and notice had been adequate. That court enjoined class members from separately pursuing asbestos-related personal-injury suits in any court, federal or state, pending the issuance of a final order. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the District Court's orders, holding that the class certification failed to satisfy Rule 23's requirements in [****14] several critical respects. We affirm the Court of Appeals' judgment.
The settlement-class certification we confront evolved in response to an asbestos-litigation crisis. See Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc., 83 F.3d 610, 618, and n.2 (CA3 1996) (citing commentary). A United States Judicial Conference [*598] Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation, appointed by THE CHIEF JUSTICE in September 1990, described facets of the problem in a 1991 report:
"[This] is a tale of danger known in the 1930s, exposure inflicted upon millions of Americans in the 1940s and 1950s, injuries that began to take their toll in the 1960s, and a flood of lawsuits beginning in the 1970s. On the basis of past and current filing data, and because of a latency period that may last as long as 40 years for some asbestos related diseases, a continuing stream of claims can be expected. The final toll of asbestos related injuries is unknown. Predictions have been made of 200,000 asbestos disease deaths before the year 2000 and as many as 265,000 by the year 2015.Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.
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521 U.S. 591 *; 117 S. Ct. 2231 **; 138 L. Ed. 2d 689 ***; 1997 U.S. LEXIS 4032 ****; 65 U.S.L.W. 4635; 37 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1017; 97 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4894; 97 Daily Journal DAR 8025; 28 ELR 20173; 1997 Colo. J. C.A.R. 1314; 11 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 128
AMCHEM PRODUCTS, INC., ET AL., PETITIONERS v. GEORGE WINDSOR ET AL.
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT, Reported at: 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 686.
Disposition: 83 F.3d 610, affirmed.
settlement, asbestos, district court, class action, class member, certification, predominance, cases, court of appeals, notice, class certification, questions, claimants, Products, disease, asbestos-related, negotiations, exposure-only, exposure, objectors, cancer, transaction costs, of Rule, proceedings, adequacy, lawsuits, member of the class, rule requirements, subclasses, defenses
Civil Procedure, Class Actions, Prerequisites for Class Action, General Overview, Justiciability, Mootness, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Governments, Courts, Rule Application & Interpretation, Special Proceedings, Certification of Classes, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Adequacy of Representation, Commonality, Numerosity, Typicality, Predominance, Superiority, Compromise & Settlement, Notice of Class Action, Voluntary Dismissals, Legislation, Overbreadth, Class Members, Absent Members