Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic
Appellants Area 55, LLC, and SAB Holdings, LLC appealed a trial court order granting the special motion to strike their first amended complaint for malicious prosecution and the related judgment of dismissal in favor of Respondents Nicholas & Tomasevic, LLP (N&T), Craig Nicholas, and Alex Tomasevic. Appellants included the successors to Vinturi, Inc. (Vinturi), which developed and sold the “ ‘Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator’ for wine-lovers who want to enhance their experience of drinking wine.” Vinturi started selling the Vinturi Aerator in 2006. As sold to the public, the box contained the Vinturi body with a decorative black silicone band, a rubber stand, and a filter screen -- parts all made in China, transported to the United States, and assembled in the United States. From 2006 until 2010, Vinturi sold its aerator in the United States with the statement “ ‘VINTURI IS MANUFACTURED IN THE USA’ ” printed on the bottom panel of the box. Attorney Nicholas filed various consumer fraud claims, challenging Appellants claim the aerator was made in the U.S. when the components were made in China. Appellants were successful in getting two class action cases dismissed. In 2018, Appellants filed the present case for malicious prosecution, resulting in the grant of Respondents' "SLAPP" motion on appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in ruling that Appellants could not establish the prior action was not terminated on its merits. "Thus, for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute, the court erred in ruling that Appellants did not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of their malicious prosecution claim." In addition, in its de novo review, the Court exercised discretion to reach the additional issues raised by the parties in the motion and opposition: Appellants made a sufficient prima facie showing of the remaining elements of their claim, and Respondents did not defeat Appellants’ claim as a matter of law. Accordingly, the order granting Respondents’ special motion to strike the complaint was vacated and reversed. On remand, the trial court was directed to enter a new and different order denying Respondents’ special motion. View "Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic" on Justia Law
Smith v. General Motors LLC
In 2005-2006, GM changed the dashboard used for GMT900 model cars from a multi-piece design to a single-piece design, which made the dashboard prone to cracking in two places. Plaintiffs, from 25 states, alleged that GMT900 vehicles produced in 2007-2014 contained a faulty, dangerous dashboard and that GM knew of the defective dashboards before GTM900 vehicles hit the market. The complaint contained no allegation that any of the plaintiffs have been hurt by the allegedly defective dashboards. The complaint, filed on behalf of a nationwide class, alleged fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, and violations of state consumer protection statutes and the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. At worst, Plaintiffs suffered only cosmetic damage and a potential reduced resale value from owning cars with cracked dashboards. Although the plaintiffs claimed that routine testing, customer complaints, and increased warranty claims alerted GM to the defective dashboards and accompanying danger, that is not enough to survive a motion to dismiss without specifics about how and when GM learned about the defect and its hazards, and concealed the allegedly dangerous defect from consumers. Even accepting that GM produced defective vehicles, under the common legal principles of the several states, the plaintiffs must show that GM had sufficient knowledge of the harmful defect to render its sales fraudulent. View "Smith v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law
Cherry v. Dometic Corporation
Putative class representatives do not have to prove the existence of an administratively feasible method to identify absent class members as a precondition for certification of a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Plaintiffs, owners of allegedly defective refrigerators manufactured by Dometic Corporation, as putative class representatives, moved to certify a class of similarly situated owners. The district court denied certification based on plaintiffs' failure to prove administrative feasibility, and dismissed the action because, in its view, the denial of class certification divested it of subject matter jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying class certification and dismissing the action, holding that the doctrines of invited error and forfeiture do not bar the court's consideration of the issue of administrative feasibility; administrative feasibility is relevant under Rule 23(b)(3) but is not a prerequisite of certification; and jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act does not depend on class certification. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cherry v. Dometic Corporation" on Justia Law
Anderson v. Weinert Enterprises Inc.
Weinert roofing employees could drive directly to job sites around Green Bay or could carpool from the shop using a company truck. For carpool employees, Weinert paid travel time at time-and-a-half the minimum wage and did not count travel time toward an employee’s 40-hour workweek. Weinert paid more than minimum wage for job-site work; job-site overtime pay was higher than travel time pay. Anderson, a Weinert seasonal employee, filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b), and Wisconsin law. Three other employees joined the action. Anderson converted the collective action into an individual FLSA action, which settled. Anderson then sought class certification (FRCP 23) for the state claims. Anderson identified 37 former or current Weinert employees to include in the class and requested the inclusion of employees Weinert expected to hire in 2019.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification. Employees to be hired in a future period cannot be included in the class. Anderson failed to show that joinder of the 37 employees in a single lawsuit (with multiple named plaintiffs) would be impracticable, as required by Rule 23(a). Anderson did not identify any difficulty in locating or contacting potential class members; the class lacked the geographical spread that might render joinder impracticable. Prevailing under the Act allows a plaintiff to recover attorneys’ fees and costs, offsetting some of the disincentive created by the small damages available. The numerosity requirement focuses on whether joinder would be impracticable, not whether each potential class member could bring a separate lawsuit. View "Anderson v. Weinert Enterprises Inc." on Justia Law
Prantil v. Arkema Inc.
Plaintiffs filed a class action against Arkema, a chemicals facility that combusted during Hurricane Harvey, seeking redress for the physical and financial effects of the incident, which released toxic ash and smoke into the surrounding communities and caused the evacuation of nearby residents.The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's class certification order and remanded for further proceedings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The court explained that, when the cementing of relationships among proffered class members of liability or damages or both turns on scientific evidence, the court must insist that the metric of admissibility be the same for certification and trial. Therefore, the Daubert hurdle must be cleared when scientific evidence is relevant to the decision to certify. In its certification order, the court concluded that the district court was not as searching in its assessment of the expert reports' reliability as it would have been outside the certification setting. Furthermore, the district court's certification order did not discuss the considerations affecting the administration of trial, and it concluded that common questions would predominate without adequately addressing Arkema's arguments that causation, injury, and damages would be highly individualized. The court also concluded that the relative balance of concededly common claim elements to contested elements of causation and injury warrants closer attention. Finally, the court concluded that the current record does not compel the conclusion that plaintiffs' medical and property injuries are incapable of being addressed by classwide injunctions. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Prantil v. Arkema Inc." on Justia Law
Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners
After a $3.3 billion “roll up” of minority-held units involving a merger between Enbridge, Inc. and Spectra Energy Partners L.P. (“SEP”), Paul Morris, a former SEP minority unitholder, lost standing to litigate an alleged $661 million derivative suit on behalf of SEP against its general partner, Spectra Energy Partners (DE) GP, LP (“SEP GP”). Morris repeated the derivative claim dismissal by filing a new class action complaint that alleged the Enbridge/SEP merger exchange ratio was unfair because SEP GP agreed to a merger that did not reflect the material value of his derivative claims. The Court of Chancery granted SEP GP’s motion to dismiss the new complaint for lack of standing. The court held that, to have standing to bring a post-merger claim, Morris had to allege a viable and material derivative claim that the buyer would not assert and provided no value for in the merger. Focusing on the materiality requirement, the court first discounted the $661 million recovery to $112 million to reflect the public unitholders’ beneficial interest in the derivative litigation recovery. The court then discounted the $112 million further to $28 million to reflect what the court estimated was a one in four chance of success in the litigation. After the discounting, the $28 million, less than 1% of the merger consideration, was immaterial to a $3.3 billion merger. On appeal, Morris argued the trial court should not have dismissed the plaintiff’s direct claims for lack of standing. After its review, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Morris finding that, on a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, he sufficiently pled a direct claim attacking the fairness of the merger itself for SEP GP’s failure to secure value for his pending derivative claims. The Court of Chancery’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners" on Justia Law
The Health Care Authority for Baptist Health v. Dickson
The Health Care Authority for Baptist Health, an affiliate of UAB Health System ("HCA"), and The Health Care Authority for Baptist Health, an affiliate of UAB Health System d/b/a Prattville Baptist Hospital (collectively, "the HCA entities"), appealed a circuit court order denying their motion to compel arbitration in an action brought by Leonidas Dickson, II. In 2015, Dickson sustained injuries as a result of an automobile accident. Following the accident, Dickson was taken to Prattville Baptist Hospital ("PBH"), where he was treated and discharged. Dickson was partially covered by a health-insurance policy issued by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Inc. ("BCBS"). PBH was a party to a "Preferred Outpatient Facility Contract" ("the provider agreement") with BCBS, under which the medical care rendered to Dickson in the emergency department at PBH was reimbursable. In 2017, Dickson filed a complaint to challenge a reimbursement that PBH had received in exchange for Dickson's medical treatment. Dickson's complaint also sought to certify a class of people who were insured by BCBS and who had received care at any hospital operated by HCA's predecessor, Baptist Health, Inc. ("BHI"). After the HCA entities' motion to dismiss was denied, the HCA entities filed an answer to the lawsuit, but the answer did not raise arbitration as a defense. After a year of extensive discovery (including class certification and class-related discovery), the HCA entities moved to compel arbitration on grounds that Dickson's health-insurance policy with BCBS required all claims related to the policy to be arbitrated and that the provider agreement also provided for arbitration, contingent upon the arbitration requirements of the BCBS policy. The trial court denied the motion to compel without providing a reason for the denial. After a request for reconsideration was also denied, the HCA entities appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the HCA entities waived their right to arbitration, thus affirming the trial court order. View "The Health Care Authority for Baptist Health v. Dickson" on Justia Law
Doe v. Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission
A facility caring for an unaccompanied child fails to provide a constitutionally adequate level of mental health care if it substantially departs from accepted professional standards. Appellants, a class of unaccompanied immigrant children detained at Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (SVJC), filed a class action alleging that the Commission fails to provide a constitutionally adequate level of mental health care due to its punitive practices and failure to implement trauma-informed care. The district court found that the Commission provides adequate care by offering access to counseling and medication.The Fourth Circuit held that neither the Flores Settlement nor SVJC's cooperative agreement prevent appellants from addressing their alleged injuries through the relief they seek from SVJC. On the merits, the court applied the Youngberg standard for professional judgment and reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commission. The court explained that the district court incorrectly applied a standard of deliberate indifference when it should have determined whether the Commission substantially departed from accepted standards of professional judgment. Therefore, in light of the Youngberg standard, the district court must consider evidence relevant to the professional standards of care necessary to treat appellants' serious mental health needs. The court left it to the district court to determine in the first instance to what extent, if any, the trauma-informed approach should be incorporated into the professional judgment standard in this particular case. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission" on Justia Law
Custom Hair Designs by Sandy v. Central Payment Co.
Plaintiffs filed a class action against CPAY, alleging breach of contract, state-law fraudulent concealment, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Plaintiffs, a class of over 160,000 small retailers using CPAY for credit card processing, allege that CPAY misrepresented a number of fees, added fees with no value to retailers, and inflated fees without prior approval from issuing banks.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's certification of the proposed class, holding that the district court engaged in a sufficiently rigorous analysis of Federal Rule 23 certification and made specific findings of fact. The court also held that the district court did not err in determining that common questions predominate; that plaintiffs' claims are typical of class members; and that plaintiffs will represent class interests adequately. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that a class action is the superior mechanism to try this case. View "Custom Hair Designs by Sandy v. Central Payment Co." on Justia Law
Zander v. Orange County
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order regarding class certification in this case and dismissed Defendants' interlocutory appeal regarding portions of the trial court's order that pertained to discovery matters, holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in certifying two classes of plaintiffs.Plaintiffs commenced a putative class action by asserting claims against Defendants, Orange County and the Town of Chapel Hill, seeking to recover impact fees assessed under a now-repealed statute that had been enacted to allow certain counties and municipalities to defray the costs for constructing, among other public services, public schools. The trial court certified two classes of plaintiffs. Defendants appealed, challenging the class certification and a discovery order concerning Plaintiffs' motion to compel discovery responses. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and dismissed in part, holding (1) the trial court did not err in certifying the classes; and (2) Defendants' effort to appeal the contested discovery ruling was premature and hence must be dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Zander v. Orange County" on Justia Law