Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Barclift v. Keystone Credit Services LLC
In this case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the appellant, Paulette Barclift, sued Keystone Credit Services, LLC ("Keystone") for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). Barclift claimed that Keystone unlawfully communicated her personal information to a third-party mailing vendor, RevSpring, without her consent. She sought to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. The District Court dismissed her suit on the grounds that she did not allege an injury sufficient to establish standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.Upon appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the lower court that Barclift lacked standing, but modified the District Court's order so that the dismissal would be without prejudice. The court found that Barclift's alleged harm—embarrassment and distress caused by the disclosure of her personal information to a single intermediary (RevSpring)—did not bear a close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized by American courts, such as the public disclosure of private facts. Therefore, the court concluded that Barclift did not suffer a concrete injury and could not establish Article III standing. The court further held that the possibility of future harm was too speculative to establish a concrete injury. The case was dismissed without prejudice, allowing Barclift the opportunity to amend her complaint if she can allege a concrete injury. View "Barclift v. Keystone Credit Services LLC" on Justia Law
Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc.
In this toxic tort case, about 170 individuals allege that they were harmed by lead paint pigment. The plaintiffs, who were joined together in a single complaint, brought claims against several manufacturers of the pigment. After a series of trials, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims. The court then extended these rulings to the remaining plaintiffs on law of the case and issue preclusion grounds. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in large part but reversed in small part. The appellate court held that the law of the case doctrine properly applied to a group of plaintiffs who had opted to proceed under a single complaint and whose claims were sunk after summary judgment. However, the court reversed the district court's decision as to a small group of plaintiffs who filed their own cases, noting that due process protects their right to try their claims. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' request to revisit or certify certain questions addressed in a prior ruling, and affirmed that ruling based on the principle of stare decisis. View "Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law
Klick v. Cenikor Foundation
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed a case involving the Cenikor Foundation, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation center. The foundation had been sued by a group of its rehabilitation patients for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The patients contended that they were effectively employees of the foundation, as they were required to work as part of their treatment program without receiving monetary compensation. The foundation contested the lawsuit and appealed a district court's decision to certify the case as a collective action under the FLSA.The Court of Appeals found that the district court had applied the incorrect legal standard in determining whether the patients were employees under the FLSA. Specifically, the court should have applied a test to determine who was the primary beneficiary of the work relationship, rather than a test typically used to distinguish employees from independent contractors.The appellate court remanded the case back to the district court to apply this primary beneficiary test and to consider the foundation's defense that any benefits provided to the patients offset any requirement to pay them a wage. The court emphasized that the question of whether the foundation's patients were employees under the FLSA was a threshold issue that needed to be resolved before the case could proceed as a collective action. View "Klick v. Cenikor Foundation" on Justia Law
Mullen v. Butler
In this case, the plaintiff, Laura Mullen, claimed that the defendants, a youth volleyball club and its owners, fraudulently concealed previous sexual abuse allegations. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, but also imposed sanctions against them and their lawyer for improperly interfering with the class notice process. The defendants appealed the sanctions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion or commit clear error in imposing the sanctions. The court found that the defendants had intentionally interfered with the class notice and opt-out process and that their communications with class members during the notice period were potentially coercive. The court also upheld the decision of the district court to impose monetary sanctions against the defendants, which included the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses, as well as a civil penalty for each defendant.The court also affirmed the non-monetary sanctions imposed against the defendants' lawyer, who had contacted a class member directly and made a false statement to the court. Although the defendants argued that the lawyer had acted in good faith and did not knowingly or intentionally violate the rules of ethics, the court found that she had taken deliberate action to avoid confirming a high probability of wrongdoing.Finally, the court rejected the defendants' argument that the plaintiff should have been sanctioned. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff’s use of the term “rape” was inaccurate and irrelevant, that her actions before and after filing the complaint were inconsistent, that she did not have a proper basis for bringing the suit, and that she misrepresented evidence. The court found no merit in these arguments and affirmed the district court’s decision to deny sanctions against the plaintiff. View "Mullen v. Butler" on Justia Law
Land v. IU Credit Union
The Indiana Supreme Court heard a case involving a dispute between Tonia Land and the IU Credit Union (IUCU). When Land became a customer at the credit union, she was given an account agreement that could be modified at any time. Later, when she registered for online banking, she accepted another agreement that allowed the IUCU to modify the terms and conditions of the services. In 2019, the IUCU proposed changes to these agreements, which would require disputes to be resolved through arbitration and prevent Land from initiating or participating in a class-action lawsuit. Land did not opt out of these changes within thirty days as required, which, according to the IUCU, made the terms binding. However, Land later filed a class-action lawsuit against the credit union, which attempted to compel arbitration based on the addendum.The court held that while the IUCU did provide Land with reasonable notice of its offer to amend the original agreements, Land's subsequent silence and inaction did not result in her assent to that offer, according to Section 69 of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts. The credit union petitioned for rehearing, claiming that the court failed to address certain legal authorities and arguments raised on appeal and in the transfer proceedings.Upon rehearing, the court affirmed its original decision, rejecting the credit union's arguments. However, the court also expressed a willingness to consider a different standard governing the offer and acceptance of unilateral contracts between businesses and consumers in future cases. The court found no merit in the credit union's arguments on rehearing and affirmed its original opinion in full. View "Land v. IU Credit Union" on Justia Law
MANEY V. BROWN
A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law
McCracken v. Verisma Systems, Inc.
In this case, a group of patients initiated a class action lawsuit against various hospitals and vendors who provide medical record production services to the hospitals. The plaintiffs alleged that the hospitals and vendors were involved in an illegal kickback scheme, where the vendors charged patients excessive prices for their medical records and used the profits to offer free and discounted pages to the hospitals for other types of medical records. The plaintiffs alleged violations of New York Public Health Law (PHL) § 18(2)(e) (which restricts the price that can be charged for medical records), New York General Business Law (GBL) § 349 (which prohibits deceptive business practices), and unjust enrichment. However, the New York Court of Appeals had previously ruled in Ortiz v. Ciox Health LLC that PHL § 18(2)(e) does not provide a private right of action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all the plaintiffs' claims. It found that the patients' GBL § 349 and unjust enrichment claims were essentially repackaging their PHL § 18(2)(e) claims, and therefore not cognizable as they attempted to circumvent the Ortiz ruling. The court also held that the plaintiffs failed to allege any actionable wrongs independent of the requirements of PHL § 18(2)(e). The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim, and as such, the district court did not err in granting the defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings, in denying the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment as moot, and in denying the plaintiffs' leave to file a second amended complaint. View "McCracken v. Verisma Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Chicoine v. Wellmark, Inc.
In this case, three chiropractors and their respective business entities sued Wellmark, Iowa’s largest health insurer and claims administrator, alleging that the company violated Iowa antitrust laws through its Administrative Service Agreements with over 400 Iowa employers who self-fund healthcare benefits for their employees. The chiropractors argued that without these agreements, the self-funded employers would compete independently for chiropractic services, resulting in higher profits for chiropractors. The chiropractors filed a motion to certify a class of approximately 1,300 Iowa chiropractors. However, the Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the district court's decision to deny class certification, concluding that the chiropractors failed to meet the predominance requirement for class certification as they could not prove the threshold issue of antitrust injury on a classwide basis. The court found that proving whether individual chiropractors would be better or worse off without Wellmark’s agreements would require numerous mini-trials, and thus, individual questions predominated over common questions. Additionally, the court applied the doctrine of judicial estoppel to prevent the chiropractors from belatedly reviving a different liability theory that they had previously abandoned to avoid a motion to dismiss. View "Chicoine v. Wellmark, Inc." on Justia Law
Career Counseling, Inc. v. Amerifactors Financial Group, LLC
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the plaintiff, Career Counseling, Inc., alleged that the defendant, AmeriFactors Financial Group, LLC, sent an unsolicited advertisement by fax to the plaintiff and thousands of other recipients in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), as amended by the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.The plaintiff sought to represent a class of nearly 59,000 other persons and entities who were sent the same fax. The district court denied class certification on the grounds that the class was not readily identifiable or ascertainable. It found that the TCPA prohibits unsolicited advertisements sent to stand-alone fax machines, but not those sent to online fax services. Therefore, it was necessary to distinguish between recipients who were using stand-alone fax machines and those using online fax services. The court held that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate this distinction, rendering the proposed class unascertainable.On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, agreeing that the proposed class was not readily identifiable or ascertainable. It agreed with the lower court's interpretation of the TCPA, which it determined based on the statute's plain language, that an online fax service does not qualify as a "telephone facsimile machine" under the TCPA. Therefore, users of online fax services could not be included in the proposed class.Additionally, the court affirmed the district court's award of summary judgment to Career Counseling on its individual TCPA claim against AmeriFactors. It concluded that there was insufficient evidence to dispute AmeriFactors' liability as the "sender" of the fax, rendering AmeriFactors liable for sending the unsolicited fax to Career Counseling. View "Career Counseling, Inc. v. Amerifactors Financial Group, LLC" on Justia Law
M.N. v. MultiCare Health Sys., Inc.
In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington was asked to consider a class action suit brought by patients against MultiCare Health System, Inc., a Washington corporation that operates Good Samaritan Hospital. The suit arose after a nurse employed by MultiCare, Cora Weberg, improperly diverted injectable narcotics for her own use and infected some emergency department patients with hepatitis C. The patients claimed that MultiCare failed to meet the accepted standard of care in supervising and hiring Nurse Weberg. The trial court divided the class into two groups: those who were assigned to Nurse Weberg and those who were not. It then dismissed the claims of the second group. The trial court ruled that legal causation was not satisfied because Nurse Weberg did not directly treat these patients. The Court of Appeals affirmed this decision.However, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington reversed both courts and held that legal causation is satisfied. The court held that both classes can proceed with their chapter 7.70 RCW claims, which govern civil actions for damages for injury occurring as a result of health care. The court reasoned that the General Treatment Class's injuries arose as a result of health care, allowing their claim under chapter 7.70 RCW to proceed. The court also found that legal causation is satisfied when a hospital’s negligent supervision and hiring potentially exposes patients to a bloodborne pathogen, inducing fear and requiring blood testing. Thus, the court concluded that the General Treatment Class's claims should not have been dismissed. View "M.N. v. MultiCare Health Sys., Inc." on Justia Law