Since June 2011, federal courts have been unpacking the lessons set forth in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011). Depending on your point of view, Wal-Mart either changed the face of class action jurisprudence or simply confirmed a trend decades in the making.
Perhaps the most important contribution of the case is how it modeled the analysis that courts everywhere — including Ohio — have struggled with: should a court resolve issues of fact at the class certification stage, even if they touch on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims? And, if so, what is the plaintiffs’ burden of proof?
The Ohio Supreme Court currently has four jurisdictional memoranda pending that raise fundamental challenges to class action law in Ohio. Each asks the Court to affirmatively adopt Wal-Mart and its analytical principles.
This article will briefly explore two of these cases, Cullen v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co. and Wolfe v. Grange Indem. Ins. Co., focusing on a single issue common to both that arises time and again in the lower courts: what is a “rigorous analysis,” and what is a plaintiff’s burden at the certification stage under Ohio Rule 23?