Wal-Mart employees get class action certified in medical care suit
Gianzero, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al., No. 09-cv-00656-REB-BNB (D. Colo. 03/29/10).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of Colorado granted the plaintiffs' request to certify their case as a class action. The case alleges that the plaintiffs' employer, Wal-Mart, and other parties unlawfully dictated and interfered with the medical treatment they received in conjunction with work-related injuries.
What it means: Under the federal rules of civil procedure, a class action may be certified if the plaintiffs satisfy several requirements: 1) the class must be so numerous that joining all members is impracticable; 2) the class shares common questions of fact or law; 3) the claims or defenses of the individuals representing the class are typical of those of the class; and 4) the individuals representing the class must adequately protect the interests of the class.
Summary: A group of Wal-Mart employees claimed that Wal-Mart, its workers' compensation insurers, and other parties, working in concert with each other, imposed policies that resulted in the denial of or delays in medical treatment related to on-the-job injuries. They sought to have their case certified as a class action. The defendants argued that the class was overly broad and that the challenged policies had been modified. The District Court granted the plaintiffs' request to certify the class, finding that they satisfied each of the key criteria for a class action.
The court noted that 6,933 Colorado Wal-Mart employees filed workers' compensation claims during the relevant period. As joining each of them in a lawsuit would not be practical, the plaintiffs satisfied the numerosity requirement. The typicality requirement was satisfied because the class members shared several common questions of fact and law. Factual differences among individual claims do not defeat typicality, the court explained, "as long as the legal theory underlying the plaintiffs' claims is the same." Finally, the individuals chosen to represent the class would adequately protect the interests of the class as a whole and were "willing and able to control the litigation."
The court defined the class as all persons who have received or have attempted to obtain, or will in the future receive or attempt to obtain, workers' compensation benefits for injuries sustained within the course and scope of their employment with Wal-Mart. It also limited the class to plaintiffs whose benefits were or are regulated by the Colorado Workers' Compensation Act.
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June 21, 2010
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