Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Opinion Date: April 6, 2021
Judge: Patrick J. Bumatay
Areas of Law: Class Action
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order certifying three classes in a multi-district antitrust case alleging a price-fixing conspiracy by StarKist and Tri-Union, producers of packaged tuna. Producers challenged the district court’s determination that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3)’s “predominance” requirement was satisfied by expert statistical evidence finding classwide impact based on averaging assumptions and pooled transaction data. Although the panel has not previously addressed the proper burden of proof at the class certification stage, the panel held that a district court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff has established predominance under Rule 23(b)(3). The panel ultimately concluded that this form of statistical or “representative” evidence can be used to establish predominance, but the district court abused its discretion by not resolving the factual disputes necessary to decide the requirement before certifying these classes. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court’s order certifying the classes and remanded for the district court to determine the number of uninjured parties in the proposed class based on the dueling statistical evidence.
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