Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Walmart, Inc.’s “Great Value White Baking Chips” incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Walmart for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. The trial court sustained Walmart’s demurrers without leave to amend, finding as a matter of law that no reasonable consumer would believe Walmart’s White Baking Chips contain white chocolate. The thrust of Salazar's claims was that he was reasonably misled to believe the White Baking Chips had real white chocolate because of the product’s label and its placement near products with real chocolate. Salazar also alleged that the results of a survey he conducted show that 90 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Chips’ advertising and incorrectly believed they contained white chocolate. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the chips' advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Target Corporation’s White Baking Morsels incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Target for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. Salazar claimed he was reasonably mislead to believe the White Baking Morsels had real white chocolate because of the product’s label, its price tag, and its placement near products with real chocolate. To support his position, Salazar alleged that the results of a survey he conducted showed that 88 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising and incorrectly believe they contained white chocolate. He also alleged that Target falsely advertised on its website that the “‘chocolate type’” of White Baking Morsels was “‘white chocolate,’” and placed the product in the “‘Baking Chocolate & Cocoa’” category. Target demurred to all three claims on the ground that no reasonable consumer would believe the White Baking Morsels contained real white chocolate. Target also argued that Salazar lacked standing to assert claims based on Target’s website because he did not view the website and did not rely on its representations. The court sustained Target’s demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for Target. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Target Corp." on Justia Law

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Appellants are patients at medical facilities operated by respondent Centrelake Medical Group. In reliance on Centrelake’s allegedly false representations that it employed reasonable safeguards for patients’ personal identifying information (PII), Appellants entered into contracts with Centrelake. Appellants brought an action against Centrelake on behalf of themselves and a putative class of patients affected by a data breach. The complaint contained causes of action for breach of contract, negligence, and violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Centrelake demurred, arguing that Appellants had failed to adequately plead any cognizable injury and that their negligence claim was barred by the economic loss rule. Appellants opposed the demurrer. On appeal, Appellants contend the court erred in sustaining the demurrer with respect to each of their claims and abused its discretion in denying their request for leave to amend.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment with respect to the dismissal of Appellants’ negligence claim without leave to amend, but reverse with respect to Appellants’ UCL and contract claims. The court concluded that Appellants adequately alleged UCL standing and contract damages under their benefit-of-the-bargain theory, and the Appellant who purchased monitoring services, did the same under Appellants’ monitoring-costs theory. However, Appellants have not shown the court erred in dismissing their negligence claim under the economic loss rule; nor have they shown the court abused its discretion in denying their request for leave to amend. View "Moore v. Centrelake Medical Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Wisconsin inmates undergo regular strip searches. One guard performs the search; another observes. West is a Muslim. Strip searches by guards of the opposite sex violate the tenets of his faith. He was required to submit to a strip search by a guard who is a transgender man—a woman who identifies as a man. West objected but was refused an accommodation. West unsuccessfully requested an exemption from future cross-sex strip searches. The warden stated that he would be disciplined if he objects again. West sought an injunction under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc, and alleged Fourth Amendment violations. The district court dismissed the constitutional claim; circuit precedent held that a prisoner has no Fourth Amendment interest against visual inspections of his body. Rejecting the RLUIPA claim, the judge concluded that West had not shown a substantial burden on his religious exercise and that cross-sex strip searches are permissible as the prison’s only means to avoid unlawfully discriminating against transgender employees.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Intervening precedent revives the Fourth Amendment claim. West is entitled to judgment on the RLUIPA claim. His objection to cross-sex strip searches is religious in nature and sincere. The prison has substantially burdened his religious exercise by requiring him to either submit, in violation of his faith, or face discipline. The burden is unjustified under RLUIPA’s strict-scrutiny standard: providing an exemption will not violate the rights of transgender prison employees under Title VII or the Equal Protection Clause. View "West v. Radtke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in two putative class actions took out home mortgage loans from Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), one before and the other after the effective date of certain provisions of the DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“DoddFrank”). The loan agreements, which were governed by the laws of New York, required Plaintiffs to deposit money in escrow accounts for property taxes and insurance payments for each mortgaged property. When BOA paid no interest on the escrowed amounts, Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, claiming that they were entitled to interest under New York General Obligations Law Section 5-601, which sets a minimum 2% interest rate on mortgage escrow accounts. BOA moved to dismiss on the ground that GOL Section 5-601 does not apply to mortgage loans made by federally chartered banks because, as applied to such banks, it is preempted by the National Bank Act of 1864 (“NBA”). The district court disagreed and denied the motion.   The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that (1) New York’s interest-on-escrow law is preempted by the NBA under the “ordinary legal principles of pre-emption,” Barnett Bank of Marion Cnty., N.A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 37 (1996), and (2) the Dodd-Frank Act does not change this analysis. GOL Section 5-601 thus did not require BOA to pay a minimum rate of interest, and Plaintiffs have alleged no facts supporting a claim that interest is due. View "Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law

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Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (“HVCU”) appealed from the district court’s ruling denying HVCU’s motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s putative class action claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and claims under New York law and the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling, holding that the record was insufficiently developed for the district court to deny the motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the record is insufficiently developed on the issue of whether the parties entered into an agreement to arbitrate and, as a consequence, the court wrote it cannot determine the matter of arbitrability “as a matter of law.” Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider further evidence or, if necessary, hold a trial.   The court further explained that it was an error for the district court to engage in the inquiry notice analysis based on the copy of the Internet Banking Agreement, which does not depict the content and design of the webpage as seen by users signing up for online banking. The court wrote that on remand, the district court should consider the design and content of the Internet Banking Agreement as it was presented to users in determining whether Plaintiff assented to its terms. And the district court should assess whether the Account Agreements are clearly identified and available to the users based on the court’s precedents. View "Zachman v. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

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Class Counsel discovered the Social Security Administration's (SSA’s) systemic failure to perform “Subtraction Recalculations” and recovered over $106 million in past-due disability benefits. After performing the Subtraction Recalculations for all the claimants, the SSA argued that the district court did not have authority under the Social Security Act’s judicial-review provision, 42 U.S.C. 405(g), to order the Subtraction Recalculations and that Class Counsel cannot recover attorney fees under section 406(b) for representation of the claimants.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the award of $15.9 million in attorney fees to Class Counsel. SSA “may not hide behind” the statutory provisions merely because it erred at the end, rather than at the beginning, of the benefits-award process. The district court appropriately exercised judicial review under section 405(g), properly ordered the SSA to perform the Subtraction Recalculations, and properly awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees. The SSA failed to award claimants additional past-due benefits to which they were entitled. Counsel successfully sought judicial assistance to obtain those benefits. Congress did not create a statute that allows attorneys to recover fees when the SSA initially fails to award benefits, only to foreclose fee recovery when the SSA later unlawfully withholds additional benefits. View "Steigerwald v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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A class action claimed that BMW knowingly manufactured and sold vehicles equipped with defective engines and included 20 causes of action, including alleged breach of warranty under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301 (a federal fee-shifting statute), breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, violations of state consumer fraud and deceptive trade practice statutes, and unjust enrichment. The parties reached a settlement to reimburse class members for expenses incurred and provide them with extended warranties. The district court concluded the settlement was worth at least $27 million. BMW stipulated that it would not object to Settlement Class Counsel’s application for an award of attorneys’ fees of up to $1,500,000 in the aggregate. The parties agreed that Counsel could apply for an award of attorneys’ fees not to exceed $3,700,000 in the aggregate. Class counsel sought $3.7 million.Applying the lodestar approach (multiplication of the hours counsel reasonably billed by a reasonable hourly rate) the district court adopted Class Counsel’s requested lodestar amount of $1,934,000, then applied a requested multiplier of 1.9 to reach a total fee award of $3.7 million. The Third Circuit vacated. The lodestar was based on an insufficient record. The charts provided by Counsel do not establish whether certain hours are duplicative or whether the total hours billed were reasonable for the work performed. View "Gelis v. BMW of North America LLC" on Justia Law

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Air Force veteran Skaar was exposed to ionizing radiation while participating in a cleanup operation in Palomares, Spain following a 1966 midair collision involving a plane carrying nuclear weapons. In 1998, he was diagnosed with leukopenia. His doctor opined that exposure to ionizing radiation “appear[s] to be the positive agent” that historically causes leukopenia. Skaar filed an unsuccessful claim with the VA for service-connected benefits. Before the Veterans Court, he challenged the radiation dose estimates provided by the Air Force. The Veterans Court certified a class of similarly situated veterans who had participated in the Palomares cleanup operation, including veterans who had not received a Board decision but excluding veterans whose claims had been denied but not timely appealed.The Federal Circuit vacated. The Veterans Court lacked authority to certify a class that includes veterans who had not received a Board decision, a statutory prerequisite for the court’s jurisdiction, 38 U.S.C. 7252(a). Jurisdiction over Skaar’s individual claim did not create further jurisdiction over similarly situated veterans whose individual claims were beyond the court’s jurisdiction. The court rejected Skaar’s argument that the Veterans Court should have equitably tolled the appeal period for veterans whose claims had been denied but not timely appealed and should have included such veterans as members of the certified class. None of the claimants alleged the requisite due diligence in pursuing their rights. View "Skaar v. McDonough" on Justia Law