AMCHEM PRODUCTS, INC. v. WINDSOR

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-270
Petitioner 
Amchem Products, Inc.
Respondent 
Windsor
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
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Facts of the Case 

The volume and complexity of asbestos litigation led the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation to transfer all asbestos claims filed in federal courts, but not yet on trial, to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. After this consolidation, counsel for the plaintiffs and the defendant manufacturers reached a partial global settlement: a class consisting of all individuals with potential asbestos claims who had not yet filed lawsuits would be certified pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23(b)(3) (FRCP) for purposes of settlement only. The proposed settlement created an administrative structure which provided set compensation for certain asbestos-related diseases. The District Court approved the plan, and certified the proposed class. Upon appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the lower court's order, finding that the requirements of class certification had not been met. Specifically, the Third Circuit held that while a class may be certified for the sole purpose of settlement, the certification requirements of FRCP 23 must still be met as though the case were going to trial. In this instance, the class failed to demonstrate that common issues predominated over other questions, FRCP 23(b)(3), or that the named plaintiffs would "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class."

Question 

May settlement play a role, under FRCP 23, in determining the propriety of class certification?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Windsor, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Appellate Procedure (or relevant rules of a circuit court)

Yes, but a limited one. While the court of appeals had erred by stating that settlement was not relevant to class certification determinations, the lower court had, in fact, closely examined the terms of the settlement, and remand was therefore not merited. A court considering a class for settlement need not consider whether certification would present intractable management problems at the trial stage, but the remaining requirements of FRCP 23 must be met. Here those requirements were not fulfilled. First, despite the over-arching issue of asbestos-related health problems, common issues did not predominate given the very different injuries suffered by the plaintiffs, and the fact that some class members had not yet manifested physical disease. FRCP 23(b)(3). Second, the named parties would not adequately represent the class because those currently injured had interests distinct from those who had been exposed to asbestos but had not yet exhibited any physical symptoms. FRCP 23(a)(4). In resolving the case the Court declined to reach the issue of whether the settlement proceeding was a justiciable case or controversy under Article III because, it held, determination of class certification was logically antecedent to these issues.

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AMCHEM PRODUCTS, INC. v. WINDSOR. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_270>.
AMCHEM PRODUCTS, INC. v. WINDSOR, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_270 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"AMCHEM PRODUCTS, INC. v. WINDSOR," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_96_270.