Women v. Men, The Class Action Suit?
In that regard, the case upholds one of the longest-standing principles in common-law jurisprudence: the idea that in order for a case to proceed, the plaintiff has to demonstrate that he or she was actually harmed by the person they are suing. Without that demonstration, there isn’t a controversy for the court to decide on. No controversy, no case.
While the Minority in Wal-Mart v. Dukes opposed the blanket overturning of the class in this particular case, they did not deny that, in general, plaintiffs are supposed to demonstrate actual harm.
Still, the biggest losers in yesterday’s decision weren’t trial attorneys. They were the mega-trial attorneys, the ones who make millions of dollars finding ever-more marginal classes of individuals to sue big corporations. Their bar for “clients” is being reset somewhat higher, and it’s going to make thousands of them rethink how they approach class-action lawsuits. This is a good thing for all of us -- including potential plaintiffs -- because the only real winners in these lawsuits are the lawyers themselves. They take the lion’s share of the awards, and the “class” gets coupons or some other paltry sum.
In the end, Ms. Dukes, the initial plaintiff in this case, still has a right to sue Wal-Mart for discrimination. In fact, she and others who have similar claims can still sue Wal-Mart as a class. There are not only remedies at law for them, there remain a whole group of trial attorneys who will take on their case on a contingency basis (provided that the attorneys believe their stories hold water and have a reasonable chance of prevailing).
Her individual rights are affirmed -- and while an individual woman or man may sue another women or man (or group of women or men) for discrimination or some other harm, we cannot sue each other for some general perceived harm.