U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Decide Class Certification Issue; Expert Says Case Could Be 'the Big One'

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert in a suit alleging antitrust violations by Comcast Corp. that could make it more difficult for plaintiffs to bring class actions in federal courts.

At issue in Comcast v. Behrend is whether a district can certify a class action without resolving whether the plaintiffs have introduced admissible evidence showing damages can be awarded on a classwide basis, report SCOTUSblog, Reuters and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Supreme Court granted cert on Monday.

The suit filed in 2003 had alleged that Comcast clustered cable systems in Philadelphia by buying rivals and swapping coverage areas, giving the company the ability to control the market and raise prices.

Dechert partner Steven Bradbury told the Inquirer the case is part of a trend in which the Supreme Court is requiring trial judges to conduct a rigorous analysis before allowing a class action to go forward. “The issue here,” he said, “is whether the plaintiffs have to show at the class-certification stage that they have a method of proving damages that is admissible at trial and common for all plaintiffs.”

Antitrust lawyer Ankur Kapoor of Constantine Cannon told the Inquirer that the case will be closely watched. “We are really expecting this to be the big one,” he said. “Whatever the Supreme Court says about this, the legal journals will be writing about it for years.”

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