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Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

Supreme Court of the United States

November 5, 2012, Argued; March 27, 2013, Decided

No. 11-864

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Respondent subscribers of cable-television services brought a putative class action against petitioner cable-television service providers alleging that the providers violated antitrust laws by swapping services with competitors in order to serve certain areas. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, the providers appealed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which upheld certification of the class.

Overview

Although other theories of antitrust impact were rejected, the subscribers asserted that by swapping service areas the providers reduced competition and consolidated monopolistic services. The subscribers contended that a regression model of damages from all of the providers' anticompetitive activities indicated that damages could be measured on a class-wide basis. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the class of subscribers was improperly certified since the subscribers failed to show that common issues of damages predominated in the action as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). The damages model did not isolate damages for the providers' alleged swapping activities from other theories of antitrust impact which were rejected, the model thus could not establish that damages attributable to the accepted theory were susceptible of measurement across the entire class, and it was permissible as well as necessary to make some inquiry into the merits of the damages calculation to determine whether common issues of damages predominated.

Outcome

The judgment upholding certification of the subscriber's class was reversed. 5-4 Decision; 1 Dissent.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Civil Procedure > Special Proceedings > Class Actions > Certification of Classes

Civil Procedure > ... > Class Actions > Prerequisites for Class Action > Predominance

HN1  Certification of Classes

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3) permits certification of a class only if a court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.

 

Civil Procedure > Special Proceedings > Class Actions > Certification of Classes

Civil Procedure > ... > Class Actions > Prerequisites for Class Action > General Overview

Civil Procedure > ... > Class Actions > Prerequisites for Class Action > Predominance

HN2  Certification of Classes

A class action is an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only. To come within the exception, a party seeking to maintain a class action must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard. Rather, a party must not only be prepared to prove that there are in fact sufficiently numerous parties, common questions of law or fact, typicality of claims or defenses, and adequacy of representation, as required by Rule 23(a). The party must also satisfy through evidentiary proof at least one of the provisions of Rule 23(b). Rule 23(b)(3) requires a court to find that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.

 

Civil Procedure > Special Proceedings > Class Actions > Certification of Classes

Civil Procedure > ... > Class Actions > Prerequisites for Class Action > General Overview

HN3  Certification of Classes

It may be necessary for a court to probe behind the pleadings before coming to rest on a class certification question, and certification is proper only if the trial court is satisfied, after a rigorous analysis, that the prerequisites of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) have been satisfied. Such an analysis will frequently entail overlap with the merits of a plaintiff’s underlying claim. That is so because the class determination generally involves considerations that are enmeshed in the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff’s cause of action.

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569 U.S. 27 ; 133 S. Ct. 1426 ; 185 L. Ed. 2d 515 ; 2013 U.S. LEXIS 2544 ; 81 U.S.L.W. 4217; 2013-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) P78,316; 85 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 118; 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 125; 57 Comm. Reg. (P & F) 1487; 2013 WL 1222646

COMCAST CORPORATION, et al., Petitioners v. CAROLINE BEHREND et al.

Prior History:  [1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Behrend v. Comcast Corp., 655 F.3d 182, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 17524 (3d Cir. Pa., 2011)

Disposition: Reversed.