Is the Class Action Really Dead? Is that Good or Bad for Class Members?

54 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2015

Date Written: February 25, 2015


Recent Supreme Court decisions have tightened up the standards for obtaining class certification and virtually eliminate class arbitration as well. However, while the Court has made it more difficult for plaintiffs’ attorneys to use class resolution of claims as a prosecutorial tool, the lower federal courts appear to relax certification standards when the parties seek to certify a settlement class. Because of the preclusive power of a class action, which binds all class members who do not opt out, the class action remains a potent settlement tool. The 2014 Randolph W. Thrower Symposium panel that served as the foundation for this paper, “Binding the Future: Global Settlements and the Death of Representative Litigation,” asked, however, whether class settlements are bad for class members.

This Article begins by analyzing the Supreme Court’s certification decisions and agrees with most commentators that although class actions are not dead, the device’s utility as a prosecution tool has been compromised. However, the Article then shows that certification of class actions for settlement purposes is alive and well. Finally, the Article identifies possible alternatives to the use of class actions. Although much attention has been (and should be) directed at the fairness of proposed settlements, the Article suggests that it is fortunate that the lower federal courts are not applying class certification standards as stringently in the class settlement context. This is because, despite all the problems inherent in class action practice, class actions remain the best of a range of options for protecting the rights of class members, particularly in low-value claim cases.

Suggested Citation

Vairo, Georgene M., Is the Class Action Really Dead? Is that Good or Bad for Class Members? (February 25, 2015). 64 Emory Law Journal 477 (2014), Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2015-08, Available at SSRN:

Georgene M. Vairo (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

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