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High court rejects huge class action suit against Wal-Mart

From NBC's Pete Williams
The Supreme Court Monday shot down the largest class action lawsuit in US history, ruling that the huge lawsuit filed by past and present female employees of retail giant Wal-Mart cannot go to trial.

The court cited two reasons.  It was unanimous in saying that the women brought the wrong kind of class action suit, improperly mixing questions that can be decided in a class action -- such as whether to order the company to stop discrimination -- with issues that must be decided for each individual, such as how much back pay to award.

The court ruled 5-4 that the women failed to show that there's some glue to hold all these cases together, a demonstration that there's a common source of each case of discrimination.  In fact, the court said, the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction, that Wal-Mart had a corporate directive against discrimination and left decisions about pay and promotion policies to each individual store manager.

It's the court's ruling on the second point that will make it very difficult for the women to regroup and try to file another class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart.