In re Federal Skywalk Cases

680 F.2d 1175 (1982)

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In re Federal Skywalk Cases

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
680 F.2d 1175 (1982)

Facts

Numerous victims (plaintiffs) filed individual lawsuits in Missouri state court and federal district court seeking damages for injuries and losses they sustained when two skywalks in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, collapsed. Both the state-court actions and the district-court actions were consolidated in their respective forums, and a joint state-federal Plaintiffs’ Liaison Committee was appointed to facilitate discovery and trial preparation. Consolidated discovery was well underway when a district court plaintiff moved for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1)(B) or 23(b)(3) due to her concern that the defendants had inadequate funds to pay all of the claims. Over the objections of several of the plaintiffs (objectors), the district court certified a class action under Rule 23(b)(1)(A) on the issue of liability and compensatory and punitive damages and Rule 23(b)(1)(B) on the issue of liability and amount of punitive damages. The district court’s order expressly prohibited any member of the class, which included plaintiffs seeking relief in state court, from individually settling their own punitive-damage claims. The district court indicated its intent in certification of the class was to avoid repetitive litigation, the risk of inconsistent results, the defendants’ potential lack of sufficient funds, risk of unfairness, and ethical questions regarding attorneys representing more than one plaintiff seeking punitive damages. Some plaintiffs (the class) supported certification of the class, but the objectors appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McMillian, J.)

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