Class Action Lawsuits

May 13, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 19
Will the Supreme Court approve the Wal-Mart case?
By Kenneth Jost


Supporters of the women who sued Wal-Mart for sex discrimination (Getty Images/Roll Call/Bill Clark)
Supporters of the women who sued Wal-Mart for sex discrimination demonstrate on March 29, 2011, at the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether to let the big case proceed. (Getty Images/Roll Call/Bill Clark)

Class actions are a controversial legal procedure allowing large numbers of plaintiffs with similar claims to join in a single lawsuit against one or more defendants. Civil rights and consumer groups say class actions provide a practical remedy for widespread injuries and help hold businesses accountable for wrongdoing. Business interests insist they lump together claims that may or may not be valid and can force companies to settle instead of incurring the expense and risk of defending a massive lawsuit. The Supreme Court is currently considering one of the biggest class actions ever filed: a sex-discrimination suit brought on behalf of up to 1.5 million current or former workers at Wal-Mart, the giant retailer. Two lower federal courts certified the case for trial, but justices voiced doubts during arguments in March about allowing the case to proceed as a class action. Meanwhile, the court's 5-4 ruling in a separate case allows businesses to enforce contracts that block consumers and employees from using class actions in arbitration.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Supreme Court
Dec. 16, 2022  The Supreme Court
Sep. 28, 2012  Supreme Court Controversies
May 13, 2011  Class Action Lawsuits
Jan. 28, 2005  Supreme Court's Future
Sep. 17, 1993  Supreme Court Preview
Aug. 14, 1987  Supreme Court Nomination
Sep. 26, 1986  The Rehnquist Court
Oct. 26, 1979  Supreme Court and the Press
Sep. 22, 1978  Burger Court's Tenth Year
Jun. 24, 1977  Politics and the Federal Courts
Oct. 09, 1968  Challenging of Supreme Court
Sep. 28, 1966  Supreme Court: Legal Storm Center
Jan. 22, 1958  Criminal Prosecution and the Supreme Court
Jan. 23, 1952  Judges in Politics
Jun. 05, 1939  Supreme Court Decisions, 1938–39
Nov. 17, 1938  Supreme Court Appointments
May 31, 1938  Supreme Court Decisions, 1937–38
Jun. 01, 1937  Supreme Court Decisions, 1936–37
Jun. 01, 1936  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1935-36
Jun. 05, 1933  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1932-33
Jun. 04, 1932  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1931–32
Jun. 06, 1931  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1930–31
Jun. 09, 1930  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1929–30
Jun. 10, 1929  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1928-29
Jun. 09, 1928  Decisions of the Supreme Court 1927–28
Sep. 27, 1924  The Supreme Court Issue
Equal Employment Opportunity & Discrimination