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Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: March 27, 2013
Case #: 11-864
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Ginsberg and Breyer, JJ., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Sotomayor and Kagan, JJ., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-864_k537.pdf

Civil Procedure: Before a court may certify a class, a party must demonstrate damages on a classwide basis to satisfy the predominance requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

Respondent brought a class action antitrust suit against Petitioner for violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-2, claiming that Petitioner’s anti-competitive conduct increased cable prices. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the predominance issue of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure §23(b)(3) with regard to (1) antitrust impact and (2) methodology of damages. The court rejected three of four antitrust impact theories offered by Respondents but certified the class because there was common proof of antitrust impact and damages. Respondent's damages model depended on all four theories of anti-trust impact to measure damages on a classwide basis and could not be narrowly implemented to demonstrate the one theory the court accepted.

The Third Circuit affirmed and held that (1) a party must only demonstrate that they can establish a class-wide antitrust impact and do not need to prove merits of the case at the class certification stage; and (2) a party's alleged damages can be measured on a class-wide basis using common proof.

The Supreme Court reversed holding that the class was improperly certified because the damages model was not capable of establishing damages on a classwide basis. The Court reasoned that questions of individual damage calculations would inevitably overwhelm questions common to the class if the class's damages model is not tailored to the prevailing theory of anti-trust impact. If the model is deficient it cannot establish damages across an entire class.