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. teremist


    June 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. teremist


    June 20, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tom

    There is a logic problem here. How many people who work at Wal-Mart can afford a lawyer willing to take on one of the world's biggest corporations?

    June 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jean2009

      None and they know that.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Very few lawyers in cases like these are paid by the plaintiffs. They take a very large portion of the judgement instead. Meaning, if you can convince the lawyer that you have a good case, then they will take your case, although admittedly they also have to have the resources to handle the case. Chances are, the same attorneys who were handling the monster class action suit will simply break it down into several smaller suits. It's not a matter of the people suing Walmart having enough money.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. derek

    big Business > employee rights...apparently

    June 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    ........The wealthy class may as well enjoy this ride while they can because there won't be much of a country left soon.

    Hopefully, they have alternative locations to live at because, the poor won't rob the bakery, they will burn it down and, as long as the masses (us) keep accepting the status quo.... we deserve what we get.

    Boycott Walmart, Target and other stores just like it that import Chinese crap because the rich own the manufacturing plants that make that crap they sell......try to buy from local, small merchants and buy American when you can.

    NOTHING in this country will improve until we bring the fat cats back down to the level they belong at. It's the large corporate concerns like Wal Mart that call the shots, not your politicians!!.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      So you're against affordable goods for the poor? You selfishly want people to pay higher prices for goods and services to support your own political agenda? And you do not understand that entrepreneurship and business create wealth, right? Not the gov't?! It must be nice to afford your point of view.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Charlie from the North

    One family controls 40% of the wealth in this counrty and they own Walmart. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to anwer your question.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JoeS

    I am sure the Lawyers got disappointed on this ruling, they did not get their expected billions if not millions.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nagrom

    Gettin' so I can't even afford going to WalMart. No that the crap they sell is worth anything anyway. Thank you mega corporations and the Supreme Court for destroying the American Dream. The radical righteous reign terror everywhere.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      Don't let the libs crush your dreams! I put myself through college and you can too! The American dream is not dead, just overshadowed by BIG gov't and liberal sound bites. Get an education and work hard and good things can happen.

      June 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nagrom

    Just tried to post something here but alas I was censored again. So much for free speech.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. marcia

    Ahh....what enough money will buy!!!

    June 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michael Thompson

    So I guess the lesson learned here is that if you are going to discriminate, do it on an epic scale. That way the Supreme Court will feel the case is too large to adjudicate.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ronny Gidlund

    There is NO Justice in this country anymore!!!!!!!

    June 20, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. LT

    You peoplle have misconstrude the entire point! It's not even about "big business" vs. the litte man. It was about discrimination towards women. The women that presented their cases were too diverse of situations to actually hold a court case. Maybe if they were smart enough to group similar cases together then take on WALMART they would've had a chance. You people are just too ignorant to see that. You just want to bash anyone and everyone for anything. How about you read up on wat you are talking about before you start rambling.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Robert in Vermont

    Not surprising for a right leaning Supreme Court. Amazing how the difference between greed and entrepreneurship have been so twisted. Like most liberals, I have a Ph.D... perhaps that is being too educated in America today.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bert f.

    In Massachusetts, Walmart only provides health care for those at the manager level. The rest of their employees get free health care from the state, which means for all the billions they claim to make each year, Massachusetts taxpayers pay for their employees health care.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
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