Refusing to adopt a brightline rule barring use of statistical evidence to establish liability in a class action, the Supreme Court holds instead that whether a representative sample may be used to establish liability depends on the purpose for which the sample evidence is introduced and the underlying cause of action. If an individual class member could have used the statistical evidence to prove liability in an individual action on the same claim, then the evidence is also admissible to prove liability in a class action. Here, because the defendant employer did not keep time records showing the amount of time workers spent donning and doffing protective work gear, prior case law under the FLSA allowed the plaintiff workers to present less precise proof of the extent of their uncompensated work time. The statistical sample evidence of time spent on average donning and doffing protective gear was evidence from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in an individual suit as to the amount of time the individual worker spent and hence the amount of his uncompensated work time. Hence, that statistical proof was also properly admissible to prove uncompensated work time in this class action. The Court leaves for further development in the district court defendant’s contention that there is no practical means of distributing the class judgment in a manner that does not end up compensating uninjured class members.
United States Supreme Court (Kennedy, J.; Roberts, C.J., concurring; Alito, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part; Thomas, J., dissenting); March 22, 2016; 2016 WL 1092414