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Posts Tagged ‘statistics’

The California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Duran v. U.S. Bank National Association yesterday, addressing the use of statistical sampling as a way of evaluating aggregate liability and damages in a class action. Although Duran is a wage and hour case, its analysis is pertinent to the use of statistical evidence in a variety of other class action contexts.

In the opening line of his majority opinion, Justice Corrigan referred to Duran “an exceedingly rare beast” because it was a wage and hour class action that had proceeded all the way through trial to verdict.  In the trial court, the plaintiff had presented testimony from statistician Richard Drogin, who had also notably served as an expert for the plaintiffs in Walmart Stores Inc. v. Dukes.  Drogin proposed a random sampling analysis that purported to estimate the percentage of the defendant’s employees that had been misclassified for purposes of entitlement to overtime pay.  The trial court did not rely on Drogin’s analysis but instead came up with its own sampling approach, which involved pulling the names of 20 class members, hearing testimony from these witnesses along with the named plaintiffs, and then extrapolating the court’s factual findings across the entire class in order to determine the defendant’s liability.

The supreme court affirmed a decision by the Court of Appeal holding that this sampling approach violated due process and was a manifest abuse of discretion.  Generally, there were two independent reasons for the supreme court’s conclusion: 1) the use of random sampling deprived the defendant of the opportunity to present individualized evidence supporting its defenses to the claims; and 2) the sampling method adopted by the court was inherently flawed and unreliable.

Without categorically rejecting the use of statistics as a tool in managing class action litigation, the supreme court identified numerous conceptual limitations on its use.  First, “[s]tatistical methods cannot entirely substitute for common proof . . . .  There must be some glue that binds class members together apart from statistical evidence.”  So, while statistics may serve as circumstantial evidence to support a common issue–such as the existence of centralized policy or practice, they may not be used as a substitute for establishing commonality or for avoiding individualized determination of individual issues–such as by generalizing effects of a given policy or practice on large groups of claimants where the effects vary in actuality.

Second, a trial court cannot utilize statistical evidence in a way that prevents the individual adjudication of individual defenses.  Although courts are encouraged to develop innovative procedures in managing individual issues, a court cannot ignore individual issues altogether or prevent them from being decided on an individual basis.

Third, if statistical evidence is to be used as part of a litigation plan for managing complex class action, the methods to be employed should be presented, evaluated, and scrutinized at the class certification stage.  The court should not simply assume that statistical methods will permit class treatment and certify the class based on this hypothetical possibility.

Fourth, the court must ensure that the statistical method to be employed has to be reliable, based on statistically valid data, and not prone to a high margin of error.  In other words, junk science or ad hoc, rough justice are not enough.

The Duran opinion is worthy of careful study for anyone considering the use of statistics in class certification proceedings, both in the wage and hour context and in class actions more generally.  It also provides a colorful illustration of the due process and manageability problems posed by the “trial by formula” approach to class actions that the United States Supreme Court criticized in Dukes.

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I’m very excited to be speaking at a Strafford Publications CLE webinar tomorrow entitled: Statistics in Class Action Litigation: Admissibility, Expert Witnesses and Impact of Comcast v. Behrend.   The program is scheduled for June 18, 2013 at  1:00pm-2:30pm EDT.  This is the third iteration of this presentation, which has been updated to offer insights in light of the Supreme Court’s Comcast decision earlier this term.  Brian Troyer of Thompson Hine in Cleveland and Justin Hopson and Rick Preston from Hitachi Consulting in Denver will be co-presenting.  Below is a synopsis of the program.  Click here for more information and to register:

Class certification standards have become more rigorous, and the skillful use of statistical evidence is an important part of class actions. Effectively employing or challenging statistics can make a difference in winning or losing a class certification motion.

Statistical evidence is introduced through expert witness testimony, and Daubert challenges may be an effective strategy. This raises the issue of the scope of the court’s inquiry into the merits at the class certification stage.

The 2011 Wal-Mart v. Dukes Supreme Court ruling underscored the prominent role of statistical evidence in assessing the merits at the certification stage. The Court’s recent Comcast v. Behrend ruling reinforces Dukes regarding merits assessments at class certification, thus impacting the continued role of statistical evidence.

Listen as our experienced panel examines statistical evidence in certification proceedings, the impact of Comcast v. Behrend and related case law, and best practices for using statistics and cross-examining witnesses.

Outline

  1. Role of statistical evidence in support of class certification
  2. Expert testimony and Daubert analysis at class certification stage
  3. Impact of Comcast v. Berhrend and Wal-Mart v. Dukes
  4. Science of statistics and cross-examining the statistics witness

Benefits

The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • What is the impact of Comcast and Dukes upon the use of statistical analysis at class certification?
  • What strategies can counsel use to effectively cross-examine statistics witnesses?
  • What types of statistics can be introduced and what are the proper ways to utilize statistics?

Following the speaker presentations, you’ll have an opportunity to get answers to your specific questions during the interactive Q&A.

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This is the last of six posts summarizing my notes of the six presentations at the ABA’s 16th Annual Class Actions Institute held in October in Chicago.  For more on this excellent conference, see my October 31, November 5, November 6November 18, and December 3 CAB posts.

This year’s Institute was capped off by a presentation and demonstration entitled: “Preparing Early and Often,” State-of-the-Art Strategies for Managing Class Action Experts.  Andrew J. McGuiness moderated the panel, which consisted of expert economists Dr. Janet S. Netz and Dr. James Langenfeld, attorneys Mary Jane Fait and Laurie A. Novion, and U.S. District Court Judge Gerald E. Rosen.  The panel’s insightful tips were highlighted by vignettes in the form of mock examinations of the two experts. 

Daubert analysis of proposed expert testimony is required at the class certification, a question on which the Supreme Court may shed some light when it rules on Comcast v. Behrend later this term.  At the moment, circuits that require a Daubert analysis include the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits.  The Sixth and Eighth Circuits have both adopted a Daubert-lite standard, while the Fifth Circuit has taken a “Daubert Maybe ” or “Daubert I don’t know” approach to the question.

The vignettes illustrated some of the key potential lines of attack on a plaintiff’s or a defendant’s expert’s opinions presented in support of or in opposition to class certification.  They include (but are not limited to): 1) whether the expert relied on a reliable dataset; 2) whether there is a formulaic basis for calculating damages; 3) whether there are any inconsistencies between the defendant’s own transactional data and outside data, such as market research data; 4) whether any individual variation in the data can be explained in a systemic way; and 5) whether a regression analysis or other analytical model is a valid way of evaluating the data or its causal connection to the defendant’s alleged misconduct.

Both the vignettes and the panelists’ observations served to reinforce how important it is for the lawyer to present an expert’s testimony in a way so that the judge understands the evidence.

One key practice tip offered by the panel was to consider using a consulting expert before turning to a testifying expert.  This way, different models or modes of analysis can be tested without fear of tainting the conclusions of the testifying expert or unnecessarily exposing the testifying expert to impeachment or cross-examination. 

However, that does not mean that it is not necessary to make full disclosure to the testifying expert about the material facts and legal issues in the case.  A common frustration that experts have with lawyers is they oftentimes fail to provide a fair and clear picture of the facts or applicable law, leading the expert to an opinion that is at odds with the facts or irrelevant to the issues in the case.  At minimum, this can put the expert in an awkward position and undermine the attorney’s client’s chances for success.  At worst, it can both lead to an adverse decision and cause undeserved and lasting damage to the expert’s professional reputation.

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In preparing for our webinar on the use of statistics in class actions tomorrow, I discovered that the California Supreme Court has granted review in Duran v. U.S. Bank, a case that could have major implications for the future of statistical sampling as common proof in class actions.  See my April 6, 2012 post titled Trial by Formula, Statistical Sampling, and the Right to Due Process for a summary of the Court of Appeal’s decision, which has lost its precedential effect by virtue of the decision to grant review.  The supreme court’s docket for the case  is available here.   Kimberly Kralowec has posted many of the court documents on her blog, The UCL Practitioner.

The folks at the Litigation Impact Journal have noted that the decision to grant review in Duran was foreshadowed by Justice Werdegar’s concurrence in his own majority opinion in the California Supreme Court’s highly publicized decision last month in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court.  In that concurrence, Justice Werdeger argued that “[r]epresentative testimony, surveys, and statistical analysis all are available as tools to render manageable determinations of the extent of liability [in wage and hour cases].”  In Duran, the court will have an opportunity to explore that issue in more detail.

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It’s not too late to sign up for next Wednesday’s Strafford Publications Webinar, Statistics in Class Action Litigation: Admissibility, Expert Witnesses and Impact of Wal-Mart v. Dukes.  Click the link on the title of the program for more information and to sign up.

For anyone looking for sneak preview, here are the program slides, which were are the result of the joint efforts of my co-presenters, Brian Troyer of Thompson Hine and Rick Preston of Hitachi Consulting, and me.  We hope you can make it!

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I’m not sure that WordPress site statististics would be admissible in a class action as proof of readers’ interest, but the recent CAB site stats do appear to show some level of interest in the topic of statistics in class actions. 

So, readers may be interested in an upcoming Strafford Publications webinar in which I will be participating on May 23, 2012, entitled Statistics in Class Action Litigation: Admissibility, Expert Witnesses and Impact of Wal-Mart v. Dukes.  For those of you who think that title sounds familiar, this is an update of a Strafford webinar held last year shortly after the Dukes decision was announced.  Find out if our predictions then were at all close to the mark. 

Here’s a link to the Strafford page for the webinar, where you can get more information and register:

http://www.straffordpub.com/products/statistics-in-class-action-litigation-admissibility-expert-witnesses-and-impact-of-wal-mart-v-dukes-2012-05-23

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For those of you interested in the topic of statistics in mass and class actions, U. Conn. Law Professor and Mass Tort Litigation Blog contributor Alexandra D. Lahav has written an academic paper on the subject in the Texas Law Review, aptly entitled The Case for “Trial by Formula.”  For Professor Lahav’s synopsis of the paper, a link to the paper, and a brief response to last week’s CAB post on the subject, see this Mass Tort Litigation Blog post.

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