On October 11, 2013, the plaintiffs in the Detroit nurses litigation who have accused Detroit-area hospitals of conspiring to suppress their wages opposed VHS of Michigan, D/B/A Detroit Medical Center’s (DMC) petition to the Sixth Circuit for leave to appeal the district court’s decision granting class certification.

DMC had asked the Sixth Circuit to do an interlocutory appeal of a September ruling certifying a class of more than 20,000 registered nurses seeking more than $1.7 billion in damages based on a purported antitrust conspiracy among Detroit-area hospitals to reduce nurse wages.

The lawsuit was first filed in December 2006 and accuses the Detroit area hospitals of conspiring with one another to keep registered nurses’ wages low.  In particular, the lawsuit alleges that the hospitals agreed to exchange compensation information to reduce wages and competition to hire and retain Detroit nurses.  DMC is the only remaining defendant in the case.  The other seven defendants previously settled the litigation.

In September, a district court judge granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.  The hospital asked the Sixth Circuit to review that ruling a few weeks later.  In support of that request, DMC argued that the district court’s decision conflicts with the approach followed by other federal courts and raises important questions about the proper interpretation of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013) (Comcast).

In particular, DMC argued that plaintiffs should not have been able to establish predominance through a damages model that calculated damages based in part on a theory of liability (wage fixing claim) that had already been dismissed on a motion for summary judgment.  In addition, DMC argued that the district court failed to take a “close look” at the damages model before certifying the class.

Plaintiffs argued that DMC attempted to make a strained analogy to Comcast and also criticized DMC for raising arguments on appeal that were not raised with the district court.  Plaintiffs argued that this case does not present the sort of “novel or unsettled question” of “class litigation in general” that is worthy of the Sixth Circuit’s discretionary review.

The full case name is In re: VHS of Michigan, Inc., No. 13-113 (6th Cir. filed Sep. 27, 2013).