U.S. Supreme Court puts off action on major class action dispute

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By Lawrence Hurley and Robert Iafolla | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court will not act
until at least the fall on a major business dispute on whether
companies can head off costly class action lawsuits, meaning
President Donald Trump’s nominee to the bench will almost
certainly be in place to cast a possible pivotal vote.

The court notified lawyers in the case on Wednesday that the
three consolidated cases “will be scheduled for oral argument in
the 2017 term,” which starts in October, rather than the current
term that ends in June.

The cases, including one involving global professional
services giant Ernst & Young, concern whether companies
can force employees to give up their right to pursue
work-related legal claims in court as a group.

At stake is the future of so-called class-action waivers,
which employers have increasingly required employees to sign as
part of their arbitration agreements to guard against the rising
tide of worker lawsuits seeking unpaid wages.

Putting restraints on class action litigation is a major
goal of the business community. Such lawsuits can result in
large jury awards, while individual lawsuits are easier to
defend against by companies.

Trump nominated conservative appeals court judge Neil
Gorsuch last week to fill a vacant seat on the court. The high
court is ideologically deadlocked pending Gorsuch’s Senate
confirmation fight, with four liberal justices and four
conservatives.

The class action waiver dispute, one of the biggest business
cases before the high court, could potentially divide the court,
meaning Gorsuch could cast the decisive vote.



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