Law School Case Brief
Amchem Prods. v. Windsor - 521 U.S. 591, 117 S. Ct. 2231 (1997)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) states four threshold requirements applicable to all class actions: (1) numerosity (a class so large that joinder of all members is impracticable); (2) commonality (questions of law or fact common to the class); (3) typicality (named parties' claims or defenses are typical of the class); and (4) adequacy of representation (representatives will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class). In addition to satisfying Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)'s prerequisites, parties seeking class certification must show that the action is maintainable Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1), (2), or (3).
As a result of extensive negotiations between counsel representing persons exposed to asbestos products and counsel representing a group of 20 former asbestos product manufacturers, an agreement was reached in an attempt to resolve present and future claims of asbestos-related injury. The parties instituted a class action certification in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania which was not intended to be litigated, presenting to the court a complaint, an answer, a proposed settlement agreement, and a joint motion for conditional class certification. The proposed class consisted of all persons who had not filed an asbestos-related lawsuit against one of the manufacturers as of the date the class action commenced, but who (1) had been exposed, occupationally or through the occupational exposure of a spouse or household member, to asbestos or products containing asbestos attributable to one of the manufacturers, or (2) whose spouse or family member had been so exposed. The stipulation of settlement (1) proposed to settle, and to preclude nearly all class members from litigating against the manufacturers, all claims not filed before the date of the action involving compensation for asbestos-related personal injury or death; and (2) presented in detail an administrative mechanism and a schedule of payments to compensate class members who met defined asbestos-exposure and medical requirements. The District Court, certifying the class and preliminarily enjoining all class members from commencing any asbestos-related suit against the manufacturers, expressed the view that (1) the class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to numerosity, commonality, preponderance, and typicality, (2) the class settlement was superior to other methods of adjudication, and (3) the named parties served as adequate representatives of the class. On appeal, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, vacating the certification and the anti-suit injunction, expressed the view that the requirements of Rule 23 had not been satisfied.
Did the class satisfy the requirements of common issue predominance and adequacy of representation?
On a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the judgment of the appellate court denying class certification because the class did not satisfy the requirements of common issue predominance and adequacy of representation. The Court held that the class failed to satisfy the predominance standard and that the class approved by the district court failed to satisfy the requirement that the named parties would fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
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