Isaacs v. Sprint Corporation – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Isaacs v. Sprint Corporation, et al., 261 F.3d 679 (7th Cir. 2001) the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that individual issues predominated over any common issues in a fiber optic cable case.

In Isaacs, the court addressed the problems posed by a nationwide class for claims arising under many states' laws.

In Isaacs, the court noted that the trial court would be faced with determining whether the railroad had obtained a particular right of way in fee simple, or if the railroad held only an easement, then the trial court would have to determine whether state law would allow the railroad to grant a sub-easement for laying the cable.

Next, if the state's law allowed sub-easements, then the trial court would have to determine whether the particular easement involved included the right to grant such a sub-easement.

The court noted that after those individual determinations, class members would be notified of their right to remain in the class and claim part of the judgment.

The court explained that merits-based decisions would be required to determine the class, so that if the trial court ruled in favor of Sprint, all putative class members would choose to opt out, while if the merits decisions required to determine the class went in favor of the plaintiffs, "few if any class members will opt out and Sprint will be exposed to enormous potential liabilities."

The court declared this to be a forbidden "one way intervention" which would result in unfair pressure on Sprint to settle the case. The Isaacs court concluded "this is a nightmare of a class action."