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How big is too big for class action?

Marketplace Staff Mar 24, 2009
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How big is too big for class action?

Marketplace Staff Mar 24, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Wal-Mart is off to federal appeals court in San Francisco today.
The nation’s largest employer might be facing the nation’s largest discrimination case. The question is whether 2 million women can sue an employer in a single lawsuit. Amanda Aronczyk reports.


Amanda Aronczyk: For so many plaintiffs to go against a single employer is, well, unprecedented.

Ted Boutros is Wal-Mart’s lead council on the appeal. He says that if the class action proceeds, Wal-Mart won’t get to defend itself against individual charges. He calls it a trial by statistics.

Ted Boutros: We have a tradition in this country that individuals get their day in court. Class actions are an exception to that that need to be used carefully so as not to defeat people’s rights.

Debra Smith is a senior staff attorney with Equal Rights Advocates. She argues that Wal-Mart’s discrimination is systemic.

Debra Smith: It’s exactly the type of case that the federal judiciary envisioned being a class action. It’s David versus Goliath, you know, it’s classic.

Smith says that if each woman were forced to bring her own suit, no one could possibly afford it. The original case has now been in the courts for over eight years — and it’s not getting any cheaper.

I’m Amanda Aronczyk for Marketplace.

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