Litigation: Spotting potential constitutional challenges to class actions

Several constitutional provisions may provide four key safeguards for defendants in these suits

This article is the last in a six-part series on challenging class certification. Read parts one, two, three, four and five.

In this series of articles, we have explored the often ignored—but often significant—protections that the U.S. Constitution provides to defendants targeted by inappropriate class actions. Although some lower courts disagree as to the scope and availability of these protections, a number of constitutional provisions—Article III, the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the federalism principles underlying the Full Faith and Credit and Commerce Clauses—may provide four key safeguards for defendants in class actions. First, it frequently will be improper for plaintiffs to urge applying the law of one state to the claims of all putative class members in a nationwide class action, thereby displacing the laws of other states. Second, defendants cannot be deprived of the right to raise defenses to the claims of individual class members. Third, all plaintiffs in federal court (including absent class members) must have standing to sue. And fourth, plaintiffs cannot demand statutory damages on a class-wide basis that threatens the defendant with liability grossly disproportionate to any actual injury. 

Contributing Author

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Archis Parasharami

Archis Parasharami is a co-chair of Mayer Brown LLP’s Consumer Litigation & Class Actions practice. He is also a co-editor of the firm’s

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Contributing Author

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Kevin Ranlett

Kevin Ranlett is a partner in Mayer Brown LLP’s Consumer Litigation & Class Actions practice. He is also a co-editor of the firm's

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Phillip Dupré

Phillip Dupré is an associate in Mayer Brown’s litigation practice. 

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