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U.S. Supreme Court

Sotomayor Joins Conservatives to Raise Class-Action Cost Concern

Posted Oct 13, 2009 1:35 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has joined with two conservative justices to raise constitutional concerns about forcing a dating service to pay the costs of notifying class members in a lawsuit over failed matchmaking.

The Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that the suit “does implicate issues of constitutional significance.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Sotomayor both joined Kennedy’s statement (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog).

The dating service, DTD Enterprises Inc. (also known as the Dating Together Service), had sued Janice Wells for failing to make all her payments under the terms of a contract, according to Dow Jones Newswires. Wells responded with a class-action lawsuit contending that DTD failed to make appropriate matches. A judge ordered DTD to pick up the costs of notifying class members because it could afford to do so, while Wells could not pay.

“To the extent that New Jersey law allows a trial court to impose the onerous costs of class notification on a defendant simply because of the relative wealth of the defendant and without any consideration of the underlying merits of the suit, a serious due process question is raised,” Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy said he nonetheless supported the cert denial, for two reasons. He said the appeal had not been heard by state appeals courts, and the company had filed for bankruptcy, resulting in an automatic stay.

The case is DTD Enterprises Inc. v. Wells.

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