Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

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In this case, there were three separate class action lawsuits filed against Costa Del Mar, Inc., a sunglasses manufacturer, for allegedly deceptive warranty and repair policies. Each of the named plaintiffs purchased Costa sunglasses and were charged up to $105.18 to repair their sunglasses, despite the company's lifetime warranties that they claimed required the company to repair their sunglasses either free-of-charge or for a nominal fee. The plaintiffs sought both monetary damages and injunctive relief. The district court approved a settlement agreement that provided over $32 million in monetary relief and injunctive relief. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated this decision, reasoning that the named plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to pursue injunctive relief because none of them alleged any threat of future injury. The court remanded the case back to the district court to reconsider its approval of the settlement agreement, taking into account that it could not consider the injunctive relief's value in its determination that the settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate. View "Smith v. Miorelli" on Justia Law

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Cobalt International Energy partnered with three Angolan companies to explore and produce oil and gas off the coast of West Africa. Later, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announced it was investigating Cobalt for allegations of illegal payments to Angolan government officials and misrepresentation of the oil content of two of its exploratory wells. This led to a significant drop in Cobalt’s stock price and prompted a class action lawsuit from Cobalt's investors, led by GAMCO, a collection of investment funds that held Cobalt shares. Prior to these events, Cobalt had purchased multiple layers of liability insurance from a number of insurance companies, collectively referred to as the Insurers in this case. When the allegations surfaced, Cobalt notified the Insurers, who denied coverage on the grounds that Cobalt's notice was untimely and certain policy provisions excluded the claims from coverage.In 2017, Cobalt filed for bankruptcy and began settlement negotiations with GAMCO. Eventually, a settlement agreement was reached, which stipulated that Cobalt would pay a settlement amount of $220 million to GAMCO, but only from any insurance proceeds that might be recovered. Cobalt and GAMCO then jointly sought approval of the settlement from the federal court and the bankruptcy court, both of which granted approval.The Insurers then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the settlement agreement was not binding or admissible in the coverage litigation, that Cobalt had not suffered a "loss" under the policies, and that GAMCO could not sue the Insurers directly.The Supreme Court of Texas held that (1) Cobalt had suffered a “loss” under the policies because it was legally obligated to pay any recoverable insurance benefits to GAMCO, (2) GAMCO could assert claims directly against the Insurers, and (3) the settlement agreement was not binding or admissible in the coverage litigation to establish coverage or the amount of Cobalt’s loss. The court reasoned that the settlement was not the result of a "fully adversarial proceeding," as Cobalt bore no actual risk of liability for the damages agreed upon in the settlement. The court conditionally granted the Insurers' petition for a writ of mandamus in part, ordering the trial court to vacate its previous orders to the extent they relied on the holding that the settlement agreement was admissible and binding to establish coverage under the policies and the amount of any covered loss. View "IN RE ILLINOIS NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY" on Justia Law

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In a class action suit, the plaintiffs, a group of patients, alleged that the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), who operate the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), were in violation of Pennsylvania privacy law. The plaintiffs claimed that Penn Medicine shared sensitive health information and online activity of its patients with Facebook through its patient portal. Penn removed the case to federal court, asserting that it was "acting under" the federal government, referencing the federal-officer removal statute. However, the District Court rejected this argument and returned the case to state court.This case was primarily focused on whether Penn was "acting under" the federal government in its operation of Penn Medicine's patient portal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision to remand the case back to state court. The Court of Appeals determined that Penn was not "acting under" the federal government, as it did not demonstrate that it was performing a delegated governmental task. The court declared that Penn was merely complying with federal laws and regulations, which does not qualify as "acting under" the federal government. The court noted that just because a private party has a contractual relationship with the federal government does not mean that it is "acting under" the federal authority. In conclusion, the court determined that the relationship between Penn and the federal government did not meet the requirements for Penn to be considered as "acting under" the federal government, thus the case was correctly returned to state court. View "Mohr v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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In this case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the appellant, Paulette Barclift, sued Keystone Credit Services, LLC ("Keystone") for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). Barclift claimed that Keystone unlawfully communicated her personal information to a third-party mailing vendor, RevSpring, without her consent. She sought to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. The District Court dismissed her suit on the grounds that she did not allege an injury sufficient to establish standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.Upon appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the lower court that Barclift lacked standing, but modified the District Court's order so that the dismissal would be without prejudice. The court found that Barclift's alleged harm—embarrassment and distress caused by the disclosure of her personal information to a single intermediary (RevSpring)—did not bear a close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized by American courts, such as the public disclosure of private facts. Therefore, the court concluded that Barclift did not suffer a concrete injury and could not establish Article III standing. The court further held that the possibility of future harm was too speculative to establish a concrete injury. The case was dismissed without prejudice, allowing Barclift the opportunity to amend her complaint if she can allege a concrete injury. View "Barclift v. Keystone Credit Services LLC" on Justia Law

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In this toxic tort case, about 170 individuals allege that they were harmed by lead paint pigment. The plaintiffs, who were joined together in a single complaint, brought claims against several manufacturers of the pigment. After a series of trials, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims. The court then extended these rulings to the remaining plaintiffs on law of the case and issue preclusion grounds. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in large part but reversed in small part. The appellate court held that the law of the case doctrine properly applied to a group of plaintiffs who had opted to proceed under a single complaint and whose claims were sunk after summary judgment. However, the court reversed the district court's decision as to a small group of plaintiffs who filed their own cases, noting that due process protects their right to try their claims. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' request to revisit or certify certain questions addressed in a prior ruling, and affirmed that ruling based on the principle of stare decisis. View "Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed a case involving the Cenikor Foundation, a nonprofit drug rehabilitation center. The foundation had been sued by a group of its rehabilitation patients for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The patients contended that they were effectively employees of the foundation, as they were required to work as part of their treatment program without receiving monetary compensation. The foundation contested the lawsuit and appealed a district court's decision to certify the case as a collective action under the FLSA.The Court of Appeals found that the district court had applied the incorrect legal standard in determining whether the patients were employees under the FLSA. Specifically, the court should have applied a test to determine who was the primary beneficiary of the work relationship, rather than a test typically used to distinguish employees from independent contractors.The appellate court remanded the case back to the district court to apply this primary beneficiary test and to consider the foundation's defense that any benefits provided to the patients offset any requirement to pay them a wage. The court emphasized that the question of whether the foundation's patients were employees under the FLSA was a threshold issue that needed to be resolved before the case could proceed as a collective action. View "Klick v. Cenikor Foundation" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Laura Mullen, claimed that the defendants, a youth volleyball club and its owners, fraudulently concealed previous sexual abuse allegations. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, but also imposed sanctions against them and their lawyer for improperly interfering with the class notice process. The defendants appealed the sanctions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion or commit clear error in imposing the sanctions. The court found that the defendants had intentionally interfered with the class notice and opt-out process and that their communications with class members during the notice period were potentially coercive. The court also upheld the decision of the district court to impose monetary sanctions against the defendants, which included the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses, as well as a civil penalty for each defendant.The court also affirmed the non-monetary sanctions imposed against the defendants' lawyer, who had contacted a class member directly and made a false statement to the court. Although the defendants argued that the lawyer had acted in good faith and did not knowingly or intentionally violate the rules of ethics, the court found that she had taken deliberate action to avoid confirming a high probability of wrongdoing.Finally, the court rejected the defendants' argument that the plaintiff should have been sanctioned. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff’s use of the term “rape” was inaccurate and irrelevant, that her actions before and after filing the complaint were inconsistent, that she did not have a proper basis for bringing the suit, and that she misrepresented evidence. The court found no merit in these arguments and affirmed the district court’s decision to deny sanctions against the plaintiff. View "Mullen v. Butler" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Supreme Court heard a case involving a dispute between Tonia Land and the IU Credit Union (IUCU). When Land became a customer at the credit union, she was given an account agreement that could be modified at any time. Later, when she registered for online banking, she accepted another agreement that allowed the IUCU to modify the terms and conditions of the services. In 2019, the IUCU proposed changes to these agreements, which would require disputes to be resolved through arbitration and prevent Land from initiating or participating in a class-action lawsuit. Land did not opt out of these changes within thirty days as required, which, according to the IUCU, made the terms binding. However, Land later filed a class-action lawsuit against the credit union, which attempted to compel arbitration based on the addendum.The court held that while the IUCU did provide Land with reasonable notice of its offer to amend the original agreements, Land's subsequent silence and inaction did not result in her assent to that offer, according to Section 69 of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts. The credit union petitioned for rehearing, claiming that the court failed to address certain legal authorities and arguments raised on appeal and in the transfer proceedings.Upon rehearing, the court affirmed its original decision, rejecting the credit union's arguments. However, the court also expressed a willingness to consider a different standard governing the offer and acceptance of unilateral contracts between businesses and consumers in future cases. The court found no merit in the credit union's arguments on rehearing and affirmed its original opinion in full. View "Land v. IU Credit Union" on Justia Law

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A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of patients initiated a class action lawsuit against various hospitals and vendors who provide medical record production services to the hospitals. The plaintiffs alleged that the hospitals and vendors were involved in an illegal kickback scheme, where the vendors charged patients excessive prices for their medical records and used the profits to offer free and discounted pages to the hospitals for other types of medical records. The plaintiffs alleged violations of New York Public Health Law (PHL) § 18(2)(e) (which restricts the price that can be charged for medical records), New York General Business Law (GBL) § 349 (which prohibits deceptive business practices), and unjust enrichment. However, the New York Court of Appeals had previously ruled in Ortiz v. Ciox Health LLC that PHL § 18(2)(e) does not provide a private right of action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all the plaintiffs' claims. It found that the patients' GBL § 349 and unjust enrichment claims were essentially repackaging their PHL § 18(2)(e) claims, and therefore not cognizable as they attempted to circumvent the Ortiz ruling. The court also held that the plaintiffs failed to allege any actionable wrongs independent of the requirements of PHL § 18(2)(e). The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim, and as such, the district court did not err in granting the defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings, in denying the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment as moot, and in denying the plaintiffs' leave to file a second amended complaint. View "McCracken v. Verisma Systems, Inc." on Justia Law