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09-1205 Smith v. Bayer Corp.


09-1205 Smith v. Bayer Corp.


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Civil Procedure
Class actions; privity

A denial of class certifications is not binding on unnamed putative class members.

The District Court’s injunction was independently improper because Smith was not a party to the federal suit and was not covered by any exception to the rule against nonparty preclusion. Generally, a party “is ‘[o]ne by or against whom a lawsuit is brought,’ ” United States ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York, 556 U. S. ___, ___, or who “become[s] a party by intervention, substitution, or third-party practice,” Karcher v. May, 484 U. S. 72, 77. The definition of “party” cannot be stretched so far as to cover a person like Smith, whom McCollins was denied leave to represent. The only exception to the rule against nonparty preclusion potentially relevant here is the exception that binds non-named members of “properly conducted class actions” to judgments entered in such proceedings. Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U. S. 880, 894. But McCollins’ suit was not a proper class action. Indeed, the very ruling that Bayer argues should have preclusive effect is the District Court’s decision not to certify a class. Absent certification of a class under Federal Rule 23, the precondition for binding Smith was not met. Neither a proposed, nor a rejected, class action may bind nonparties. See id., at 901. Bayer claims that this Court’s approach to class actions would permit class counsel to try repeatedly to certify the same class simply by changing plaintiffs. But principles of stare decisis and comity among courts generally suffice to mitigate the sometimes substantial costs of similar litigation brought by different plaintiffs. The right approach does not lie in binding nonparties to a judgment. And to the extent class actions raise special relitigation problems, the federal Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 provides a remedy that does not involve departing from the usual preclusion rules.
593 F. 3d 716, reversed.

Local effect: The opinion overrules Seventh Circuit precedent to the contrary. In re Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., Tires Prods. Liability Litigation, 333 F.3d 763 (7th Cir. 2003).

09-1205 Smith v. Bayer Corp.

Kagan, J.

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