Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff and his counsel, Anderson + Wanca (“Wanca”), appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for Wanca to receive a portion of the attorneys’ fees resulting from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. Section 227. Wanca, while not appointed as class counsel in this case, began the chain of litigation that resulted in the settlement below and so contends that it provided a substantial and independent benefit to the class justifying a portion of the attorneys’ fees.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that while the court did find that Wanca has shown it provided one substantial and independent benefit to the class, Wanca’s prioritization of its interests over the class’s interests throughout the litigation forecloses the equitable relief Wanca seeks.   The court explained that non-class counsel is generally entitled to a portion of a common fund recovered in a class action as attorneys’ fees under Rule 23(h) if non-class counsel confers a substantial and independent benefit to the class that aids in the recovery or improvement of the common fund.  Here, the mere fact that Wanca devoted substantial time and effort to litigating this class action does not entitle Wanca to attorneys’ fees. Simply put, most of the 671.95 hours Wanca spent litigating Arkin I and II did not aid in the recovery or improvement of the common fund obtained under the Pressman Settlement in Arkin III. View "Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s approval of a settlement between Defendant Monsanto and Plaintiffs. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding the notice to the class was sufficient or in concluding that payment to class members of 50% of the average weighted retail price of the items they purchased fully compensated the class members.    Plaintiffs filed suit pleading multiple claims arising out of the allegedly deceptive labeling of Roundup products manufactured by Monsanto. The parties agreed to a total Common Fund. They agreed that Monsanto would not object to Plaintiffs’ counsel seeking 25% of that amount as an attorney’s fee. Class members who filed claims were to receive 10% of the average retail price for the product(s) they bought, and any remaining funds after the costs of administration would be distributed cy pres. The parties executed a Second Corrected Class Action Settlement Agreement that made four changes to the initial agreement.   Appellant, a party injured by Roundup, made three objections to the settlement, all of which she renewed on appeal. First, she argued that the district court should have (1) required the parties to take additional steps to identify additional class members and (2) increased the pro-rata portion of the Common Fund up to 100% of the weighted average retail price. The court held the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that notice to the class was sufficient in light of the comprehensive notice plan and the estimated results from the claims administrator.Further, the court wrote that cy pres distribution of residual funds pursuant to the settlement agreement neither constitutes speech by any individual class member nor infringes on their First Amendment rights. View "Lisa Jones v. Anna St. John" on Justia Law

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This fee dispute arises from a putative class-action challenge to a now-repealed Virginia statute that triggered the automatic suspension of the driver’s licenses of “Appellants”, and numerous other Virginia residents for nonpayment of court costs and fines. After Appellants obtained a preliminary injunction, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law repealing the challenged statute. Appellants stipulated that dismissal of the underlying lawsuit was therefore appropriate but claimed that they were nonetheless entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1988 because they secured the preliminary injunction.   The district court denied Appellants’ petition for attorney’s fees, citing our decision in Smyth ex rel. Smyth v. Rivero, 282 F.3d 268 (4th Cir. 2002), wherein we held that preliminary injunctions do not confer the requisite “prevailing party” status required for an award of fees pursuant to Section 1988. On appeal, Appellants contend that Smyth is not controlling because it is untenable with subsequent Supreme Court decisions.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial Appellants' petition for attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. The court held that Smyth remains the law of the Fourth Circuit. And, pursuant to Smyth, Appellants are not prevailing parties. The court explained that it is bound by Smyth because it is directly on point and is neither distinguishable from nor untenable with any Supreme Court decision. The court wrote its decision in Smyth primarily turned on the nature of preliminary injunctions, not the standard for obtaining a preliminary injunction. Thus, Appellants’ argument that Smyth is untenable considering the changed merits standard following Winter is unpersuasive. View "Damian Stinnie v. Richard Holcomb" on Justia Law

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Allen and Mullen are disabled and need wheelchairs to move about. They shopped at two different "Ollie's" bargain stores, where they encountered an obstacle course: pillars, clothing racks, and boxes blocked their way. They filed a putative class action against Ollie’s under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12182(a). The district court certified a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2): All persons with qualified mobility disabilities who have attempted, or will attempt, to access the interior of any store owned or operated by [Ollie’s] within the United States and have, or will have, experienced access barriers in interior paths of travel.The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. The district court abused its discretion by certifying an overly broad class based on inadequate evidence of numerosity and commonality. On remand, the district court must address the differing ADA standards and rules to determine whether common proof and common relief would be available for each distinct claim raised by the putative class. View "Allen v. Ollie's Bargain Outlet, Inc" on Justia Law

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In a nationwide class action on behalf of all customers of GLV, which operates in several states as Sports Performance Volleyball Club, the district court certified a class limited to customers of GLV’s Illinois locations. Later, the judge concluded that Mullen, who asserts that GLV committed fraud by failing to disclose allegations of sexual abuse by a coach, was an unsuitable class representative because Mullen had not been injured and invited her to find a substitute. She did not. The class was never decertified.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on summary judgment after noting that abstention might have been appropriate. All of the litigants are citizens of Illinois, the claim rests on state law, and the remaining stakes are modest. The sole asserted basis of federal jurisdiction is the Class Action Fairness Act, which applies to class actions with more than 100 class members, stakes exceeding $5 million, and minimal diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2). Illinois law requires the plaintiff to show that she was “in some manner, deceived” by misrepresentation or material omission. Mullen was aware of the allegations against the coach. The court noted that the outcome does not bind any other person whose children attended the Club. View "Mullen v. GLV, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court certifying this class action against an auto insurance company brought by Plaintiffs, insureds who incurred medical expenses because of car accidents, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the prerequisites of a class action had been satisfied.Instead of paying Plaintiffs for the full amount of billed medical expenses Defendant instead simply reimbursed them for the actual amount they owed their medical providers after all discounts had been applied. Plaintiffs brought this action that this practice constituted breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The court certified a class action, from which Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it certified this case as a class action. View "Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. v. Baggett" on Justia Law

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The Claims Court certified a class of landowners who owned property along a railroad corridor that was converted to a recreational trail under the National Trails System Act. Denise and Gordon Woodley, who jointly owned property along the railroad, were members of the class seeking just compensation under the Fifth Amendment. The Woodleys challenged a proposed settlement and fee award and won a remand that entitled them to access to certain documents used in the calculations of class member compensation and attorneys’ fees.After approval of a settlement agreement that required payment of compensation to the class under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, 42 U.S.C. 4654(c), the Woodleys successfully sought attorney’s fees for work performed by counsel they jointly hired. Denise separately sought attorney’s fees for work performed by her attorney-spouse, Gordon, explaining that he was one of her lawyers throughout the proceeding; she also sought to recoup certain expenses. The Claims Court denied the motion, reasoning that pro se litigants cannot recover attorney’s fees and expenses and that Gordon, as a co-plaintiff and joint owner of the property at issue, was pro se and not compensable. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. Denise is not entitled to attorney’s fees for the legal work performed by her attorney-spouse. The court remanded for a determination of the proper reimbursement, if any, of her claimed expenses. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioners are truck drivers previously employed by real party in interest Haralambos Beverage Co. (Haralambos). Petitioners' filed a putative wage and hour class action alleging, among other things, that Haralambos failed to provide meal and rest breaks in violation of Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512 and the Industrial Welfare Commission’s Wage Order No. 9-2001. Nearly two years later, on December 28, 2018, the FMCSA issued an order concluding that California’s meal and rest break rules are laws “‘on commercial motor vehicle safety,’” are preempted pursuant to title 49 United States Code section 31141 (section 31141).   Thereafter, Haralambos filed a motion to strike the class allegations on federal preemption grounds, which the parties agreed was a request to strike petitioners’ third and fourth causes of action for failure to provide meal and rest breaks. On August 18, 2021, the superior court granted the motion and struck the two causes of action.   The Second Appellate District granted Petitioners’ petition for writ of mandate. The court held that in light of the FMCSA’s authority to determine and communicate what it is preempting, its use of language suggesting prospective application only, and its failure to expressly extend its decision to pending claims, the court concluded the Preemption Decision does not apply to bar claims arising from conduct that occurred prior to the decision, i.e., before December 28, 2018. View "Garcia v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against their former employer, US Well Services, Inc. (“US Well”) for allegedly violating the WARN Act by terminating them without advance notice. The WARN Act requires covered employers to give affected employees sixty days’ notice before a plant closing or mass layoff. 29 U.S.C. Section 2102(a). The Act provides three exceptions to the notice requirement—including the natural-disaster exception, under which no notice is required.   The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. US Well argued that COVID-19 was a natural disaster under the WARN Act, and consequently, that it was exempt from the WARN Act’s notice requirement pursuant to the natural-disaster exception. Plaintiffs countered that COVID-19 was not a natural disaster and was not a direct cause of their layoffs.   Plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal seeking reversal of the district court’s order denying their motions for summary judgment and reconsideration. In its order denying Plaintiffs’ motions, the district court certified two questions for interlocutory appeal: (1) Does COVID-19 qualify as a natural disaster under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act’s (“WARN Act” or “the Act”) natural-disaster exception, 29 U.S.C. Section 2102(b)(2)(B)?; (2) Does the WARN Act’s natural-disaster exception, 29 U.S.C. Section 2102(b)(2)(B), incorporate but-for or proximate causation?   The Fifth Circuit held that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a natural disaster under the WARN Act and that the natural-disaster exception incorporates proximate causation. The court explained that based on the DOL regulation’s “direct result” requirement and binding precedent equating direct cause with proximate cause, the court held that the WARN Act’s natural-disaster exception incorporates proximate causation. View "Easom v. US Well Services" on Justia Law

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California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) authorizes any “aggrieved employee” to initiate an action against a former employer on behalf of himself and other current or former employees to obtain civil penalties that previously could have been recovered only by California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. California precedent holds that a PAGA suit is a “representative action” in which the plaintiff sues as an “agent or proxy” of the state. Moriana filed a PAGA action against her former employer, Viking, alleging multiple violations with respect to herself and other employees. Moriana’s employment contract contained a mandatory arbitration agreement with a “Class Action Waiver,” providing that the parties could not bring any class, collective, or representative action under PAGA, and a severability clause. California courts denied Viking’s motion to compel arbitration.The Supreme Court reversed. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 (FAA), preempts California precedent that precludes division of PAGA actions into individual and non-individual claims through an agreement to arbitrate. Viking was entitled to compel arbitration of Moriana’s individual claim. Moriana would then lack standing to maintain her non-individual claims in court.A PAGA action asserting multiple violations under California’s Labor Code affecting a range of different employees does not constitute “a single claim.” Nothing in the FAA establishes a categorical rule mandating enforcement of waivers of standing to assert claims on behalf of absent principals. PAGA’s built-in mechanism of claim joinder is in conflict with the FAA. State law cannot condition the enforceability of an agreement to arbitrate on the availability of a procedural mechanism that would permit a party to expand the scope of the anticipated arbitration by introducing claims that the parties did not jointly agree to arbitrate. View "Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana" on Justia Law