New opinion — a circuit-court GVR, sort of

In re: Blood Reagents Antitrust Litig. — antitrust class action — vacate & remand — Scirica

When the U.S. Supreme Court thinks a lower court ought to reconsider its opinion in light of some later case, it issues a GVR (for Grant certiorari, Vacate, and Remand). It’s a convenient way for the court to enforce its recent cases without the effort of full-blown review.

Usually, that’s not how things work in the circuit courts. If the district court applied the wrong analysis, the appellant still needs to show why it should win under the right analysis.

But usually is not always, and today’s lone CA3 published opinion is one of the exceptions. Here, in an antitrust class action, the district court granted class certification and the defendants appealed. After the district court’s ruling, the Supreme Court issued Comcast Corp v. Behrend, a class-action opinion reversing the Third Circuit. The defendants here argued that the class-certification ruling violated Comcast.

Today, the Third Circuit agreed. Scirica, the circuit’s class-action-law guru, wrote that the district court “had no opportunity to consider the implications of Comcast” and that some of district court’s reasoning violated Comcast. The court also held that rigorous application of Daubert is required at the certification stage. But instead of deciding whether class certification was appropriate, the court vacated and remanded.

That approach may be uncommon, but this case shows why it makes sense. Courts of appeal function best when they have a lower-court opinion that tackles the key issues. When the lower-court opinion was based on precedent since overruled, especially in a complicated case, remand makes sense. Interesting case.

Joining Scirica were Smith and Chagares. Arguing counsel were Paul Saint-Antoine of Drinker Biddle for the defendants and Jeffrey Corrigan of Spector Roseman for the class.