The malleability of collective litigation

Shay Lavie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In Wal-Mart v. Dukes,1 Wal-Mart avoided class action became employment decisions were made by local supervisors. However, it was Wal-Mart who chose to delegate discretion; by doing so, it made class litigation less likely. Wal-Mart's choice of business administration, then, substantially reduces its expected liability. This is but one example of a broader, overlooked phenomenon. Mass defendants can control, before the occurrence of damages, the scope of future collective litigation. Collective litigation procedures are malleable, sensitive to the defendant's pre-damages choice of actions. This Article develops and substantiates this insight. This Article elaborates on two manifestations of this phenomenon. First, defendants can avoid class actions by "individualizing" the prospective class, injecting individual differences that preclude class treatment. Second, defendants can selectively contract with future victims, buying out the stronger, leaving only weak victims with a claimable right, and reducing the prospective class's capacity to litigate. Against this backdrop, this Article proposes an array of mechanisms to strengthen collective litigation procedures, including shifiing the burden to defendants to justify the business action that prevented collective litigation, and taxing defendants for making the plaintiffs' case weaker.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-757
Number of pages61
JournalNotre Dame Law Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


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