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Supreme Court Wal-Mart Discrimination Decision Alters Class Actions

Nearly four months after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, many commentators and legal analysts are trying to determine the long-term effects of the ruling. In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court held that the 1.6 million women filing the class action lawsuit did not have a viable claim against the retail giant for sex discrimination because their claims were not "sufficiently similar" enough to fulfill the requirements of a class action suit.

An interesting parallel is beginning to form in the wake of that ruling - many are comparing the Dukes decision with the recent class action suits against banks for mortgage lending fraud and discrimination. In two recent cases, the court has found in favor of the banking institution because the judge in each case failed to find a disparate impact in the lending practice for all of the named individuals forming the class.

This rationale is similar to the Dukes case where the Supreme Court held there was enough common sex discrimination against members of the entire class of female employees at Wal-Mart.

While it's difficult to tell at this early stage how the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case will impact further class action lawsuits, it is clear that the effect will be felt by many. In the two cases that cited the Dukes decision in their holding, the decisions in favor of the banks affected more than 1 million Americans.

Source: Wall Street Journal "Wal-Mart Ripple Effect," 10/18/2011

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