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Mass. Wal-Mart Employees Recertified as a Class

Lawyers for some 67,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees in Massachusetts won a major victory yesterday when the state Supreme Judicial Court reinstated their class action for unpaid wages. In Salvas v. Wal-Mart Stores, the SJC ruled that a trial court judge erred when he decertified the class action, excluded testimony from the plaintiffs' expert witness, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart.

The applicable test for certifying a class, the SJC said, is whether "questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members." In ruling that the trial judge's denial of the class was erroneous, the SJC reasoned, "[T]he essential factual questions of liability in this case -- Did a contract or agreement exist? On what terms? Did Wal-Mart breach the contract or agreement? -- rest on a 'sufficient constellation of common issues [to] bind class members together' for purposes of certification."

Carolyn Beasley Burton, the California lawyer who represents the plaintiffs together with Robert Bonsignore of Medford, Mass., told the Boston Herald that she considers the decision to be a "phenomenal" victory for workers in Massachusetts. Similar cases are pending against Wal-Mart in other states. Two have resulted in verdicts of $167 million in California and $151 million in Pennsylvania, both of which are on appeal.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 24, 2008 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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