Comcast Corp. v. Behrend
June 25, 2012
Case #: 11-864
Court Below: 655 F.3d 182 (3d Cir. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/102865p.pdf
A group of Comcast customers (Respondents) brought a class action antitrust suit against Petitioner for violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-2, claiming that Petitioner's anticompetitive conduct increased cable prices. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the predominance issue of Fed. R. Civ. Pro. § 23(b)(3) with regard to (1) antitrust impact and (2) methodology of damages. The parties disagreed with each other’s definition of the relevant geographic market necessary to determine impact and damages. The court determined Respondents met their burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that they would be able to demonstrate common proof of antitrust impact and damages and certified the class. Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit contending the court erred in finding Respondents satisfied Rule 23(b).
The Third Circuit affirmed the trial court's order and held that (1) the court may find that plaintiffs only need to demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that they can establish a class-wide antitrust impact and do not need to prove the case at the class certification stage; and (2) that plaintiff's alleged damages can be measured on a class-wide basis using common proof. Although both parties' expert witnesses presented conflicting testimony regarding the suitability of each other's damage models during the evidentiary hearing, they agreed on a methodological approach to determine damages for a class-wide basis. The court concluded that plaintiffs need not tie their theory of antitrust impact to an exact calculation of damages but rather must assure the court that if they do demonstrate antitrust impact, damages will capable of measurement using common proof and can satisfy the predominance requirement.
On appeal, Petitioner contends that the Third Circuit erred by not applying Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), and that by not resolving the merits of Respondents claims where they pertained to the propriety of the certification, the Third Circuit split with the Eighth and Ninth Circuits. Petitioner asks the Court to resolve whether the district court must require plaintiffs to prove relevant issues through common evidence at trial in order to obtain a class certification.