Five Key 2013 Pro-Business Decisions

Suit type/case

Class actions: Damages

Comcast v. Behrend

Decision

5-4

Impact

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that Comcast did not have to face an antitrust suit filed on behalf of 2 million cable customers because the plaintiffs hadn’t established a common method to determine monetary damages.

Suit type/case

Class actions: Arbitration

Amex v. Italian Colors

Decision

5-3

Dissenter Justice Kagan said the ruling could help protect monopolists

Impact

Scalia, again writing for the majority, held that merchants seeking to sue American Express en masse were bound by an agreement they signed to pursue claims individually before an arbitrator.

Suit type/case

Global tort suits

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

Decision

9-0

Impact

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a unanimous court that multinational corporations generally should not face liability in U.S. courts under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute for alleged human-rights abuses overseas.

The law had been used aggressively by rights activists since the 1980s

Suit type/case

Harassment liability

Vance v. Ball State

Decision

5-4

Impact

Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion put new restrictions on lawsuits claiming on-the-job harassment. By tightening the definition of the word “supervisor,” the ruling limited companies’ liability.

Suit type/case

Drug safety

Mutual v. Bartlett

Decision

5-4

Impact

Writing for the majority, Alito reinforced obstacles to patient lawsuits against generic-drug manufacturers, overturning a $21 million award to a woman who suffered injuries after taking a generic painkiller.

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