Top US court deals fresh blow to class-action suits

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit by more than two million concerned customers of telecom giant Comcast, further limiting so-called class action suits by a group.

It overturned a lower court's ruling that current and former subscribers in the Philadelphia area could seek collective damages. The customers said Comcast kept unfairly high prices by controlling 60 percent of the market.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the customers had not proven the argument before the court -- that Comcast's actions deterred competitors from entering the Philadelphia market, harming them as a group.

"Under the proper standard for evaluating certification, respondents' model falls far short of establishing that damages can be measured classwide," the decision said.

Scalia wrote that there would be "nearly endless" calculations for potential damages as the customers' model used four different theories and covered two million subscribers living in 16 counties.

The ruling follows a landmark decision in 2011 when the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit by 1.5 million female employees of retail behemoth Wal-Mart, dismissing their claims of systematic discrimination based on gender.

Four justices dissented from the Comcast decision. In an unusual jointly written dissent, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer said the Court should not have taken up the case in the first place.

The justices said the Supreme Court made a mistake by shifting the focus of the Comcast case to the damage model presented by an expert.

"We are particularly concerned about the matter because the Court, in reaching its contrary conclusion, makes broad statements about antitrust law that it could not mean to apply in other cases," they wrote.

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