Toobin: High Court addressed only class size, not discrimination, in Wal-Mart suit
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a class-action lawsuit involving hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs was simply too large.
June 20th, 2011
11:41 AM ET

Toobin: High Court addressed only class size, not discrimination, in Wal-Mart suit

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.

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Filed under: Courts • Justice • Lawsuit • Supreme Court • U.S.
soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Rethink

    The reason the SC threw out the case is not because the class was too big but because it did not meet the requirements for certification which have nothing to do with size itself. Here, the questions "Was I disfavored?" and "If so, why?" could not have been answered for everyone, and so a class was improper. This case has nothing to do with corruption or with corporate America or with women. It has everything to do with the limits of class certification and the Walmart employees' failure to fall within them.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daveil

      Agreed. It was actually a slap on the wrist for the class action lawyers who keep trying to push the limits so they can fatten their paychecks.

      Of course the liberals will ignore the facts and the unanimous decision and rant about big business abusing the workers which is an entirely separate issue.

      June 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Daveil, I'm a liberal, and I'm frustrated by the response from everyone. But, to be fair, the media and CNN keeps saying things about the suit being too large. No, it's about similarity. Toobin said it himself, but then also added in the 'large' issue, which is not the issue.

      "The facts are so different regarding each of the plaintiffs that it’s not fair to Wal-Mart to lump them into one case." –Toobin

      Glad this was a 9-0, and hope the rest of my liberal brethren will understand that while there are WAY WAY WAY too many issues that are being decided 5-4 by the Supreme Court on ideological lines, that this is not one of them.

      Hope Walmart gets sued by these women with reasonably similar classes, and Walmart loses big time. The issue isn't that Walmart probably isn't at fault, but that the issues that the women are claiming discrimination on are so different from each other and there's no overriding "umbrella" of evidence tying them together.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tim

    Too big to fail! walmart is like wallstreet bailouty, socialism for the rich capitalism for the poor. The conservative court appointed by the Republicans don't care about the middle class or poor.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimbojones

      From Daveil: "Of course the liberals will ignore the facts and the unanimous decision and rant about big business abusing the workers which is an entirely separate issue."

      This. Your post is PRIME example #1 of this FACT about liberals.

      June 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      lol – Hey Tim you have some laces stuck in your teeth

      June 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • ActnJackson

      You did not comprehend the article.

      The case was thrown out unanimously, by the 4 Liberal justices, as well as the 5 conservative ones.

      It failed to meet the the common factual claims (or 'umbrella') requirement linking all cases.

      The SC did EXACTLY what they were intended to do. They voted indiscriminately, based on precedent and the letter of they law.

      Sorry, the SC is NOT there to 'punish' people they think are 'bad', irregardless of the law.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ryu

    Finally something done right! All the women who where truly discriminated against can still file a lawsuit. This class action based on statistics has to GO! Can you imagine? If I was a young male who needed an entry level job I can sue Wal-Mart since clearly most entry level jobs go to women. Or if I was a nurse I can sue since most nurses at a hospital are women. Or teachers or or or or.... you get the picture? You can't have EVERY company higher exactly x amount of M/F, x amount of minorities, x amount of whatever! IT WOULD NEVER END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill323

    No one has done more than Walmart to control inflation. No one has a finer record of hiring those of us that cannot find employment any place else. Can you imagine Neiman-Marcus staffing their store with Walmart employees. If Walmart is so unfair, why is it that there are armies of applicants whenever they announce employee openings in one of their stores.

    June 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • JusDav

      Bill, what a load. Control inflation? by outsourcing virutally ALL products they sell. Keeping in mind that over 50% of items sold at walmart are USA in origin. but that includes the food items. That is not a fair comparison. Take out the food, of which virtually none could come from China... ALL the crap they sell is from China. So, back to the point. Controling inflation does not start with a corrupted Sam Walmart Idea! Sam opened his stores to sell USA products... and to put kmart type stores, etc. out of business. We could do much better as a nation if the current walmart did not exist. Mom and Pop stores would all agree 100%.( that is if they were still in business)

      Have a great (if somewhat deluded) day today Bill.

      cheers folks. BUY USA, or we will feel like the current Greek nationals....


      June 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @JusDav – We have a Walmart, a Meijer, a Kmart, a Dollar Tree, a Family Dollar, a Glen's, and a Dunhams and guess what? Their products are all over 90% Chinese. So, why would I pay more at Kmart or Meijer when I can get the same Chinese crap from Walmart for half the price?

      June 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Oh yeah, I almost forgot – we have many "mom and pop" stores too, and you know what they do? They go down to the big Walmart and a Sam's Club an hour away in the city and buy stuff that our smaller Walmart doesn't have, then put it on their shelves for double or triple the price. They couldn't survive without Walmart.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • JusDav

      @Ryan, so if everyone does it is ok? WalMart started the practice, the rest joined them.
      Makes sense. India has a practice...they kill female children..not real sure why, don't really care.. but since they do it, we all should start? WalMart is not good for US. Could be, but currently, Huge Fail to the US economy by way of what they sell.

      Have a spectacular day Ryan.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • keensnsfothobvius

      thank you for shopping at walmart,have a nice day?

      June 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • TP

      The idea that Walmart is good for America is completely debatable.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kjasd

    Discriminate!?!? People think they are discriminated against when they are looked at wrong these days. Get off your butts and start doing your jobs, interact with your supervisors in front of pears and you will have no issues! Only the ones you create!

    June 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimbojones

      "interact with your supervisors in front of pears and you will have no issues"

      This sounds like a weird idea. Why pears and not apples or oranges?

      June 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill323

      Why should one interact in the produce section only. Isn't that discriminating against sporting goods and household goods?

      June 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. POD

    Just as a matter of principle.....I have never set foot in a Wal-Mart.....and never will.....I don't care even if they start giving the Chinese crap they sell away for free....I will not give them one red cent of my money

    June 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      And that my friend is the freedom and capitalism worth fighting for!

      June 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Well said, Bill323 – The more you spend at other stores, the more I'll save shopping at Walmart. Their prices are less than half of the same stuff (same brands even, in many cases) as the other stores in my neck of the woods, with the sole exception of Meijer, which is about one and a half times the price.

      June 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. pmk1953

    By this reasoning, can we now overturn the cigarette and asbestos lawsuits.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. E. Buzz Miller

    I shop at Walmarks, and the wimmenz there don't deserve no extry pay. Their too fat and stuff. You can always see there big guts a hangin' out 'cause they don't wear no girdles.

    But I seen one the other day that had a big ol' set of balloons. I sure did wanna grease them bad boys up.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jane Doe

    "Not fair to Walmart"? lmao. Yep, yet more proof that this country is run by corporations.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      You do understand that business and entrepreneurship create wealth right? Not gov't?!

      June 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rick Calvert

    So basically, corporate America, the lesson is this: if you're going to screw people, screw them BIG.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      Don't be such a drama queen! Nobody got screwed. Anyone involved can still file a claim.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jane Doe

    I wonder how many people here know that up until about a year ago, walmart was secretly purchasing life insurance policies on their employees that named the co as the sole beneficiaries. There are several families that sued them because loved ones died on the job and they did not get one single penny that they deserved. Walmart has since been made to stop purchasing them, but its been going on for many years. Hows that for all you folks that think walmart does no wrong!

    June 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      I have no idea if what you're saying is true, but if it is, what is the problem? If they paid for the policy, and they have an insurable interest, and the policy is not an employee benefit, the proceed belong to them – unless you're suggesting Wal-Mart is killing them for the insurance money.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. vee

    It would be nice to hear from the women side of it who walks this walk everyday and who has been discriminated against not only from the top corporate jobs but all the way down to the walmart jobs, than from bunch of swinging ____ (you fill in blank) who don't have a clue. P.S. All yall women who live in these republican households who work at walmart, when you go in that voting boot (where you all alone) you better punch your vote for who got your back and not party........I wont tell nobody...... remember supreme court heavy loaded with republican

    June 20, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      Vee – the ruling means that you just can't rule in universal generalities this big. There is nothing stopping anyone from filing a future claim and the courts will take them one at a time. IF you really want freedom – vote libertarian.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Xamuel

    Our Chinese masters will very pleased. Long live the Chairman!

    June 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      You mean the same (Chinese) people Obama wants to borrow more money from so he can continue his recklessness spending?

      June 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brad

    Why is it always political? Can't a case be decided on sound legal grounds without politcal implications? It seems to me that this was one of those instances. From what I read it was decided 5-4 but clearly all 9 Justices wanted the case thrown out. I would think that if all 9 Justices ultimately wanted the case thrown out that it wasn't some right or left wing victory. It was a victory for justice.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. teremist

    What is frustrating about this case, is that the VICTIMS deserve their day in court. Walmart doesn't have a glass ceiling. heck its' made of the same granite they make headstones from! There's a big steel sign that reads: NO WOMEN BEYOND THIS POINT. I don't know about anyone else, but my utility companies, and mortgage holder, do not accept "legal technicalities," as a form of payment. Walmart could do the decent thing, and offer reasonable settlements, to each group. Heck they could even pretend they did nothing wrong. Yeah and Santa Clause and the Tooth fairy COULD both pass out porches, but that ain't gonna happen, either.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      There is nothing in this "ruling" stopping anyone involved from filing a future claim.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
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