Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay

PETITIONER: Coopers & Lybrand
LOCATION: DeKalb County Circuit Court

DOCKET NO.: 76-1836
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 437 US 463 (1978)
ARGUED: Mar 22, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1978

Melvyn I. Weiss - for respondents
Thomas C. Walsh - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 1978 in Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 21, 1978 in Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in 76-1836 Coopers & Lybrand against Livesay and 77-560 Gardner against Westinghouse Broadcasting will be announced by Mr. Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

Both of these cases involve the question whether an appeal maybe taken from a Trial Court order which denies the plaintiff the right to litigate on behalf a class of similarly situated persons.

The question in each case is the appealability of an order denying class certification.

In the Gardner case the plaintiff had been denied a position as a radio performer and sought to bring suit on behalf of all -- she claimed, she had been denied this position because of her sex and she sought to bring suit on behalf of all women who had been discriminated against by the defendant in either applying for positions with the company or in the course of their employment.

And the Trial Judge denied her the right to proceed on behalf of alleged class.

She sought to appeal on the ground that, the denial was in effect the denial of a preliminary injunction because the relief she could get as an individual was less broad than the relief which might be obtained on behalf of a class.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, held that the order could not be appealed on that theory pursuant to section 1291 A1 of the Judicial code.

In the other case, the Coopers & Lybrand case, the plaintiffs were purchasers of security at a public offering.

They sought to litigate on behalf of all other purchasers at the same public offering and although the trial court originally allowed them, the right to do so, it redetermined the matter and held that the plaintiffs could not proceed on behalf of the class.

They claim that they there being but the offering violated the Securities Acts because of certain alleged misrepresentations in the prospectus.

An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals to the Eight circuit and the theory that -- in that the plaintiff did not have sufficient monitory interest in the matter, two plaintiffs, a husband and wife and their own right to go forward with the action and therefore denying them class status, denying them the right to represent the class in effect killed off the entire actions, the death knell of the action was the equivalent therefore of a final judgment within the meaning of the section 1291 of the Judicial Code.

The Court of Appeals of the Eight Circuit after reviewing the finances of litigants and the issue and the complexity of litigation concluded that it was indeed the death knell and that the appeal therefore could be taken.

In both cases we hold that the rules for appealability of class action determinations are not different from other rules governing appealability in the Federal Courts and that there are no special rules designed for this kind of litigation, yet that if congress wants to make these orders appealable that certainly has the right to do so, but under the rules that have been fashioned up to now.

An appeal does not lie.

And so in both cases the unanimous holding of the Court is that the orders may not be appealed.

That means that in the Gardner case the decision of the Third Circuit is affirmed and in the Coopers & Lybrand case the decision of the Eight Circuit is reversed.

And opinions to that effect have been filed with the clerk.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stevens.