Amchem Products v. Windsor
In Amchem Products v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 138 L. Ed. 2d 689, 117 S. Ct. 2231 (U.S. 1997), the Court upheld the decertification of an asbestos exposure case based, in part, on lack of predominance.
The Court in Amchem stated:
Predominance is a test readily met in certain cases alleging consumer or securities fraud or violations of antitrust law.
Even mass tort cases arising from a common cause or disaster may, depending upon the circumstances, satisfy the predominance requirement.
The Advisory Committee for the 1966 revision of Federal Rule 23, it is true, noted that "mass accident" cases are likely to present "significant defenses of liability, ... affecting the individuals in different ways."
And the Committee advised that such cases are "ordinarily not appropriate" for class treatment.
But the text of the rule does not categorically exclude mass tort cases from class certification and district courts, since the late 1970s, have been certifying such cases in increasing number.
The Committee's warning, however, continues to call for caution when individual stakes are high and disparities among class members great. Amchem, 521 U.S. at 625.
The Amchem Court stated, that "the members of the class have all been exposed to asbestos products supplied by the defendants." Id. at 623.
The Court focused on a variety of disparate questions, including exposure "to different asbestos-containing products, for different amounts of time, in different ways, and over different periods." Id. at 624.
The Court also focused on other potential causes of the alleged injuries, and the fact that these potential causes differed from class member to class member. Id.
The class included both persons who had already experienced symptoms of asbestos-related illness and persons who had not yet experienced symptoms.
The Supreme Court denied approval of a settlement in this action in part because of the disparity in the injuries between these types of claimants. Id. at 624.