Arkansas Trial Lawyers: Supreme Court Decision in Wal-Mart Case 'Unfortunate'

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jun. 20, 2011 3:43 pm  

The director of public affairs for the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association called Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling blocking a sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville "bad" and "unfortunate."

"It's great for corporations," Nathan Pittman told ArkansasBusiness.com. "It's bad for individuals and consumers."

"What's troubling is it's not the first ruling from the Supreme Court that's been good for corporations and bad for individuals," Pittman said.

In a case closely watched by American business, the Supreme Court blocked the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history, siding with Wal-Mart and against up to 1.6 million female workers in a decision that makes it harder to mount large-scale bias claims against the nation's huge companies.

More: Click to download the high court's complete ruling (PDF).  

The justices all agreed that the lawsuit against the retailer could not proceed as a class action in its current form, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

By a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the court also said there were too many women in too many jobs at Wal-Mart to wrap into one lawsuit.

Pittman said that by their very nature, class action lawsuits bind smaller, individual rulings together "so they can make an impact. ... It's a way that the individual can hold these large corporations responsible for their actions."

Theodore Boutrous Jr., Wal-Mart's lawyer, said the decision is an "extremely important victory not just for Wal-Mart, but for all companies that do business in the United States."

But Pittman added that corporations might come to dislike the ruling. Instead of spending money defending against one class-action lawsuit, companies might find themselves spending even more money having to defend against myriad individual complaints.

 

 

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