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Ruling Against Wal-Mart in Discrimination Class Action, Plus Agriculture, Judgment Renewal, and IP Matters

By FindLaw Staff | Last updated on

Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 04-16688, involved a Title VII action alleging discrimination against female employees by Wal-Mart.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's certification of a Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) class of current employees with respect to their claims for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and back pay, holding that 1) it was within the district court's discretion, and in line with Falcon, to determine that the commonality prerequisite to class certification was satisfied; 2) decentralized, subjective decision making could contribute to a common question of fact regarding the existence of discrimination; and 3) because the discrimination they claimed to have suffered occurred through alleged common practice --e.g., excessively subjective decision making in a corporate culture of uniformity and gender stereotyping--the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that their claims were sufficiently typical to satisfy Rule 23(a)(3). 

However, the court of appeals remanded the certification order with respect to plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages, and as to those class members who no longer worked for Wal-Mart, on the grounds that 1) whether certification under Rule 23(b)(2) of the punitive damages claims would cause monetary relief to predominate; and 2) whether an additional class or classes may be appropriate under Rule 23(b)(3) with respect to the claims of former employees.

Fidelity Nat'l. Fin. Inc. v. Friedman, No. 08-16967, concerned an action to enforce a judgment in Arizona.  The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the Arizona Supreme Court:  1) Do collection activities (such as filing for a writ of garnishment or applying for orders from the court to inspect a safety deposit box or require a debtor's exam) taken within Arizona, renew a judgment previously registered in Arizona?  2) Does the filing of a related lawsuit in a state other than Arizona renew a judgment previously registered in Arizona?

Fence Creek Cattle Co. v. US Forest Serv., No. 08-36051, involved an action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claiming that the Forest Service's cancellation of plaintiff's use of certain grazing allotments for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the permit.  The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment for defendant, holding that 1) plaintiff failed to meet its heavy burden to show that the additional materials it sought were necessary to adequately review the Forest Service's decision; 2) based on the lack of evidence that plaintiff actually owned the cattle observed on one allotment, substantial evidence supported the Forest Service's factual finding of non-ownership; and 3) the Forest Service fully complied with the due process requirements of the APA.

Zobmondo Ent'mt., LLC v. Falls Media, LLC, No. 08-56831, concerned an action for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and related claims based on plaintiff's use of defendant's registered trademark "WOULD YOU RATHER . . . ?".  The court of appeals reversed summary judgment for plaintiff, holding that there was a genuine issue of material fact whether "WOULD YOU RATHER . . . ?" was merely descriptive.

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