« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court
83 F. 3d, at 630-631. That assessment, we conclude, is on the mark.
С Impediments to the provision of adequate notice, the Third Circuit emphasized, rendered highly problematic any endeavor to tie to a settlement class persons with no perceptible asbestos-related disease at the time of the settlement. Id., at 633; cf. In re Asbestos Litigation, 90 F. 3d, at 999–1000 (Smith, J., dissenting). Many persons in the exposure-only category, the Court of Appeals stressed, may not even know of their exposure, or realize the extent of the harm they may incur. Even if they fully appreciate the significance of class notice, those without current afflictions may not have the information or foresight needed to decide, intelligently, whether to stay in or opt out.
Family members of asbestos-exposed individuals may themselves fall prey to disease or may ultimately have ripe claims for loss of consortium. Yet large numbers of people in this category-future spouses and children of asbestos victims—could not be alerted to their class membership. And current spouses and children of the occupationally exposed may know nothing of that exposure.
Because we have concluded that the class in this case cannot satisfy the requirements of common issue predominance and adequacy of representation, we need not rule, definitively, on the notice given here. In accord with the Third Circuit, however, see 83 F. 3d, at 633–634, we recognize the gravity of the question whether class action notice sufficient under the Constitution and Rule 23 could ever be given to legions so unselfconscious and amorphous.
The argument is sensibly made that a nationwide administrative claims processing regime would provide the most secure, fair, and efficient means of compensating victims of as
Opinion of BREYER, J.
bestos exposure.21 Congress, however, has not adopted such a solution. And Rule 23, which must be interpreted with fidelity to the Rules Enabling Act and applied with the interests of absent class members in close view, cannot carry the large load CCR, class counsel, and the District Court heaped upon it. As this case exemplifies, the rulemakers' prescriptions for class actions may be endangered by “those who embrace [Rule 23] too enthusiastically just as [they are by] those who approach (the Rule) with distaste." C. Wright, Law of Federal Courts 508 (5th ed. 1994); cf. 83 F. 3d, at 634 (suggesting resort to less bold aggregation techniques, including more narrowly defined class certifications).
For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is
JUSTICE O'CONNOR took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
JUSTICE BREYER, with whom JUSTICE STEVENS joins, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Although I agree with the Court's basic holding that “[s]ettlement is relevant to a class certification,” ante, at 619, I find several problems in its approach that lead me to a different conclusion. First, I believe that the need for settlement in this mass tort case, with hundreds of thousands of lawsuits, is greater than the Court's opinion suggests. Second, I would give more weight than would the majority to settlement-related issues for purposes of determining whether common issues predominate. Third, I am uncertain about the Court's determination of adequacy of representa
21 The opinion dissenting in part is a forceful statement of that argument.
Opinion of BREYER, J.
tion, and do not believe it appropriate for this Court to second-guess the District Court on the matter without first having the Court of Appeals consider it. Fourth, I am uncertain about the tenor of an opinion that seems to suggest the settlement is unfair. And fifth, in the absence of further review by the Court of Appeals, I cannot accept the majority's suggestions that “notice” is inadequate.
These difficulties flow from the majority's review of what are highly fact-based, complex, and difficult matters, matters that are inappropriate for initial review before this Court. The law gives broad leeway to district courts in making class certification decisions, and their judgments are to be reviewed by the court of appeals only for abuse of discretion. See Califano v. Yamasaki, 442 U. S. 682, 703 (1979). Indeed, the District Court's certification decision rests upon more than 300 findings of fact reached after five weeks of comprehensive hearings. Accordingly, I do not believe that we should in effect set aside the findings of the District Court. That court is far more familiar with the issues and litigants than is a court of appeals or are we, and therefore has “broad power and discretion ... with respect to matters involving the certification” of class actions. Reiter v. Sonotone Corp., 442 U. S. 330, 345 (1979); cf. Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U. S. 384, 402 (1990) (district court better situated to make fact-dependent legal determinations in Rule 11 context).
I do not believe that we can rely upon the Court of Appeals' review of the District Court record, for that review, and its ultimate conclusions, are infected by a legal error. E. g., Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc., 83 F. 3d 610, 626 (CA3 1996) (holding that "considered as a litigation class," the class cannot meet Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23's requirements (emphasis added). There is no evidence that the Court of Appeals at any point considered the settlement as something that would help the class meet Rule 23. I find, moreover, the fact-related issues presented here sufficiently
Opinion of BREYER, J.
close to warrant further detailed appellate court review under the correct legal standard. Cf. Reno v. Bossier Parish School Bd., 520 U. S. 471, 486 (1997). And I shall briefly explain why this is so.
I First, I believe the majority understates the importance of settlement in this case. Between 13 and 21 million workers have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace—over the past 40 or 50 years—but the most severe instances of such exposure probably occurred three or four decades ago. See Report of The Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation, pp. 6–7 (Mar. 1991) (Judicial Conference Report); App. 781-782, 801; B. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects 787–788 (4th ed. 1996). This exposure has led to several hundred thousand lawsuits, about 15% of which involved claims for cancer and about 30% for asbestosis. See In re Joint Eastern and Southern Dist. Asbestos Litigation, 129 B. R. 710, 936–937 (E and SD N. Y. 1991). About half of the suits have involved claims for pleural thickening and plaques—the harmfulness of which is apparently controversial. (One expert below testified that they “don't transform into cancer” and are not “predictor[s] of future disease,” App. 781.) Some of those who suffer from the most serious injuries, however, have received little or no compensation. In re School Asbestos Litigation, 789 F. 2d 996, 1000 (CA3 1986); see also Edley & Weiler, Asbestos: A MultiBillion Dollar Crisis, 30 Harv. J. Legis. 383, 384, 393 (1993) (“[U]p to one-half of asbestos claims are now being filed by people who have little or no physical impairment. Many of these claims produce substantial payments (and substantial costs) even though the individual litigants will never become impaired”). These lawsuits have taken up more than 6% of all federal civil filings in one recent year, and are subject to a delay that is twice that of other civil suits. Judicial Conference Report 7, 10–11.
Opinion of BREYER, J.
Delays, high costs, and a random pattern of noncompensation led the Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation to transfer all federal asbestos personalinjury cases to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in an effort to bring about a fair and comprehensive settlement. It is worth considering a few of the Committee's comments. See Judicial Conference Report 2 (“'Decisions concerning thousands of deaths, millions of injuries, and billions of dollars are entangled in a litigation system whose strengths have increasingly been overshadowed by its weaknesses.' The ensuing five years have seen the picture worsen: increased filings, larger backlogs, higher costs, more bankruptcies and poorer prospects that judgments—if ever obtained—can be collected” (quoting Rand Corporation Institute for Civil Justice)); id., at 13 (“The transaction costs associated with asbestos litigation are an unconscionable burden on the victims of asbestos disease.” “[O]f each asbestos litigation dollar, 61 cents is consumed in transaction costs .... Only 39 cents were paid to the asbestos victims” (citing Rand finding)); id., at 12 (“Delays also can increase transaction costs, especially the attorneys' fees paid by defendants at hourly rates. These costs reduce either the insurance fund or the company's assets, thereby reducing the funds available to pay pending and future claimants. By the end of the trial phase in [one case), at least seven defendants had declared bankruptcy (as a result of asbestos claims generally')); see also J. Weinstein, Individual Justice in Mass Tort Litigation 155 (1995); Edley & Weiler, supra, at 389–395.
Although the transfer of the federal asbestos cases did not produce a general settlement, it was intertwined with and led to a lengthy year-long negotiation between the cochairs of the Plaintiff's Multi-District Litigation Steering Committee (elected by the Plaintiff's Committee Members and approved by the District Court) and the 20 asbestos defendants who are before us here. Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc., 157 F. R. D. 246, 266-267 (ED Pa. 1994); App. 660–662.