Ellis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 657 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. 2011)

In this appeal, Costco challenged the district court’s order granting class certification in an action in which Costco’s promotional practices were alleged to have discriminated against female employees. The district court’s order granting class certification preceded the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011). In this opinion, the Ninth Circuit recognized that the Wal-Mart opinion “altered existing law” and, accordingly, vacated the lower court’s order granting class certification. Specifically, the Court: (i) vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling as to commonality under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) because the lower court had failed to conduct the required “rigorous analysis” to determine whether there were common questions of law or fact among the class members’ claims; (ii) vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling as to “typicality” under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) because the district court failed to consider the effect that defenses unique to the named plaintiffs’ claims might have on that question; (iii) affirmed the district court’s ruling as to the adequacy of the one class representative who was a current employee allegedly being denied promotion; and (iv) vacated and remanded the district court’s certification of the class pursuant to Rule 23(b)(2) based upon the Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection of the predominance test for determining whether monetary damages may be included in a 23(b)(2) class certification.