“This is another example of the Supreme Court siding with large corporations to limit access to the courts for individuals seeking justice,” said Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“Those without means to hire an attorney or pursue a claim rely on class-action lawsuits to level the playing field and change the policies and practices of elite corporations,” he said. “The court’s sharply divided ruling has made it more difficult for these individuals.”
In dismissing the Wal-Mart class action, the majority justices determined that the 1.5 million members of the suing class lacked enough in common to justify conducting the litigation as a single, huge class-action lawsuit rather than as smaller, more focused, class actions, or individual suits.
“This decision makes it difficult for employees to use class actions for employment-discrimination claims unless they can point to a company-wide discriminatory policy,” Howard Erichson, a professor at Fordham Law School, said in a statement.
Other analysts said the decision closes a loophole that some plaintiffs' lawyers were exploiting to bypass tough restrictions on class-action litigation.
“Many class-action lawyers had smuggled damages class actions into court through the lenient standards for injunctive class actions,” said Vanderbilt Law Professor Brian Fitzpatrick in a statement. “The opinion today closes this loophole.”