Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo: U.S. Supreme Court Holds That Class Plaintiffs May Use Sampling Evidence to Establish Predominance of Common Issues If Such Evidence Would Be Admissible to Prove Liability in Individual Suits

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP - March 23, 2016

The Supreme Court held yesterday in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo that representative evidence may be used to establish class-wide liability—and that common questions may predominate over individual ones—if it could be used to establish liability in an individual action.  At issue in Tyson Foods was whether a class of workers in a food processing plant could rely on expert studies calculating, based on observing a sample of employees, the average amount of time spent donning and doffing protective equipment to establish the amount of overtime pay to which members of the class were entitled.  The Court concluded in a narrow decision that such evidence was admissible in this class and collective action because it would have been admissible to show an employer’s liability in an individual lawsuit, under a rule set forth in the Court’s decision in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. The Court declined to address Tyson’s separate contention that the plaintiffs were required to prove that uninjured employees would not receive damages under the lump-sum award, thus leaving that question open.