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US Top Court Sends Sprint/Nextel Age Suit Back for Clarification

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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, sent an age discrimination lawsuit against a unit of Sprint Nextel back to a lower court so facts surrounding the case can be clarified.

The high court's action in the case leaves undecided the underlying legal issue of whether federal courts must allow witnesses alleging similar discrimination to testify in someone else's age discrimination case.

The case involves Ellen Mendelsohn, a former employee at a unit of Sprint Nextel, who has alleged the company discriminated against her based on age when she was laid off at age 51 in 2002. A jury trial ruled for the Sprint Nextel unit, but a federal appeals court reversed that ruling in a decision that said the trial court wrongly excluded from the trial five ex-employee witnesses who claimed similar discrimination.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in the court's opinion, said lower courts didn't handle the case properly and that, based on the legal record, it isn't clear whether the witness testimony is allowed in the case. The U.S. District Court that initially handled the lawsuit must now go back and "under the appropriate standard" properly decide whether the evidence is allowed.

The case is Sprint/United Management Co. v. Mendelsohn, 06-1221.

-By Mark H. Anderson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202 862-9254; mark.anderson@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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