Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., 527 U.S. 815, 15 (1999)

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

Opinion of the Court

tion, supra.8 Agreeing with the District Court's application of Rule 23(a), the Court of Appeals found that there was commonality in class members' shared interest in securing and equitably distributing maximum possible settlement funds, and that the representative plaintiffs were sufficiently typical both in sharing that interest and in basing their claims on the same legal and remedial theories that absent class members might raise. Id., at 975-976. The Fifth Circuit also thought that there were no conflicts of interest sufficiently serious to undermine the adequacy of class counsel's representation. Id., at 976-982.9 As to Rule 23(b)(1)(B), the court approved the class certification on a "limited fund" rationale based on the threat to "the ability of other members of the class to receive full payment for their injuries from Fibreboard's limited assets." Id., at 982.10 The Court

of Appeals cited expert testimony that Fibreboard faced enormous potential liabilities and defense costs that would likely equal or exceed the amount of damages paid out, and concluded that even combining Fibreboard's value of some $235 million with the $2 billion provided in the Trilateral Settlement Agreement, the company would be unable to pay all valid claims against it within five to nine years. Ibid. Judge Smith dissented, arguing among other things that the

8 Continental and Pacific also filed a class action against a defendant class essentially identical to the plaintiff class in the Global Settlement Agreement as well as a class of third parties with asbestos-related claims against Fibreboard, seeking a declaration that the Trilateral Settlement Agreement was fair and reasonable. The District Court certified the class and approved the Trilateral Settlement Agreement, which the Fifth Circuit consolidated with the review of the case below and affirmed. See In re Asbestos Litigation, 90 F. 3d, at 974, 991-993. That decision is now final and is not before this Court.

9 As the objectors did not challenge the adequacy of representation of class representatives, the Fifth Circuit did not consider the issue. Id., at 976, n. 10. Likewise, no party raised concerns with Rule 23(a)'s numerosity requirement.

10 Abandoning the District Court's alternative rationale, the Court of Appeals rested entirely on a limited fund theory.


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