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It seems that not a week goes by without a new headline about a controversial class action case. This week, it was the possible dismissal of a race discrimination class action suit against Coca-Cola because of the trial court’s interpretation of a 1998 Fifth Circuit opinion. Last week, the story came straight from the Supreme Court, which set aside a proposed $1.5 billion settlement of a class action asbestos claim against Fibreboard. (Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., USSC No. 97-1704.)

Justice David Souter’s majority opinion in Ortiz criticized the inability of class members to “opt out” of the settlement and maintain their own lawsuits. The majority was also clearly offended by the fact that Fibreboard itself, as opposed to its insurers, would have contributed only half a million dollars. “With Fibreboard retaining nearly all its net worth, it hardly appears that such a regime is the best that can be provided for class members,” wrote Souter.

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