Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
Class plaintiffs are seven named plaintiffs representing six putative classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). Plaintiffs also filed suit on behalf of themselves and 516 individuals who opted in to a conditionally certified collective action (the "collective plaintiffs") under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Class plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the labor laws in six states, and collective plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the FLSA. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying class certification on the basis of a lack of predominance and superiority. While reasonable minds could disagree, on the record before the court, it could not say that the district court's factual findings were clearly erroneous or that its conclusion was outside the range of permissible decisions. However, the court vacated the district court's order decertifying the collective action, holding that the district court committed legal error by improperly analogizing the standard for maintaining a collective action under the FLSA to Rule 23 procedure, and relying on that improper analogy in concluding that named plaintiffs and opt-in plaintiffs are not "similarly situated." In this case, the district court committed legal error in employing the "sliding scale" analogy to Rule 23 as it improperly conflated section 216(b) with Rule 23 and that rule's more stringent requirements. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc." on Justia Law
Mitchell v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.
The term "Actual Cash Value" is ambiguous with respect to the withholding of labor depreciation in Mississippi homeowners insurance policies that provide no further definition of ACV. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of State Farm's motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's breach of contract claim. The court found that, in the context of a Mississippi homeowners policy that refers to "Actual Cash Value" without further definition, both interpretations are reasonable. Therefore, the court held that the contract was ambiguous and the court applied Mississippi's interpretive canons, which provides that an ambiguous insurance contract is interpreted against the insurance company. The court reversed the district court's denial of State Farm's motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's tort claims. The court explained that, because the law on this question of interpreting "Actual Cash Value" in Mississippi was unsettled, State Farm had an arguable basis to depreciate labor costs. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying a class of Mississippi State Farm policyholders similarly situated to plaintiff, who received "Actual Cash Value" payments in which labor was depreciated and whose contracts similarly did not define "Actual Cash Value." View "Mitchell v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Nessel v. AmeriGas Partners. L.P.
Michigan filed suit, alleging that AmeriGas, Michigan's largest provider of residential propane, violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Section 10 of the MCPA, Mich. Comp. Laws 445.910, titled “class actions by attorney general,” 10 states that: The attorney general may bring a class action on behalf of persons residing in or injured in this state for the actual damages caused by any of the following: (a) A method, act or practice in trade or commerce defined as unlawful under section 3 [unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive methods, acts, or practices]. AmeriGas removed the case to federal court, citing the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 119 Stat. 4. The district court remanded to state court, finding that the lawsuit did not qualify as a “class action” because Section 10 “lacks the core requirements of typicality, commonality, adequacy, and numerosity that are necessary to certify a class under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 23.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Section 10 is not a state statute “similar” to Rule 23 for purposes of CAFA removability, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(1)(B). The court declined “to effectively invalidate the Michigan Legislature’s determination that an Attorney General should be able to sue for injuries to consumers pursuant to Section 10.” View "Nessel v. AmeriGas Partners. L.P." on Justia Law
Ex parte 4tdd.com, Inc., et al.
4tdd.com, Inc. ("4tdd"), Thomas Todd Martin III, and Martin & Associates Consulting Company, LLC ("MACC"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to instruct the Mobile Circuit Court ("the trial court") to dismiss a derivative shareholder action filed against them by Sheila Hale, individually and on behalf of the shareholders of Bay Area Nutrition, Inc., on the ground, inter alia, that Hale did not satisfy the requirement of Rule 23.1, Ala. R. Civ. P., that she allege with particularity in her complaint the efforts she had made to obtain the requested relief from the corporate directors of Bay Area Nutrition, Inc. ("BAN"), before filing an action against them. The Supreme Court determined, after careful consideration, that Hale indeed failed to comply with Rule 23.1, and directed the trial court to direct 4tdd.com, Martin and MACC's motion to dismiss. View "Ex parte 4tdd.com, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Cruson v. Jackson National Life Insurance, Co.
Plaintiff and other Texas residents filed a putative class action against a life insurance company that sells annuities, alleging that the company overcharged them by miscalculating early-withdrawal fees in breach of the annuities contracts. The Fifth Circuit vacated the class certification order and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the company did not waive its personal jurisdiction as to any non-Texas class members. The court also held that the district court erred in its predominance analysis by failing to assess how state-law variations may impact adjudication of the breach question and also by failing to consider the individualized evidence relevant to the company's affirmative defenses of waiver and ratification. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs failed to offer a damages model adequate to support class treatment, an issue they virtually conceded at oral argument. View "Cruson v. Jackson National Life Insurance, Co." on Justia Law
Harris v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order certifying a class under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and (b)(3), holding that the district court abused is discretion in finding that plaintiffs met the cohesiveness, and predominance and superiority requirements. In this case, plaintiff and other current and former employees of Union Pacific moved to certify a class action for a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The district court granted a hybrid class defined to include all employees who have been or will be subject to a fitness-for-duty evaluation because of a reportable health event from September 18, 2014 until the end of the case. The court held that the individualized inquiries in this case cannot be addressed in a manner consistent with Rule 23; determining whether the policy is job related and consistent with business necessity requires answering many individual questions; both the text of the ADA and the record evidence demonstrate that the district court would be required to consider the unique circumstances of each position in question to determine whether the policy is unlawfully discriminatory; and thus these individualized questions defeated both predominance and cohesiveness. View "Harris v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law
Orr v. Shicker
The plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. They filed suit against IDOC, Wexford (which provides inmate health services) and doctors more than 10 years ago after fruitless efforts to receive treatment for their disease while incarcerated. Their 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint alleges that the diagnostic and treatment protocols for IDOC inmates with hepatitis C violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of class certification and vacated a preliminary injunction. After discussing numerosity and commonality of facts and issues, the court noted that the district court failed to name a class representative or explain its omission, leaving no way to assess the adequacy of representation. On the assumption that the court would have accepted the proposed representatives, the record does not reveal whether they would be adequate. The lack of a named representative also makes it impossible to find typicality--that the “claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.” The individual plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the preliminary injunction, so it was error to grant injunctive relief. View "Orr v. Shicker" on Justia Law
Walker v. Life Insurance Company of the Southwest
Plaintiffs filed a class action against LSW, a life insurance company, alleging that it violated California law concerning policy investment information. Plaintiffs argued that LSW's illustrations of potential earnings violate California's Unfair Competition Law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's class certification order, holding that any misapplication of Briseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., 844 F.3d 1121, 1133 (9th Cir. 2017), did not meaningfully influence the district court's predominance analysis. Furthermore, the panel held that there was no separate error related to the class definition. The panel also held that plaintiffs' attempted appeals of the district court's certification and reconsideration orders are untimely and procedurally improper. Therefore, the panel did not reach the merits of plaintiffs' arguments regarding the certification decision. Finally, the panel denied plaintiffs' motion to take judicial notice of the petition to appeal and the insurer's answer. View "Walker v. Life Insurance Company of the Southwest" on Justia Law
Fidelity National Home Warranty Company Cases
Plaintiffs Dan Kaplan, James Baker, Janice Fistolera, Fernando Palacios, and Hamid Aliabadi appealed two judgments dismissing two coordinated actions against defendant Fidelity National Home Warranty Company (Fidelity): Fistolera v. Fidelity National Home Warranty Company (Super. Ct. San Joaquin County, No. 39-2012-00286479-CU-BT-STK) (Fistolera Action) and Kaplan v. Fidelity National Home Warranty Company (Super. Ct. San Diego County, No. 37-2008-00087962-CU-BT-CTL) (Kaplan Action). The trial court dismissed the actions after determining the plaintiffs failed to timely prosecute each case. With respect to the Fistolera Action, a putative class action, the trial court concluded that the Fistolera Plaintiffs failed to bring the action to trial within the five-year mandatory period specified in Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310. As to the Kaplan Action, a certified class action, the trial court concluded that the Kaplan Plaintiffs failed to bring the action to trial within three years of the issuance of the remittitur in a prior appeal in that action (Kaplan v. Fidelity National Home Warranty (December 17, 2013, D062531, D062747) [nonpub. opn.] (Kaplan I)), as required by section 583.320. On appeal, plaintiffs claimed the trial court erred in dismissing each action. On the merits of the plaintiffs' claims, the Court of Appeal concluded that, in calculating the five- year and three-year mandatory dismissal periods, the trial court erred in failing to exclude 135 days immediately following the assignment of a coordination motion judge to rule on a petition to coordinate the Fistolera Action and the Kaplan Action. Furthermore, the Court determined this error required reversal of the dismissal of the Fistolera Action because, after excluding these 135 days, the five-year period had not expired as of the time the trial court dismissed that action, and the matter was set for trial within the five-year period. However, the Court concluded that this error did not require reversal of the trial court's dismissal of the Kaplan Action. To the Kaplan Action, the Court determined that because, even after excluding 135 days related to the coordination proceedings, the three-year period that the Kaplan Plaintiffs had to bring that action to trial had expired as of the time the trial court dismissed that case. Further, the Court held none of the Kaplan Plaintiffs' arguments for additional tolling of the three-year period had merit. View "Fidelity National Home Warranty Company Cases" on Justia Law
Elna Sefcovic v. TEP Rocky Mountain
Appellee-defendant TEP Rocky Mountain, LLC (“TEP”) operated wells that produced natural gas in Colorado. These wells were subject to various leases or royalty Appellant-intervenors Ivo Lindauer, Sidney Lindauer, Ruther Lindauer, and Diamond Minerals LLC (the “Lindauers” or the “Intervenors”), were the representatives for a class of royalty owners who filed suit in 2006 in Colorado state court, alleging that TEP had underpaid royalties on various leases and royalty agreements. In 2008, TEP and the Lindauer class entered into a settlement agreement (the “Lindauer SA”) purporting to “resolve all class claims relating to past calculation of royalt[ies]” and to “establish certain rules to govern future royalty” payments. The Lindauer SA declared that the state court would retain “continuing jurisdiction” to enforce provisions of the settlement related to “the description of past and future royalty methodologies.” Approximately eight years passed, free of incident. But on July 18, 2017, a subset of the Lindauer class (the “Sefcovic class”) initiated this action against TEP in Colorado state court, alleging that TEP had calculated and paid royalties in a manner inconsistent with the Lindauer SA and contrary to the underlying royalty agreements. TEP removed the case to federal court. Appellants intervened in the district court, seeking to dismiss the action for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. Through two separate motions to dismiss, the briefing from both parties "confused the bounds of federal subject matter jurisdiction and conflated that concept with the doctrines of abstention and comity, and with matters of venue and forum." Despite this misdirection, the district court properly exercised jurisdiction and rebuffed appellants’ attempts to unwind nearly eighteen months of class action litigation. After review, the Tenth Circuit concurred with the district court's judgment and affirmed it. View "Elna Sefcovic v. TEP Rocky Mountain" on Justia Law