July 14, 2017
On June 12, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Microsoft Corp. v. Baker. Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) alleging that, during gameplay on the Xbox 360 video game console, discs would come loose and get scratched by the internal components of the console, sustaining damage that then rendered them unplayable. The district court, deferring to an earlier denial of class certification entered by another district court dealing with a similar putative class, entered a stipulated dismissal and order striking class allegations. Despite the dismissal being the product of a stipulation--that is, an agreement by the parties--the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that the parties remained sufficiently adverse for the dismissal to constitute a final appealable order. The Ninth Circuit, therefore, concluded it had appellate jurisdiction over the case. Reaching the merits, that Court held that the district court had abused its discretion, and therefore reversed the stipulated dismissal and order striking class allegations, and remanded the case.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction to review an order denying class certification after the named plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their claims with prejudice.
By a vote of 8-0, the Court reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held that Federal courts of appeals lack jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. §1291 to review an order denying class certification (or, as in this case, an order striking class allegations) after the named plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice. Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion was joined by Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which the Chief Justice and Justice Alito joined. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
To discuss the case, we have Theodore H. Frank, who is Senior Attorney and Director of the Center for Class Action Fairness at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.