Civil Procedure Keyed to Cound
AmChem Products, Inc. v. Windsor
The District Court certified a class of people for settlement purposes only who were, or who might be affected by asbestos manufactured by AmChem and others, Defendants. The certification enjoined the class members from pursuing any separate litigation pending the final order. The Court of Appeals reversed, saying the certification did not comply with Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Panel of Multidistrict Litigation transferred all the asbestos cases then filed but not yet on trial to one district for pretrial proceedings. A settlement as the result of negotiation was reached between Defendants and Plaintiffs who had already filed suit. This suit was instituted to determine the interests of potential plaintiffs who had not yet filed lawsuits. Plaintiffs moved to certify a class of people who had been exposed to asbestos but had not yet sued. All named Plaintiffs claimed to have been exposed to asbestos. A settlement was proposed. Fairness proceedings were conducted and many class members raised objections to the settlement. Their objections were that the settlement was for too low an amount, did not provide adequate compensation for those with conditions that have not yet manifested, and that representation was not adequate. The judge determined that the settlement had been arrived at fairly, and without collusion. The objectors wanted a separate class to be represented by other counsel for those without injuries. The District Court rejected this proposal, holding that separate classes would cause confusion, and that the objectors could opt out of the settlement. The objectors appealed. The Court of Appeals found that there was no common question that predominated, because some class members had injuries while others did not. In addition, there were potentially adverse interests that made representation inadequate. This potential conflict made the named class members not a “typical” class. Finally, the class action was not “superior.” The potential that exposure-only members would be bound by judgments was unfair since they do not know what will happen if they stay in or opt out. The Court of Appeals found consolidation under Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or certification of subclasses would be preferable to the current class action.
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