The Supreme Court on Monday put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart. The suit was the largest class-action suit in U.S. history – and, says Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, therein lies the problem.
Toobin, who was in the courtroom for opening arguments in March, spoke on "CNN Newsroom" after the high court's ruling was announced. He shared his initial impressions of the ruling and noted that he was still reading the "complicated" decision.
He said the class-action status – potentially involving hundreds of thousands of female workers – was too large.
"The Supreme Court has basically said this is too big a case," Toobin said. "The facts are so different regarding each of the plaintiffs that it’s not fair to Wal-Mart to lump them into one case."
The decision in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes (10-277) did not represent the usual political divisions within the high court, Toobin said. The nine justices simply thought the class was too big under the rules governing class-action suits.
"The decision was 5-4, in part, but it was basically unanimous that the case had to be thrown out," Toobin said, adding that the court did not rule on whether Wal-Mart had ever discriminated.
The ruling was not a surprise. In March, Toobin predicted the case would be thrown out, based on the Supreme Court justices' responses to oral arguments.
The case could be resuscitated, Toobin said, but attorneys would have to "figure out another way to get the courts to consider the possibility that there was enormous gender discrimination at Wal-Mart."
"That conversation will continue. This lawsuit in its current form will not," he added, saying the lawsuit could be reconfigured into several smaller lawsuits, which would pose less of a threat to Wal-Mart.
"This was a case that even a company as big as Wal-Mart had to fear in terms of the financial repercussions. But now, they don't have to fear that any more, and Wal-Mart and its directors are certainly breathing very easy today," Toobin said.