April 01, 2013 Articles

Supreme Court Reverses Class Certification in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

The Court held that it was an error for lower courts to refuse to scrutinize the proffered damages model because it would impermissibly invade the merits at class certification.

By Andrew J. McGuinness

In a majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court rejected certification of an antitrust class action in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 516 U.S. ___ (2013). Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito joined the majority opinion, holding that it was an error for the lower courts to refuse to scrutinize the plaintiffs’ proffered damages model because such an inquiry would impermissibly invade the merits at the class certification phase.

In the district court, plaintiffs argued that defendant cable companies’ conduct in the Philadelphia area violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act under four distinct theories. The plaintiffs then offered a regression analysis developed by an economist who estimated that the combined effect of the four types of behavior on the plaintiff class over more than a decade totaled some $875 million. On the basis of this opinion, plaintiffs argued that they had sustained their burden of demonstrating that both antitrust injury (“impact”) and damages could be determined using class-wide proofs.

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