March 27, 2013 United States Supreme Court opinions

Millbrook v United States

Millbrook alleged he was sexually assaulted by prison guards and sued for assault and battery. His case was dismissed based on Third Circuit precedent that the federal Tort Claims Act retains immunity for claims involving federal law enforcement officers unless the acts were committed when serving a warrant, seizing evidence or making an arrest. The Court, resolving a circuit split, unanimously reversed. It held that 28 USC 2860(h) allows suit against the United States when the claim is based law enforcement officers committing assault or battery, that the only limitation on the suit is that the assault or battery take place in the scope of employment, and there is no textual basis to limit suits to searches, seizures and arrests. As the other elements were conceded below, the court remanded for further proceedings.

Comcast Corp. v Behrend

Behrend brought a class action suit against Comcast alleging antitrust violations. The class was certified on one of four alleged theories of anticompetitive impacts. The damage model for certification assumed all four types of impacts were present and made no effort to isolate the effects of the one approved type of impact. The district court and Third circuit approved certification based on the model. The Court, 5-4, reversed. The majority held that under Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), courts must undertake a rigorous analysis of the certification and the courts below failed to do so here. Applying the correct standard, the majority held the model was insufficient as it failed to identify what damages, if any, occurred because of the one approved impact. Thus, there was no evidence of commonality and the class could not be certified. The joint dissent by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg argued that the case should have been dismissed as improvidently granted as the question briefed and argued focused on admissibility of expert testimony at certification stage not whether the burden of proof for commonality was met. Additionally, the dissent argued that the case should have been dismissed because the majority wrongly applied antitrust law and improperly reversed factual findings by the district court without adequate support from the record.

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