Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Bonin v. Sabine River Authority of Louisiana
The Sabine River meanders between Texas and Louisiana. Two state agencies jointly regulate its waterways and operate a hydroelectric plant--the Toledo Bend Reservoir and Toledo Bend Dam. In March 2016, heavy rains led to heavy water inflow into the reservoir and flooding of the River. The plaintiffs, about 300 Texas and Louisiana property owners, alleged that the flooding of their property was caused or exacerbated by the reservoir’s water level becoming too high and the spillway gates at the reservoir being intentionally opened. The defendants removed the case to federal court, which remanded back to Texas state court. The cases were removed again. The Texas federal district court denied a motion to remand but later dismissed all claims against private power companies and remanded the claims against the state authorities to state court. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Federal jurisdiction obtained at the time of removal because the suit then qualified as a “mass action” under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(11)(A); an exception for a local single event does not apply. CAFA mass actions “may be removed by any defendant without the consent of all defendants.” The court upheld the dismissals of the power companies based on findings that the plaintiffs did not adequately allege any violations of the FERC license; that under Texas law, only state authorities may be found liable for floodwater damage; and that the plaintiffs failed to show that the operation of the generators was a proximate cause of plaintiffs’ losses. View "Bonin v. Sabine River Authority of Louisiana" on Justia Law
Brady v. AutoZone Stores, Inc.
When a class representative voluntarily settles only his individual claims without indicating any financial stake in the unresolved class claims, the class claims are rendered moot. The Ninth Circuit dismissed as moot plaintiff's appeal from the district court's judgment in a putative class action after voluntary settlement of individual claims. The panel could not assume that plaintiff maintains a financial stake in the outcome of this case merely because of a potential enhancement award. In this case, while plaintiff expressly did not resolve the class claims, he did not retain a financial stake in them. The panel concluded that, absent proof that plaintiff is legally obligated to pay the advanced legal costs unless the class is certified, those costs do not provide him a financial stake in the outcome of the class claims. View "Brady v. AutoZone Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Gray v. Oliver
The Supreme Court held that judgment creditors cannot levy on their judgment debtor, obtain the judgment debtor's chose in action for legal malpractice against the attorney representing the judgment debtor in the litigation giving rise to the judgment, and prosecute the claim for legal malpractice against the attorney as successors in interest to their judgment debtor. Janice and Jeff Gray were awarded $127 million in a civil suit against James Lee Hohenshell. The court of appeals affirmed. While the appeal was pending, the Grays caused to be issued a writ of execution on the judgment against Hohenshell. Amongst the property levied on was any claims against Michael Oliver, Hohenshell's lawyer in the underlying suit. The Grays purchased this right for $5000 at the sheriff's sale. The Grays then filed this malpractice claim against Oliver as successors in interest to Hohenshell. The district court granted Oliver's motion for summary judgment, holding that public policy prohibits the assignment of a legal malpractice claim to an adversarial party in the underlying lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that judgment creditors cannot prosecute a claim for legal malpractice as successors in interest to their former litigation adversary where the claim for legal malpractice arose out of the suit in which the parties were adverse. View "Gray v. Oliver" on Justia Law
Dieuvil v. Gebrueder Knauf Verwaltungsgesellschaft, KG
Plaintiff joined the Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Multi-District Litigation, alleging that his home contained defective Chinese-manufactured drywall. Plaintiff challenged the district court's award of $300,000 in damages and Knauf Defendants move to dismiss. The Fifth Circuit granted the Knauf Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. In this case, the New Claims Settlement Agreement incorporates another agreement that has a waiver of appellate rights, and these explicit waivers clearly and unequivocally waive plaintiff's right to appeal. View "Dieuvil v. Gebrueder Knauf Verwaltungsgesellschaft, KG" on Justia Law
Indirect Purchaser Class v. Panasonic Corp.
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees and litigation expenses to class counsel, following approval of two rounds of settlements in consumer class action litigation. The litigation stemmed from claims of civil antitrust violations based on price-fixing within the optical disk drive industry. The panel held that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. In a separately filed memorandum disposition, the panel affirmed the district court's approval of the first- and second-round settlements. Here, the panel vacated the awards of fees and litigation expenses, holding that when class counsel secures appointment as interim lead counsel by proposing a fee structure in a competitive bidding process, that bid becomes the starting point for determining a reasonable fee. The district court may adjust fees upward or downward depending on circumstances not contemplated at the time of the bid, but the district court must provide an adequate explanation for any variance. In this case, class counsel argues that an upward departure from its bid was warranted in part because it did not anticipate the need to litigate a second class certification motion or interlocutory appeals. Without more, the panel held that these factors are insufficient to justify a variance of the magnitude approved in the first- and second-round fee awards. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a more complete explanation of the district court's reasoning. View "Indirect Purchaser Class v. Panasonic Corp." on Justia Law
Adams v. West Marine Products, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order remanding a putative class action to state court after it was removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Plaintiff, a former West Marine employee, originally filed the wage and hour action on behalf of herself and other similarly situated current and former West Marine employees in state court. Invoking the discretionary home state controversy exception to CAFA jurisdiction, the panel remanded to state court. The panel held that the district court reasonably inferred from the facts in evidence that it was more likely than not that more than one-third of class members were California citizens; a district court may raise sua sponte an exception to CAFA jurisdiction; and the district court provided the parties with an adequate opportunity to address whether the exception applied. The district court considered the six factors to determine whether the home state exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied and the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that remand was appropriate. View "Adams v. West Marine Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Mullinnex et al . v. Menard et al.
Defendants Michael Touchette and Centurion Healthcare brought an interlocutory appeal of a trial court's certification of a class of plaintiffs in a Vermont Rule 75 action. The certified class was comprised of people in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC), each of whom suffered from opioid-use disorder, and alleged defendants’ medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program did not meet prevailing medical standards of care as required by Vermont law. Defendants, the former Commissioner of the DOC and its contract healthcare provider, argued the trial court erred both in finding that plaintiff Patrick Mullinnex exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit, and in adopting the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine favored by several federal circuits in order to conclude that Mullinnex’s grievances satisfied the exhaustion requirement on behalf of the entire class. Defendants also contended the trial court’s decision to certify the class was made in error because plaintiffs did not meet Rule 23’s numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy-of- representation requirements. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed, concluding that - even if the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine was appropriately applied in Vermont - it could not apply in this case because, on the record before the trial court, no member of the putative class succeeded in exhausting his administrative remedies. Because plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust left the courts without subject-matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court did not reach defendants’ challenges to the merits of the class-certification decision. View "Mullinnex et al . v. Menard et al." on Justia Law
Bryant v. Compass Group U.S.A., Inc.
Bryant's Illinois employer had a cafeteria, containing vending machines owned and operated by Compass. The machines did not accept cash; a user had to establish an account using her fingerprint. Fingerprints are “biometric identifiers” under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). In violation of BIPA, Compass never made publicly available a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the biometric identifiers and information it was collecting; never informed Bryant in writing that her biometric identifier was being collected or stored, of the specific purpose and length of term for which her fingerprint was being collected, stored, and used; nor obtained Bryant’s written release to collect, store, and use her fingerprint. Bryant brought a putative class action in state court; BIPA provides a private right of action to persons “aggrieved” by a violation. Compass removed the action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), on the basis of diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy exceeding $5 million. Bryant successfully moved to remand the action, claiming that the district court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction because she lacked the concrete injury-in-fact necessary for Article III standing. State law poses no such problem. The district court found that Compass’s alleged violations were bare procedural violations that caused no concrete harm to Bryant. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The failure to follow BIPA leads to an invasion of personal rights that is both concrete and particularized. View "Bryant v. Compass Group U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Rosie D. v. Baker
The First Circuit issued this narrow opinion in response to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's appeal from the district court's denial of its "Motion Regarding Substantial Compliance and To Terminate Monitoring and Court Supervision" and reversed, holding that the district court's analysis was flawed. The underlying suit was long-running class-action litigation concerning the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's compliance with federal statutory requirements for provision of services to a plaintiff class of Medicaid-eligible children with serious emotional disturbances. The district court found the Commonwealth liable for violating Medicaid provisions as to "reasonable promptness" and "early and periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment" services. The court then issued remedial orders and a court monitor was appointed. Later the Commonwealth filed the motion at issue. Plaintiffs agreed that the court could terminate monitoring and reporting over the portions of the judgment the Commonwealth was in substantial compliance with. The district court denied the motion in its entirety. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court's analysis was flawed from the outset. View "Rosie D. v. Baker" on Justia Law
Stampley v. Altom Transport, Inc.
Stampley, the owner-operator of a tractor-trailer, provided hauling services for Altom. Altom agreed to pay Stampley 70% of the gross revenues that it collected for each load he hauled and to give Stampley a copy of the “rated freight bill” or a “computer-generated document with the same information” to prove that it had properly paid Stampley. The contract granted Stampley the right to examine any underlying documents used to create a computer-generated document and required him to bring any dispute regarding his pay within 30 days. Years after he hauled his last Altom load, Stampley filed a putative class action, alleging that Altom had shortchanged him and similarly situated drivers. The district court certified a class and held that Altom’s withholdings had violated the contract. Stampley had moved for summary judgment on the 30-day provision before the class received notice. The court subsequently denied Stampley’s motion for summary judgment, decertified the class, granted Altom summary judgment, and held that Stampley’s individual claims were barred. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Stampley an inadequate class representative and decertifying the class. The court found that the 30-day period began to run as soon as Stampley received any computer-generated document purporting to have the same information as the rated freight bill, necessarily including those that lacked the same information as the rated freight bill. View "Stampley v. Altom Transport, Inc." on Justia Law