Last update: April 28, 2009 - 12:47 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - A trial court erred when it ruled that an age discrimination lawsuit against 3M Co. could go forward as a class action on behalf of more than 4,900 current and former employees, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said Tuesday.
A three-judge appeals panel said the lower court did not properly apply the standards for certification under Minnesota's rules of civil procedure. It sent the case back to the Ramsey County District Court for further proceedings.
The lawsuit, filed in 2004, alleges that Maplewood-based 3M engaged in a pattern of age discrimination in five areas: performance appraisals, selection for training programs, promotions, compensation and terminations.
In seeking class-action status, the plaintiffs relied heavily on statistical analyses conducted by an expert they hired. 3M countered with its own experts who disputed the plaintiffs' methodology and said their own statistical analyses found no pattern of discrimination.
The appeals panel ruled that parties seeking class action status must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they've met the certification requirements. It said that means district courts must address and resolve the relevant factual disputes, including disputes among expert witnesses. It said the district court did not do so when it certified the lawsuit as a class action.
The district court has the discretion to reopen the record and accept additional evidence when it reconsiders the certification motion, the appeals panel said.
3M is a diversified manufacturer that makes everying from Post-it notes to LCD screen coatings to car components.
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The opinion cam be found at: http://www.mncourts.gov/opinions/coa/current/opa080816-0428.pdf