We have covered a number of important Sixth Circuit decision on class actions over the past year, including as Randleman v. Fidelity National Title Ins. Co. and Dealer Computer Services, Inc. v. Dub Herring Ford.  Though a small percentage of the court’s docket, such cases often have an outsize effect on both precedent within the circuit and on parties looking at settlement.  We have briefly reviewed the Court’s decisions dealing with important issues in class litigation since January 2009.  The statistics are summarized below.

The big surprise was that defendants have an impressive success rate as appellants in the Sixth Circuit, obtaining a reversal in 85% of their appeals.  By contrast, plaintiff-appellants obtained reversals in just 18% success of their appeals, not much better than the average success rate for all appellants in the Sixth Circuit.  These percentages include a number of decisions regarding class certification.  Not surprisingly, plaintiffs appealed three times as often as defendants.  Given the high stakes in class litigation, defendants often feel intense pressure to settle after an adverse decision in the district court.  But given the current success rates, defendants with compelling arguments should take a second look at an appeal.

Overall, one-third of the Sixth Circuit’s class action decisions reversed the district court in whole or in part.  The circuit is currently on a tear of reversals – five of the last eight decisions in our study were reversed at least in part.  Though we did not consider petitions under Rule 23(f), Professor Barry Sullivan has found that the Sixth Circuit granted 66% of defendants’ petitions for interlocutory appeal of class certification decision under Rule 23(f).  This again suggests that class action defendants with good arguments may benefit from an aggressive appellate strategy in the Sixth Circuit.

More after the jump.

Given the importance of these cases, it is not surprising that nearly a third of the class action decisions had a dissenting or concurring opinion.  However, we did not see any significant correlations between judges, political affiliation, and outcomes, though the sample was probably too small to show anything but a large effect.  Much of the above research was prepared by Carrie Jantsch, who is currently working as a summer associate at SSD.