Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., 527 U.S. 815, 7 (1999)

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Cite as: 527 U. S. 815 (1999)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case turns on the conditions for certifying a mandatory settlement class on a limited fund theory under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1)(B). We hold that applicants for contested certification on this rationale must show that the fund is limited by more than the agreement of the parties, and has been allocated to claimants belonging within the class by a process addressing any conflicting interests of class members.


Like Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U. S. 591 (1997), this case is a class action prompted by the elephantine mass of asbestos cases, and our discussion in Amchem will suffice to show how this litigation defies customary judicial administration and calls for national legislation.1 In 1967, one of the first actions for personal asbestos injury was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District

1 " '[This] is a tale of danger known in the 1930s, exposure inflicted upon millions of Americans in the 1940s and 1950s, injuries that began to take their toll in the 1960s, and a flood of lawsuits beginning in the 1970s. On the basis of past and current filing data, and because of a latency period that may last as long as 40 years for some asbestos related diseases, a continuing stream of claims can be expected. The final toll of asbestos related injuries is unknown. Predictions have been made of 200,000 asbestos disease deaths before the year 2000 and as many as 265,000 by the year 2015.

" 'The most objectionable aspects of asbestos litigation can be briefly summarized: dockets in both federal and state courts continue to grow; long delays are routine; trials are too long; the same issues are litigated over and over; transaction costs exceed the victims' recovery by nearly two to one; exhaustion of assets threatens and distorts the process; and future claimants may lose altogether.' " Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U. S., at 598 (quoting Report of The Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation 2-3 (Mar. 1991) (hereinafter Report)). We noted in Amchem that the Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation in 1991 had called for "federal legislation creating a national asbestos dispute-resolution scheme." 521 U. S., at 528 (citing Report 3, 27-35). To date Congress has not responded.


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