Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

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A putative nationwide class of current and former members sued MEF, a membership-based spa-services company, alleging that MEF increased fees in violation of the membership agreement. The parties settled. In exchange for the release of all claims against MEF, class members could submit claims for “vouchers” for MEF products and services. The district court approved the settlement as “fair, reasonable, and adequate” under FRCP 23(e).The Ninth Circuit vacated. If a class action settlement is considered a “coupon” under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) additional restrictions apply to the settlement approval process. The court did not defer to the district court’s determination that the MEF vouchers were not coupons but applied a three-factor test, examining whether settlement benefits require class members “to hand over more of their own money before they can take advantage of” those benefits, whether the credit was valid only for “select products or services,” and how much flexibility the credit provided. The district court also failed to adequately investigate some of the potentially problematic aspects of the relationship between attorneys’ fees and the benefits to the class, which impacted the fairness of the entire settlement, not just attorneys’ fees. The district court did not apply the appropriate enhanced scrutiny; it failed to adequately address the three warning signs of implicit collusion. View "McKinney-Drobnis v. Massage Envy Franchising, LLC" on Justia Law

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Railey clocked in and out of work at the Sunset Food Mart by placing her hand on a biometric scanner. She brought a class action in state court in 2019 alleging violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Two years into litigation, Sunset removed the case to federal court, alleging that Railey’s claims were completely preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act. Sunset explained the timing of the removal by pointing to an interrogatory response it received from Railey in October 2020 in which she confirmed her membership in a labor union.The district court found Sunset’s removal untimely. Citing the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1453(c)(1), the Seventh Circuit affirmed the remand to state court. A Class Action Fairness Act exception for “home-state controversies” directs that district courts “shall decline to exercise jurisdiction” over a class action in which “two-thirds or more of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate, and the primary defendants, are citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed,” 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4)(B). Railey brought a putative class action on behalf of Illinois citizens against a small Illinois grocery chain under Illinois law. Sunset missed its preemption-based removal window. View "Railey v. Sunset Food Mart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Current and former mortgage loan officers claim that Citizens Bank forced them—and more than a thousand of their colleagues—to work over 40 hours a week without paying them the overtime they were due under state and federal law. They filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207, and parallel state-law claims that they wished to pursue as a class action under FRCP 23. The district court scheduled a trial on the primary factual issue in the FLSA opt-in collective action but left unresolved whether it would certify a class for the state-law opt-out Rule 23 action.The Third Circuit stayed the trial. Citizens had a sufficient likelihood of success on its mandamus petition, and mandamus is the only relief available. By compelling the FLSA opt-in collective action trial before deciding Rule 23 class certification, the district court “created a predicament for others to unravel” and “clearly and indisputably erred.” Allowing the planned FLSA collective action trial would publicly preview the evidence common to the FLSA and state-law claims, giving potential Rule 23 class members an enormous informational advantage in any subsequent “do-over.” Citizens would suffer irreparable injury absent a stay; a stay will not substantially injure the plaintiffs. View "In re: Citizens Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Three drivers for the rideshare company, Lyft, each filed separate representative actions against Lyft under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) (Lab. Code 2698), alleging that Lyft misclassified its California drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, thereby violating multiple provisions of the Labor Code. Following mediation in 2019, one driver, Turrieta, and Lyft reached a settlement. After Turrieta moved for court approval of the settlement, the other drivers sought to intervene and object to the settlement, arguing that Lyft had engaged in a “reverse auction” by settling with Turrieta for an unreasonably low amount and that the settlement contained other provisions that were unlawful and inconsistent with PAGA’s purpose. The trial court found that they lacked standing and approved the settlement.The court of appeal affirmed. The status of the other drivers as PAGA plaintiffs in separate actions does not confer standing to move to vacate the judgment or challenge the judgment on appeal. While they may appeal from the court’s implicit order denying them intervention, there was no error in that denial. View "Turrieta v. Lyft, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court certified a nationwide indirect purchaser class in antitrust multidistrict litigation seeking injunctive and monetary relief under sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and California law against Qualcomm. The suit alleged that Qualcomm maintained a monopoly in electronic chips by engaging in a “no-license-no-chips” policy and sold chips only at above-FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) royalty rates; refusing to license its standard-essential patents to rival chip suppliers; and entering into exclusive dealing arrangements with Apple. The plaintiffs, consumers who bought cellphones, alleged that Qualcomm’s monopoly harmed consumers because the amount attributable to an allegedly excessive royalty was passed through the distribution chain to consumers.The Ninth Circuit vacated. The court noted its 2020 holding, FTC v. Qualcomm, that Qualcomm’s modem chip licensing practices did not violate the Sherman Act and that its exclusive dealing agreements with Apple did not substantially foreclose competition. The class was erroneously certified under a faulty choice of law analysis because differences in relevant state laws swamped predominance. California’s choice of law rules precluded the district court’s certification of the nationwide Rule 23(b)(3) class because other states’ laws, beyond California’s Cartwright Act, should apply. As a result, common issues of law did not predominate in the class as certified. View "Stromberg v. Qualcomm, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Irean Amaro filed this wage and hour class action and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) lawsuit against defendant Anaheim Arena Management (AAM) in 2017. At the time, there were already two existing class actions asserting the same claims: one in 2014, and the other in 2016. About a month after filing her lawsuit, Amaro and AAM reached a global settlement that covered the claims asserted in the two prior class actions. The plaintiffs from the prior actions, which included intervener Rhiannon Aller, were not involved in those settlement discussions. Aller intervened in this lawsuit and objected to the settlement. Initially, the trial court denied preliminary approval of the settlement on grounds Amaro had not given the court enough information to determine the adequacy of the settlement. Amaro then engaged in extensive informal discovery and entered into an amended settlement with AAM. The court approved the amended settlement over Aller’s objections and entered judgment per the settlement’s terms. Aller appealed, claiming the court’s approval of the settlement was erroneous for two reasons: (1) the class members’ release in the settlement was improper because it extended to claims outside the scope of Amaro’s complaint, waived class members’ (from all class actions) claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) without obtaining their written consent, and released PAGA claims beyond the limitations period of Amaro’s own PAGA claim; and (2) the court abused its discretion in finding the settlement was not the product of a collusive reverse auction. The Court of Appeal agreed the release was overbroad, but there was nothing inherently wrong with AAM's bypassing the other class action plaintiffs and undercutting their claims by negotiating a settlement with Amaro that extinguished the other suits. Though the Court rejected most of Aller’s arguments, it reversed the judgment and remanded with directions due to the overbreadth of the release. View "Amaro v. Anaheim Arena Management" on Justia Law

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The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certifies graduates of foreign medical schools who wish to be accepted to a U.S. medical residency program. In 1992, Igberase obtained certification. No residency program accepted him. In 1994, Igberase submitted another application, rearranging his name and using a different date of birth. The Commission learned of the deception and notified the Medical Licensing Examination Committee. Later, Igberase applied for certification under the name “Akoda” and was admitted to a residency program. He was dismissed when the program learned that "Akoda's" social security number belonged to Igberase. Igberase/Akoda argued that it was a case of mistaken identity with his cousin. The Commission did not recommend Akoda’s case to the credentialing committee. Igberase/Akoda was admitted to Howard’s residency program. and received a Maryland medical license. Law enforcement discovered his fraudulent documents. He pleaded guilty to misuse of a social security account number.Patients who received medical treatment from “Akoda” brought a purported class action against the Commission, claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court certified (FRCP 23(c)(4)) an “issue class” of all patients examined or treated by Igberase beginning with his enrollment at Howard. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court failed to determine whether the issues identified for class treatment fit within one of Rule 23(b)’s categories and failed to explicitly consider some of the “Gates” factors: The effect certification of the issue class will have on the resolution of remaining issues; what efficiencies would be gained by resolution of the certified issues; and whether certain elements of the claim are suitable for issue-class treatment. View "Russell v. Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification in an action alleging minimum wage, overtime, and expense reimbursement claims against Grubhub. Plaintiff contends that he was misclassified as an independent contractor rather than an employee when he worked for Grubhub as a food delivery driver.The panel concluded that the district court properly denied certification to plaintiff's proposed class of delivery drivers in California where all members of plaintiff's putative class—except plaintiff and one other—signed agreements waiving their right to participate in a class action. The panel explained that the district court correctly held plaintiff did not satisfy the requirements in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) because he is neither typical of the class nor an adequate representative, and because the proceedings would be unlikely to generate common answers. The panel rejected Grubhub's claim that California Proposition 22 abated the application of the ABC test to plaintiff's pending class claim. In this case, there is no dispute that plaintiff’s minimum wage and overtime claims are rooted in wage orders. The panel concluded that, because the district court rendered its judgment before the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex Operations W., Inc. v. Superior Court, 416 P.3d 1, 33–40 (Cal. 2018), it had no occasion to apply the ABC test to plaintiff's claims. The panel remanded for the district court to apply the ABC test in the first instance to plaintiff's expense reimbursement claim. View "Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a question certified to it by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada asking to decide whether Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.031(1) constitutes a waiver of Nevada's sovereign immunity from damages liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), holding that Nevada has waived the defense of sovereign immunity to liability under the FLSA.Appellant and several other employees of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) filed a putative class and collective action complaint alleging that the State and NDOC violated the FLSA and the state Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA) and breached their contract under state law. The State removed the action to federal district court, where at issue was whether the State possessed sovereign immunity. The district court concluded that the State waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity by removing the case to federal court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed and left open the question of whether the State retained its sovereign immunity from liability. The court then certified the question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that, by enacting Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.031(1), Nevada consented to damages liability for a State agency's violation of the minimum wage or overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. View "Echeverria v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, three individuals who purchased oil filters designed by K&N, seek to represent a nationwide class of all purchasers of three styles of K&N oil filters that they allege share a common defect, although most proposed class members had oil filters that never exhibited the alleged defect.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million and therefore lacked jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. The court concluded that the class members whose oil filters never failed have not sustained injury or damages and cannot assist plaintiffs in meeting the $5 million jurisdictional threshold. Therefore, without these losses to aggregate, plaintiffs do not not plausibly allege an amount in controversy in excess of $5 million. View "Penrod v. K&N Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law