Judge Hears From Discrimination Expert Witnesses Before Deciding On Class Certification

In Higher Benchmark For Class Actions Ameet Sachdev of the Chicago Tribune writes:

Demanding more evidence of wrongdoing and scrutinizing expert witnesses may, some say, bar many consumers from access to courts. Judges are raising the bar on class-action lawsuits, demanding more evidence of the alleged wrongdoing and even holding mini-trials of expert witnesses before deciding whether to enable many plaintiffs to sue as one.

The expanded scrutiny is designed to weed out frivolous suits that have drawn the scorn of businesses and inspired federal legislation imposing limits on class actions. But critics say it also threatens to deprive consumers of a legal recourse that has been used through the years to reshape the nation’s economic and social landscape.

Millions of dollars, sometimes billions, are at stake in class-action suits, in which attorneys file suit on behalf of large numbers of people, seeking damages against corporate defendants for claims ranging from employment discrimination to consumer protection to antitrust law violation.

In the wood-paneled courtroom of U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras, two paid expert witnesses faced off in a case in which two former saleswomen in the Chicago office of EMC Corp. have accused the Boston-based maker of data storage systems of gender bias in pay and of tolerating a sexually hostile working environment. Their suit seeks class-action status on behalf of all saleswomen employed between 2001 and 2004, a group totaling nearly 500.

The judge heard from discrimination expert witnesses before deciding whether to certify the class.

More from Sachdev of the Chicago Tribune to follow.