The U.S. Supreme Court issued its final opinions of the term this week, and various hot-button social issues caught much of the media’s attention. But what about the cases that directly affect manufacturers? How did the Court rule on issues that affect your ability to compete and create jobs, such as the burden of government regulations and aggressive litigation against you?
There is good news to report. First, the Court issued a rare decision ordering the EPA to halt enforcement of the Clean Power Plan while the rule’s legality is sorted out in a lower court. The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action sought this order because of the dramatic way in which the Environmental Protection Agency decided to regulate the electric generation sector.
Second, the Court was quite willing this year to allow manufacturers to challenge other agency decisions in court. The Hawkes Co. case allows immediate judicial review of the Army Corps of Engineers’ decisions about their jurisdiction. The Encino Motorcars case shows how companies can challenge significant changes in agency interpretations that are insufficiently justified. At the same time, the Court made it clear that parties that sue companies must meet rigorous standing requirements to be in court. However, it allowed the certification of a class of plaintiffs through statistical evidence of injury rather than actual injury, making class action cases against manufacturers easier to file.
Third, a couple of aggressive theories of liability have been tamped down. In particular, litigation from foreign parties against U.S. manufacturers continued to be scaled back when the Court ruled that the European Community cannot use our Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to litigate claims arising from acts occurring abroad unless there is a clear injury in the United States. In addition, claims by third parties against manufacturers under the False Claims Act for regulatory violations were substantially limited to claims for actual fraud.
Fourth, the Court continues a long-standing policy of enforcing arbitration agreements that states have tried to undermine with consumer protection laws allowing for burdensome class action procedures. The DIRECTV case threw out a California statute that would have eliminated class action waivers in consumer contracts.
Most of these decisions stand the test of time, making it even more important for the Court to hear from manufacturers about the substantial effect that litigation has on their ability to survive and thrive. The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action made your voice heard in the Supreme Court this year, with important and beneficial results.