Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

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Phelps Gas & Oil brought a class action in Colorado state court against Noble Energy and DCP Midstream for underpayments on oil and gas royalties Noble allegedly owed Phelps and other owners of royalty interests. DCP Midstream removed the class action to federal district court. Phelps then moved to remand the case to state court, arguing the case failed to meet the federal $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. The district court denied the motion, and later entered summary judgment, dismissing all of Phelps’s claims. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred in denying Phelps’s motion to remand, thus dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. "[N]either the value to Phelps nor the cost to either defendant in this case would result in more than $75,000 at controversy. Though the contracts between Noble and DCP are worth millions of dollars, we cannot base federal jurisdiction on potential future litigation involving the defendants." View "Phelps Oil and Gas v. Noble Energy" on Justia Law

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Smith worked for PTI, a company that transports railroad crews to and from their workplaces. Believing that her position was misclassified under the Fair Labor Standards Act and that she was not receiving proper overtime wages, she filed a collective action 29 U.S.C. 216(b). Unlike a class action under FRCP 23(b)(3), an FLSA collective action requires group members to affirmatively opt-in to participate. Her suit was within the two-year limitation period. The district court’s docket sheet shows numerous putative group members consenting to opt-in.PTI noted that Smith had not filed anything except her complaint indicating that she herself wished to participate in the group action. The court held that Smith’s group action could not “commence” until such consent was filed, 29 U.S.C. 256, but the limitations periods had run. The court concluded that Smith’s complaint also failed to allege timely individual claims, and dismissed the case. Smith’s appeal concerned only her individual action. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court erred by refusing to allow Smith to proceed on her individual claims. Read in the light most favorable to Smith, the complaint contained sufficient factual allegations related to her individual claims to put PTI on notice that she intended to sue it both in an individual and a representative capacity. She explicitly stated as much in the caption. View "Smith v. Professional Transportation,Inc." on Justia Law

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In this public interest appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court certifying a class action of servers employed by Chip's Family Restaurant, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiff alleged in her class action complaint that Defendants had violated Connecticut wage laws and regulations by deducting a tip credit from her earnings and paying her and other class members below minimum wage for the performance of "nonservice" tasks in connection with their duties as servers. After class discovery, Plaintiff moved for class certification. The trial court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in certifying this class action. View "Rodriguez v. Kaiaffa, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against the School District, claiming that shortcomings in the District’s translation and interpretation services violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the District, based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. A “systemic exception” to IDEA’s administrative exhaustion requirement applies where plaintiffs “allege systemic legal deficiencies and, correspondingly, request system-wide relief" that cannot be addressed through the administrative process. The fact that a complaint is structured as a class action seeking injunctive relief, without more, does not excuse exhaustion; the systemic exception applies when plaintiffs challenge policies that threaten basic IDEA goals, not mere components of special education programs. Both named plaintiffs could bring the same IDEA claim from their complaint before a hearing officer who could then order that the District provide each parent with translated individualized education plans, more qualified or consistent interpretation services, or whatever process would ensure meaningful participation for that parent. Both the claim and the relief would be individualized, even if the relief could create spillover benefits for other parents. View "T.R. v. School District of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in districts across the country filed class action complaints against four airlines, alleging violations of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, 3, by colluding to decrease capacity and raise prices. These lawsuits were consolidated and transferred to the District of Columbia for multidistrict litigation proceedings. The plaintiffs reached settlement agreements with Southwest and American. The district court preliminarily approved both settlements. Settlement class members include anyone who purchased flights from the defendant airlines for a period after July 2011. Litigation against Delta and United continued. Under the proposed settlements, Southwest would pay $15 million and American would pay $45 million. The amount ultimately received by each settlement class member may increase at the close of litigation against Delta and United. To avoid piecemeal payments, the proposed settlements left open the question of how the funds should be allocated and distributed until the entire lawsuit concluded.Bednarz and Frank objected, arguing the settlement notice should have detailed how the funds would be distributed and opposing the possibility of a cy pres distribution of funds to undisclosed recipients. After a hearing, the district court approved the settlements, rejecting the objections. The court dismissed Southwest and American from the consolidated action but declined to make the dismissal a final judgment. The D.C. Circuit dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction, an appeal by Bednarz and Frank. The court’s order is not an appealable final judgment or interlocutory order. View "In re: Domestic Airline Travel Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to remand this removed action to state court under the local-controversy exception to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). In this case, plaintiff filed a class action complaint in Missouri sate court against defendants, alleging that defendants owned and/or operated the West Lake Landfill and were responsible for the contamination of plaintiffs' property, which plaintiffs claimed occurred due to defendants' allegedly improper acceptance and handling of radioactive waste at the landfill. Rock Road Industries was a citizen of Missouri at the time plaintiffs filed their complaint. After plaintiffs filed the complaint, Rock Road Industries merged with Bridgeton Landfill. Defendants removed to federal court, alleging federal-question jurisdiction existed under the Price-Anderson Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.After determining that it has jurisdiction over the appeal of the remand order under 28 U.S.C. 1291, the court concluded that CAFA's local-controversy exception does not require remand in this case because plaintiffs failed to show that the conduct of defendant Rock Road Industries - the only Missouri-citizen defendant and thus the only possible local defendant for purposes of the exception - formed a significant basis for the claims asserted in the complaint. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Kitchin v. Bridgeton Landfill, LLC" on Justia Law

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Objectors to a class action settlement in the Flint Water Cases sought to compel the district court to cease holding off-the-record substantive ex parte meetings that exclude objectors’ counsel; to order the participants at certain conferences to recount for the record their recollection of what transpired at those conferences; to order settling parties to identify any other substantive unrecorded conferences since February 26, 2021; and to refrain from continuing to prescribe or dictate the litigation strategy of the parties in advocating for the settlement.The Sixth Circuit denied the petition. Despite the seriousness of their allegations, petitioners must show that mandamus is the appropriate remedy. The district court has not approved the settlement; their objections remain pending. If the court overrules their objections, and if the petitioners believe this decision was because of some impropriety, they can bring a direct appeal. Petitioners have not shown a clear and indisputable right to the relief they seek. Requiring district courts to invite unnamed class members and individual attorneys to every proceeding risks the efficiency interests that class actions are meant to promote. District courts appoint interim lead and liaison counsel to represent the class’s interests in pre-judgment proceedings. The court’s order indicates that it is aware of its ethical obligations and plans to hear from objectors during the fairness hearing. View "In re: Hall" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal previously issued an opinion in this case on September 18, 2018, in which it affirmed the judgment. The California Supreme Court granted review in January 2019, deferring consideration and disposition until it decided a related issue in Oman v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 9 Cal.5th 762 (2020). In September 2020, the Supreme Court transferred this matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the September 18, 2018 opinion and to reconsider this appeal in light of Oman. This case arose from a certified wage and hour class action following a judgment after a bench trial in favor of defendants Certified Tire and Service Centers, Inc. (Certified Tire) and Barrett Business Services, Inc. (collectively defendants). Plaintiffs contended that Certified Tire violated the applicable minimum wage and rest period requirements by implementing a compensation program, which guaranteed its automotive technicians a specific hourly wage above the minimum wage for all hours worked during each pay period, but also gave them the possibility of earning a higher hourly wage for all hours worked during each pay period based on certain productivity measures. After considering the parties’ supplemental briefing on the applicability of Oman to the issues presented in this matter, the Court of Appeal concluded that that plaintiffs’ appeal lacked merit, and accordingly affirmed the judgment. View "Certified Tire & Service Centers Wage & Hour Cases" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying plaintiffs' motion for class certification and remanded for further proceedings. Plaintiffs' action alleged that Centra Tech and some of its principals violated the Securities Act of 1933 in their efforts related to the initial coin offering of Centra Tokens.The court concluded that, under the circumstances of this case, including the near omnipresence of an automatic discovery stay imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) whenever a motion to dismiss is pending -- in effect for just under fifteen of the eighteen months between the initial complaint and plaintiffs' certification motion -- the district court's timeliness holding was an abuse of discretion. The court also concluded that the district court erred when it denied certification on the alternative ground that plaintiffs had not established an administratively feasible method for identifying class members. The court explained that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 implicitly requires that a proposed class be ascertainable. However, the court's recent decision in Cherry v. Dometic Corp., 986 F.3d 1296, 1304 (11th Cir. 2021), clarified that to meet this ascertainability requirement, the party seeking certification need not establish its ability to identify class members in a convenient or administratively feasible manner. The court noted that considerations of administrative feasibility may still be relevant to Rule 23(b)(3)(D) manageability analysis. View "Rensel v. Centra Tech, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were employees of Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurants owned and/or operated by defendants. In their lawsuit against defendants, plaintiffs asserted individual and class claims under various provisions of the Labor Code and the California Unfair Competition Law, and claims for violations of the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. The trial court certified eight classes and two subclasses, but later decertified all classes except for a subclass of dual rate employees who allegedly were underpaid by defendants for overtime hours worked. We refer to this subclass as the dual rate overtime subclass. The issue presented by this appeal was whether defendant employers violated California law in their method of calculating the regular rate of pay for purposes of compensating overtime hours of employees who worked at different rates of pay within a single pay period (dual rate employees). Defendants used the rate-in-effect method, by which dual rate employees were paid for overtime hours based on the rate in effect when the overtime hours began. Plaintiffs contended California law required defendants to use the weighted average method, by which dual rate employees were paid for overtime based on an hourly rate calculated by adding all hours worked in one pay period and dividing that number into the employee’s total compensation for the pay period. The trial court found, among other things, that defendants did not violate California employment law by using the rate-in-effect method for calculating the overtime rate of pay. Based on the ruling in the bench trial, the trial court decertified the dual rate overtime subclass and dismissed the PAGA claims. Plaintiffs appealed the order decertifying the dual rate overtime subclass and the order dismissing the PAGA claims. The Court of Appeal affirmed: California law did not mandate the use of the weighted average method, and defendants’ dual rate employees, including plaintiffs, overall received net greater overtime pay under the rate-in-effect method than they would have received under the weighted average method. View "Levanoff v. Dragas" on Justia Law