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Four groups of prospective intervenors challenged the district court's denials of their motions to intervene in a class action lawsuit by named plaintiff Connie Jean Smith against SEECO, as well as the district court's procedures for opting-out from the class. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that Charter Land's motion to intervene was untimely because it merely repeated arguments already advanced by other attempted intervenors after the class was unsuccessful. The court dismissed the remaining appeals for lack of jurisdiction because the appeals were not filed within 30 days of the district court's order denying intervention. View "Smith v. Arnett" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Olenik, a stockholder of nominal defendant Earthstone Energy, Inc., brought class and derivative claims against defendants, challenging a business combination between Earthstone and Bold Energy III LLC. As alleged in the complaint, EnCap Investments L.P. controlled Earthstone and Bold and caused Earthstone stockholders to approve an unfair transaction based on a misleading proxy statement. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming the proxy statement disclosed fully and fairly all material facts about the transaction, and Earthstone conditioned its offer on the approval of a special committee and the vote of a majority of the minority stockholders. The Court of Chancery agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case. While the parties briefed this appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court decided Flood v. Synutra International, Inc. Under Synutra, to invoke the MFW protections in a controller-led transaction, the controller must “self-disable before the start of substantive economic negotiations.” The controller and the board’s special committee must also “bargain under the pressures exerted on both of them by these protections.” The Court cautioned that the MFW protections would not result in dismissal when the “plaintiff has pled facts that support a reasonable inference that the two procedural protections were not put in place early and before substantive economic negotiations took place.” So the Supreme Court determined the Court of Chancery held correctly plaintiff failed to state a disclosure claim. But, the complaint should not have been dismissed in its entirety: applying Synutra, which the Court of Chancery did not have the benefit of at the time of its decision, plaintiff pled facts supporting a reasonable inference that EnCap, Earthstone, and Bold engaged in substantive economic negotiations before the Earthstone special committee put in place the MFW conditions. The Court of Chancery’s decision was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Olenik v. Lodzinski, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ of prohibition barring the circuit court from taking any further action other than vacating its order granting class certification, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by certifying an overly broad class with a class representative whose claims were not typical of the class. Plaintiff filed the underlying class action on behalf of all other similarly situated Missouri consumers alleging that Defendant and its predecessors or successors violated statutory notice requirements relating to the repossession and disposition of collateral and collected unlawful interest following default and repossession of the collateral. The circuit court certified two classes and designated Plaintiff as the sole class representative. Defendant then filed a petition for a writ of prohibition arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion by certifying the class. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by certifying a class with Plaintiff as the sole class representative where her claims were not typical of the class and she was not a member of the subclass. View "State ex rel. General Credit Acceptance Co. v. Honorable David L. Vincent III" on Justia Law

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Tucker filed suit in December 2003, under the unfair competition law, challenging Cingular’s marketing of mobile phone monthly rates. Plaintiff Hodge was added after Tucker lost standing. After several years of motions, discovery, and appellate proceedings, Hodge filed a fifth amended complaint in 2011. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the class allegations without leave to amend and sustained the demurrer to the individual fraud claims with leave to amend. Following a remand, the operative seventh amended complaint was filed in August 2013. Cingular successfully moved to strike the class claims, arguing Hodge had changed her plan and lacked standing. The court of appeal again remanded. The trial court then dismissed for failure to comply with Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310, which requires an action to “be brought to trial within five years after the action is commenced.” Plaintiffs argued that the pretrial order dismissing the class claims qualified as a “trial” for purposes of section 583.310. In class action lawsuits, such a pretrial order is treated as a final judgment and is immediately appealable under the “death knell doctrine.” The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal. A death knell order does not constitute a trial under the five-year dismissal statute and an appellate decision reversing such an order does not trigger the statute’s three-year extension. View "Rel v. Pacific Bell Mobile Services" on Justia Law

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John Teets, a participant in an employer retirement plan, invested money in Great-West Life Annuity and Insurance Company’s investment fund which guaranteed investors would never lose their principal or the interest they accrued. The investment fund was offered to employers as an investment option for their employees’ retirement savings plans, which were governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Teets later sued Great-West under ERISA, alleging Great-West breached a fiduciary duty to participants in the fund or that Great-West was a nonfiduciary party in interest that benefitted from prohibited transactions with his plan’s assets. After certifying a class of 270,000 plan participants like Mr. Teets, the district court granted summary judgment for Great-West, holding that: (1) Great-West was not a fiduciary; and (2) Mr. Teets had not adduced sufficient evidence to impose liability on Great-West as a non-fiduciary party in interest. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Teets v. Great-West Life" on Justia Law

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In these joint appeals from putative class actions, the Supreme Court reversed the orders of the Appellate Division rejecting the New York State Department of Labor's (DOL) interpretation of the DOL's Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations Minimum Wage Order (Wage Order), holding that DOL's interpretation of its Wage Order did not conflict with the promulgated language, nor did DOL adopt on irrational or unreasonable construction. Under the Wage Order, an employer must pay its home health care aid employees for each hour of a twenty-four-hour shift. At issue in this case was DOL's interpretation of its Wage Order to require payment for at least thirteen hours of a twenty-four-hour shift if the employee is allowed a sleep break of at least eight hours and actually receives five hours of uninterrupted sleep and three hours of meal break time. Supreme Court refused to adopt DOL's interpretation and determined that class certification was appropriate. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that DOL's interpretation was neither rational nor reasonable because it conflicted with the plain language of the Wage Order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Appellate Division failed to afford adequate deference to DOL's interpretation of the Wage Order. View "Andryeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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Former employees of Honeywell, who retired before age 65 during the terms of Honeywell's 2007 and 2010 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), filed a class action alleging that Honeywell's announced plan to terminate early retiree healthcare benefits at the end of 2017 breached the CBAs and violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), because those healthcare benefits vested when each class member retired. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the Sixth Circuit and held that the Supreme Court's decision in CNH Indus. N.V. v. Reese, 138 S. Ct. 761 (2018), was controlling in this case. Under Reese, the court held that plaintiffs' retiree healthcare benefits were not vested as a matter of law. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pacheco v. Honeywell International Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought class action claims against Google, claiming violations of the Stored Communications Act; they alleged that when an Internet user conducted a Google search and clicked on a hyperlink listed on the search results, Google transmitted information (referrer header) including the terms of the search to the server that hosted the selected webpage. The Act prohibits “a person or entity providing an electronic communication service to the public” from “knowingly divulg[ing] to any person or entity the contents of a communication while in electronic storage by that service” and creates a private right of action. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, citing a Ninth Circuit holding (Edwards) that an Article III injury exists whenever a statute gives an individual a statutory cause of action and the plaintiff claims that the defendant violated the statute. The parties negotiated a classwide settlement that allowed the continued transmission of referrer headers but required Google to include disclosures on three of its webpages and to pay $8.5 million. None of those funds would be distributed to absent class members; most of the money would be distributed to cy pres recipients. In a class action, cy pres refers to distributing settlement funds not amenable to individual claims or meaningful pro rata distribution to nonprofit organizations whose work indirectly benefits class members. The balance would be used for administrative costs, given to the named plaintiffs, and awarded as attorney’s fees. In the meantime, the Supreme Court (Spokeo) held that “Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation,” rejecting the "Edwards" premise. The Ninth Circuit affirmed approval of the settlement without addressing Spokeo. The Supreme Court vacated. Although the Court granted certiorari to decide whether a class action settlement that provides a cy pres award but no direct relief to class members is “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23(e)(2), the Court concluded that there is a substantial open question about whether any named plaintiff had standing. A court cannot approve a proposed class settlement if it lacks jurisdiction over the dispute, and federal courts lack jurisdiction if no named plaintiff has standing. When the district court ruled on the motion to dismiss, it relied on precedent that was subsequently abrogated in Spokeo. View "Frank v. Gaos" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Roger Myers, Dave Billings, Greg Neyhart, and Jim Mestas were nonexempt maintenance technicians for Raley’s grocery stores. Plaintiffs alleged they were required to drive company vehicles carrying their own tools as well as specialized tools, and they were not allowed to run personal errands without special permission or carry passengers who were not Raley’s employees except in an emergency. Despite Raley’s control over their driving time, they were not compensated for the time they spent driving to their first store or driving home from the last store they service each day. They claimed Raley’s uniform practice violated California law. These uniform policies and practices, according to the technicians, presented common issues of fact and law and their legality were particularly well suited to a class action. In denying class certification, the trial court made the conclusory finding plaintiffs failed to establish that a well-defined community of interest exists and that the common issues of fact and law predominate. The Court of Appeal determined that because the trial court’s cursory finding rendered its review "impossible," and because cases decided after the trial court’s ruling exposed the dangers of employing the wrong legal criteria, asking the wrong questions, or inflating the significance of the opposing parties’ evidence, the Court of Appeal remanded this case back to the trial court for reconsideration in light of Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc., 59 Cal.4th 522 (2014) and Jones v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 221 Cal.App.4th 986 (2013), and for a statement of reasons to ensure the court did not use improper criteria or rely on erroneous legal assumptions. View "Myers v. Raley's" on Justia Law

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Speaks Plaintiffs filed a class action against the Cooperative, seeking a declaratory judgment, distribution of the reserve funds to members, and judicial dissolution of the Cooperative as an alternative form of relief. Speaks Plaintiffs argued that after Congress enacted the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act (FETRA) and the price-support program ended, the Cooperative's primary purpose ceased to exist, and it should be forced to distribute the reserve funds and be judicially dissolved. The parties eventually mediated the case and the district court certified the class, approving a settlement. In this appeal, Fisher-Lewis class members, and would-be intervenor Dan Lewis, objected to the Speaks settlement. The Fourth Circuit dismissed Lewis' appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Lewis filed his appeal far beyond the 30-day deadline prescribed by statute. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the attempted group opt-out. However, the court could not agree with the district court that the objectors' interests were adequately protected or that the settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate for the class. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order certifying the class and granting final approval of the class-action settlement, remanding for further proceedings. View "Speaks v. U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc." on Justia Law