Product Liability Update: April 2016

Foley Hoag LLP

United States Supreme Court Permits Class Certification And Proof of Liability Through Statistical Evidence Based on Class Sampling Where Class Was Sufficiently Uniform That Evidence Would Have Been Admissible in Any Class Member’s Individual Action, Holds Propriety of Award to Uninjured Class Members Not Raised Absent Order or Plan for Disbursing Class Recovery -

In Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 2016 U.S. LEXIS 2134 (S. Ct. Mar. 22, 2016), plaintiffs, employees who worked in certain departments at defendant’s pork processing plant, brought a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), and putative class action under an Iowa wage statute and Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3), in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. Plaintiffs sought overtime pay for all employees’ hours exceeding forty a week because defendant had not credited the employees for time spent donning and doffing protective gear. The district court certified the action as both a class and collective action. Because defendant had failed to keep records of donning and doffing time as required by the FLSA, plaintiffs offered expert testimony at trial that used a study that estimated the average donning and doffing time per employee in each department based on representative sampling, applied the relevant average to each employee’s individual time records and estimated the class was collectively owed $6.7 million. The jury ultimately awarded $2.9 million, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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