Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Hicks v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.
Under its replacement-cost homeowner insurance contracts, State Farm calculated its payment obligations by estimating the amount it would cost to repair or replace damaged property and subtracting depreciation and the deductible. During the class period, State Farm depreciated costs for both materials and labor. Policyholders filed a putative class action. The Sixth Circuit held that in an insurance contract that incorporates Kentucky’s “replacement cost minus depreciation” formula, the insurer cannot depreciate the costs of labor when determining payments. State Farm changed its practice and created a refund program for those who had received payments between the decision and the date State Farm stopped deducting labor depreciation. Most policyholders received refunds of less than $1,000. The court certified the class as: All persons and entities that received “actual cash value” payments ... from State Farm … for loss or damage to a dwelling or other structure in … Kentucky ... where the cost of labor was depreciated," excluding those that received payment in the full amount of insurance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The claims share a common legal question central to the validity of each claim: whether State Farm breached the standard form contracts by deducting labor depreciation. No individualized proof is necessary to resolve this question on a classwide basis. That common question predominates over individual questions, although damages will vary. The court did not abuse its discretion in finding class litigation to be the superior method of adjudication and class membership is ascertainable View "Hicks v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Canela v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
Plaintiff filed a class action in state court alleging that Costco violated California Labor Code 1198 by failing to provide her and other employees suitable seating. After Costco removed the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a) and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), the district court ultimately granted summary judgment to plaintiff. The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment with instructions to remand to state court, holding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction at the time the action was removed to federal court. The panel first held that the district court lacked diversity jurisdiction under section 1332(a). The panel explained that, because plaintiff's pro-rata share of civil penalties, including attorney's fees, totaled $6,600 at the time of removal, and the claims of other member service employees may not be aggregated under Urbino v. Orkin Services of California, Inc., 726 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2013), the $75,000 jurisdictional threshold was not met. The panel also held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA because plaintiff's stand-alone Private Attorney General Act lawsuit was not, and could not have been, filed under a state rule similar to a Rule 23 class action. Therefore, the district court erred by not remanding the case to state court. View "Canela v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law
Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc.
Plaintiff Regina Little asserted claims on her own behalf and on behalf of other New Jersey owners and lessees of 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Kia Sephia vehicles distributed by defendant Kia Motors America, Inc., alleging that those vehicles had a defective brake system. The central question in this appeal was whether the trial court properly permitted plaintiff’s theory of damages based on the cost of brake repairs to be asserted classwide, supported only by aggregate proofs. The jury determined that defendant had breached its express and implied warranties and that the class had sustained damages. The jury found that the class members had suffered $0 in damages due to diminution in value but that each class member had sustained $750 in damages “[f]or repair expenses reasonably incurred as a result of the defendant’s breach of warranty.” The trial court granted defendant’s motion to decertify the class as to the quantum of damages each individual owner suffered. The parties cross-appealed. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s post-trial determinations, reinstated the jury’s award for out-of-pocket repair costs based on plaintiff’s aggregate proofs, and remanded for an award of attorneys’ fees. The appellate court held that, notwithstanding the jury’s rejection of plaintiff’s diminution-in-value theory, the trial court should have ordered a new trial on both theories of damages, which it found were not “fairly separable from each another.” Although aggregate proof of damages can be appropriate in some settings, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered such proof improper as presented in this case. The trial court erred when it initially allowed plaintiff to prove class-members’ out-of-pocket costs for brake repairs based on an estimate untethered to the experience of plaintiff’s class. The trial court properly ordered individualized proof of damages on plaintiff’s brake-repair claim based on the actual costs incurred by the class members. Thus, the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motions for a new trial and for partial decertification of the class were a proper exercise of its discretion. View "Little v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law
Berni v. Barilla S.p.A.
Objector, a member of a class of past purchasers of pasta, argued that the district court erred in certifying plaintiffs as a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) class when the district court approved their settlement with Barilla. Plaintiffs and Barilla seek to preserve the settlement. The Second Circuit held that past purchasers of a product—like the purchasers of Barilla pasta in this case—are not eligible for class certification under Rule 23(b)(2). The court explained that the district court erred in certifying plaintiffs as a Rule 23(b)(2) class because not all class members stand to benefit from injunctive relief, the kind of relief the settlement primarily provides. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order granting class settlement and remanded for further proceedings. View "Berni v. Barilla S.p.A." on Justia Law
Pivonka v. Corcoran
In this class action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the common pleas court's decision to certify the class, holding that the common pleas court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the class action for the named and prospective class plaintiffs whose claims for recovery fell within the express language of Ohio Rev. Code 5160.37. The class action sought a declaratory judgment that former Ohio Rev. Code 5101.58 relating to Medicaid reimbursements is unconstitutional. The action further sought to recover all sums paid to the Ohio Department of Medicaid (Department) under section 5101.58. Plaintiff moved to certify as a class all persons who paid any amount to the Department pursuant to the statute from April 6, 2007 to the present. The trial court certified the class. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 5160.37 now provides the sole remedy for Medicaid program participants to recover excessive reimbursement payments made to the Department on or after September 29, 2007; and (2) therefore, the common pleas court lacked jurisdiction over the claims asserted by Plaintiffs. View "Pivonka v. Corcoran" on Justia Law
Bowden v. The Medical Center
The Court of Appeals affirmed a superior court decision to certify a class action lawsuit against The Medical Center, Inc. ("TMC"). Class representatives were uninsured patients who received medical treatment from TMC and who claimed that TMC charged them unreasonable rates for their medical care, which rates TMC then used as a basis for filing hospital liens against any potential tort recovery by the patients. The Court of Appeals also ruled on the causes of action raised by the plaintiffs. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to answer three questions: (1) whether the Court of Appeals erred in its determination that class certification was proper; (2) whether the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the denial of summary judgment for TMC on common law claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation; and (3) whether the Court of Appeals erred in reversing the denial of summary judgment to TMC on claims brought under the Georgia RICO Act. The Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred with regard to the first two questions, but not the third. Therefore, judgment was reversed in part, affirmed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bowden v. The Medical Center" on Justia Law
Barriga v. 99 Cents Only Stores LLC
Plaintiff Sofia Barriga filed this lawsuit against 99 Cents Only Stores LLC, (99 Cents) individually, and on behalf of similarly situated current and former nonexempt employees of 99 Cents hired before October 1, 1999, pleading various Labor Code violations and violation of the unfair competition law. Plaintiff alleged 99 Cents had a zero-tolerance policy that required its stores to lock their doors at closing time, therefore, forcing nonexempt, nonmanagerial employees, who worked the graveyard shift and clock out for their meal break or at the end of their shift, to wait for as long as 15 minutes for a manager with a key to let them out of the store. According to plaintiff, 99 Cents did not pay its employees for the time they had to wait be let out, and the policy denied employees their full half-hour meal break. Plaintiff moved the trial court to certify two classes: (1) “Off the Clock Class,” and (2) “Meal Period Class.” 99 Cents opposed the certification motion, contending there was no community of interests among putative class members, and the lack of common issues among putative class members would render a class action unmanageable. Plaintiff moved to strike 174 declarations of employee declarants who were members of the proposed classes on the grounds the process by which they had been obtained was improper, and because they were substantively inconsistent with the subsequent deposition testimony of 12 of declarants. Concluding it lacked the statutory authority to strike the declarations, the trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to strike. And, based on all 174 declarations, the court concluded plaintiff had not demonstrated a community of interests or a commonality of issues among putative class members. Plaintiff appealed those orders. The Court of Appeal found the record demonstrated the trial court in this case was unaware of the need to scrutinize 99 Cents’ declarations carefully, and was either unaware of or misunderstood the scope of its discretion to either strike or discount the weight to be given the 174 declarations, including the declarations of employees who were not members of the putative classes, if it concluded they were obtained under coercive or abusive circumstances. The orders denying plaintiff’s motion to strike 99 Cents’ declarations and class certification motion were reversed, and the matter remanded for reconsideration. View "Barriga v. 99 Cents Only Stores LLC" on Justia Law
Freedman v. MajicJack Vocaltec Ltd.
Plaintiff, a shareholder, filed a putative class action complaint against magicJack and eight individuals who were magicJack current or former directors. Plaintiff alleged that magicJack issued two proxy statements that contained material misrepresentations. The district court dismissed plaintiff's lawsuit because his claims were derivative in nature and he failed to plead that he made a demand on magicJack or that doing so would have been futile. The Eleventh Circuit held that federal courts should look to state law to decide the issue of whether a claim brought under a federal statute is direct or derivative. In this case, because magicJack is incorporated under the laws of Israel, Israeli law controls the court's analysis. However, even if the court applied Florida law, the result would be the same because the two bodies of law are consistent. The court held that plaintiff's claims are derivative in nature because he failed to allege that he suffered damages independent of the damages that magicJack (and all of its shareholders) suffered. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to plead that he personally suffered a special injury, distinct from that experienced by magicJack or its other shareholders. Finally, any recovery sought in the Second Amended Complaint would necessarily be for the benefit of magicJack and its shareholders. View "Freedman v. MajicJack Vocaltec Ltd." on Justia Law
Gass et al. v. 52nd Judicial District
At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was a challenge to a local judicial district’s policy prohibiting the use of medical marijuana by individuals under court supervision, such as probationers. Relevant here, the applicable statutory authority, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act, contained an immunity provision protecting patients from government sanctions. In September 2019, the 52nd Judicial District -- comprised of the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas (the “District”) -- announced a “Medical Marijuana Policy” under the issuing authority of the president judge. The Policy prohibited “the active use of medical marijuana, regardless of whether the defendant has a medical marijuana card, while the defendant is under supervision by the Lebanon County Probation Services Department.” Petitioners were individuals under the supervision of the Lebanon County probation agency who filed suit in the Commonwealth Court's original jurisdiction to challenge the validity of the Policy in light of the MMA's immunity provision. Separately, Petitioners filed an application for special relief in the nature of a preliminary injunction. Soon thereafter, the Commonwealth Court proceeded, sua sponte, to transfer the case to this Court, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to grant the requested relief. The District then filed its response in this Court opposing preliminary injunctive relief. It claimed, among other things, that Petitioners were unlikely to prevail on the merits, arguing, inter alia, that the General Assembly didn’t intend the MMA to override the courts’ ability to supervise probationers and parolees. After review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Petitioners' request for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Policy was deemed to be contrary to the immunity accorded by the MMA, and as such, should not be enforced. "[N]othing impedes a revocation hearing or other lawful form of redress, where there is reasonable cause to believe that a probationer or other person under court supervision has possessed or used marijuana in a manner that has not been made lawful by the enactment." View "Gass et al. v. 52nd Judicial District" on Justia Law
In Re: NFL Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation
The Settlement Agreement between the NFL and eligible retired NFL players arose out of a class action based on findings that professional football players are at a significantly increased risk for serious brain injury. The Agreement is intended to provide monetary awards to former players who receive a qualifying diagnosis after following a specified protocol. The Agreement’s claims administrator and the district court created and adopted a set of clarifying, revised rules relating to how players can obtain a qualifying diagnosis. Several retired NFL players or their estates challenged those revised rules, arguing that they amended the Agreement, and alternatively, that the court abused its discretion by adopting the four revised rules. The Third Circuit upheld the rules, noting that the Agreement provided for the court’s continuing jurisdiction and specifies the duties of the claims administrator. The revised rules are permissible clarifications created for the Agreement’s successful administration—for example, to prevent fraud—and were not amendments. They were created, in part, because the claims administrator reviewed many claim submissions and noted that there were certain “clients of a law firm traveling thousands of miles to see the same physician rather than those available to them in their hometowns and excessively high numbers and rates of payable diagnoses from those doctors.” View "In Re: NFL Players' Concussion Injury Litigation" on Justia Law