Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Kenneth Chapman v. Tristar Products, Inc.
Plaintiffs sued, claiming that certain Tristar pressure cookers had defective lids that could come open while the cookers were in use, exposing the user to possible injury. The district court certified three separate state classes for trial: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. During a trial recess, the parties agreed to a settlement with a nationwide class. The parties agreed to the principal amount but, with Tristar’s agreement not to dispute an award at or below $2.5 million, deferred determination of attorneys’ fees. Class members would receive a coupon to purchase a different Tristar product and a warranty extension. The court calculated the value of the coupons and warranty extensions as $1,020,985 and approved attorneys’ fees of $1,980,382.59. At a fairness hearing, Arizona made its first appearance, arguing as amicus, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, that the settlement was unfair because of the division between the principal settlement and attorneys’ fees. None of the class joined in objections to the settlement. The court indicated that it would approve the settlement. Before the court issued its order, Arizona sought to officially intervene under either Rule 24(a) Rule 24(b). The court rejected each of Arizona’s requests for lack of Article III standing. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal, rejecting the state’s arguments that it had standing under the parens patriae doctrine, under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1715, and because it has a participatory interest as a “repeat player.” View "Kenneth Chapman v. Tristar Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Dancel v. Groupon, Inc.
Dancel sued Groupon, an online seller of discount vouchers, alleging Groupon had used her photograph to promote a restaurant voucher. Groupon had collected the photograph from Dancel’s public Instagram account based on data linking it to the restaurant’s location. She sought damages under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act on behalf of a class of Illinois residents whose Instagram photographs have appeared on a Groupon offer. The parties litigated in state court until Dancel moved to certify a class of “[a]ll persons who maintained an Instagram Account and whose photograph ... was ... acquired and used on a groupon.com webpage for an Illinois business.” The class was not defined by its members’ residency. In response, Groupon filed a notice of removal. The Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1453, permits removal of a proposed class action to federal court if there is minimal diversity, meaning any member of the plaintiff class is a citizen of a state different from any defendant. Groupon, a citizen of Illinois and Delaware, did not identify any class member or his citizenship. Dancel argued that Groupon had waived its right to remove. The district court rejected Dancel’s waiver argument and denied remand but did not address minimal diversity or direct Groupon to cure its allegations. The parties then litigated class certification, which the court denied on predominance grounds. On appeal, Dancel revisited the removal issue. The Seventh Circuit ordered a limited remand for the district court to address limited diversity and secure its jurisdiction. View "Dancel v. Groupon, Inc." on Justia Law
Williams-Sonoma Song-Beverly Act Cases
The Song-Beverly Credit Card Act (Civ. Code 1747) makes it unlawful for merchants to request or require customers to provide “personal identification information” as a condition to accepting a credit card for payment. In 2015, the court of appeal held (Harrold) the Act does not prohibit merchants from requesting such information unless the request is made under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe the information is required to complete the transaction. The trial court decertified a class of plaintiffs who alleged that retailer Williams-Sonoma violated the Act by requesting their zip codes or email addresses because any violation would depend on the circumstances of the specific transaction. Zip codes and emails were requested regardless of the form of payment. If the customer declined, the sales clerk bypassed the request. Employees had discretion not to solicit the information at all and could explain that the information was not required and was only being collected for marketing purposes. Williams-Sonoma neither rewards its employees for collecting the information nor disciplines them if they do not. Williams-Sonoma required each of its California stores to post signs at the cash registers stating that zip codes and email addresses were requested solely for marketing purposes and were not required. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the court correctly applied the Harrold legal standard and its ruling is supported by substantial evidence. View "Williams-Sonoma Song-Beverly Act Cases" on Justia Law
Modaraei v. Action Property Management, Inc.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion for class certification in an employee misclassification case against his former employer, and the trial court's order terminating depositions of class members. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion for class certification based on issues of predominance and superiority. In this case, the record contained evidence sufficient to support the trial court's finding that variations between the hundreds of properties the 228 putative class members were responsible for would command individual inquiries. Similarly, the evidence to support the trial court's superiority determination was largely the same as evidence supporting the predominance determination. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it terminated depositions of putative class members whose declarations the employer submitted in opposition to plaintiff's motion for class certification. View "Modaraei v. Action Property Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Braxton v. Senegal
The district court certified a class of about 250 African-American financial advisers who alleged that the Bank treated them less favorably than equivalent advisers of other races. A settlement agreement included a payment of $19.5 million for the benefit of class members who do not opt-out, plus changes in the Bank’s operations and a fund to cover the costs of those changes. The order certifying the class cited Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) with respect to the operational changes and Rule 23(b)(3) with respect to the proposed payments. Members are entitled to opt-out of Rule 23(b)(3) classes and pursue their claims individually but they cannot opt-out of Rule 23(b)(2) classes because relief is indivisible. The notice to class members explained this and that anyone who opted out of the (b)(3) relief would still receive the benefit of the (b)(2) changes while retaining a right to sue individually. The 11 opt-outs asked the court to create a subclass for them. The judge declined: 11 is too few to be a subclass and the 11 voluntarily opted out. The judge did not consider the opt-out's objections to the (b)(2) relief; in order to object, a member had to remain in the class for all purposes. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. The objectors were not aggrieved by the decisions they appealed. Their positions would not change if the district judge had made certain findings, if the allocation of settlement funds were different, or if the language in the notice were different. View "Braxton v. Senegal" on Justia Law
Pirozzi v. Massage Envy Franchising
Plaintiffs filed a class action in state court against Massage Envy, alleging that the company violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) when advertisements for its one hour massage session failed to disclose that the session included ten minutes to undress, dress, and consult with the therapist. Massage Envy removed the case to district court under the Class Action Fairness Act. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court misapplied controlling Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit CAFA precedents. The court held that the district court erred when it evaluated the MMPA violations alleged in plaintiffs' second amended petition and remanded the class action to state court because "it is more likely that a reasonable fact finder would not award several million dollars in punitive damages." In this case, the district court's consideration went to the merits of plaintiffs' claims. The court held that plaintiffs' allegation that they were entitled to punitive damages in an unstated amount raised the amount in controversy to more than $5 million, whether or not they ultimately prove they were entitled to the punitive damages they claimed. Finally, the court also held that when Massage Envy investigated and filed a notice of removal based on the results of its own amount-in-controversy investigation, the notice was not untimely. Therefore, the court granted the petition for permission to appeal, reversed the July 2019 order of remand, denied plaintiffs' motion for remand, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Pirozzi v. Massage Envy Franchising" on Justia Law
AA Suncoast Chiropractic Clinic, P.A. v. Progressive American Insurance Co.
Three healthcare providers filed a class action against Progressive over a claims-handling process that was allegedly illegal under Florida law. The district court certified an injunction class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2), but declined to certify a damages class under Rule 23(b)(3). The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred by certifying the injunction class, because the injunctive remedy the class sought -- in this case, damages -- was improper. Therefore, Rule 23(b)(3) is the proper mechanism for certifying a damages class. The court stated that, because plaintiffs' damages claims involved individualized issues that ruled out Rule 23(b)(3) certification, plaintiffs sought to recast their claims as one for injunctive relief under Rule 23(b)(2). View "AA Suncoast Chiropractic Clinic, P.A. v. Progressive American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co., Inc
Plaintiffs alleged pharmaceutical manufacturers stalled the release of clinical trial results for their blockbuster anti-cholesterol drugs, tried to change the study's endpoint to produce more favorable results, concealed their role in the change, and that the delay allowed one company to raise $4.08 billion through a public offering, which the company used to purchase another company to lessen its reliance on the drugs. Amid press reports and a congressional investigation, the companies released the clinical trial results, which allegedly caused their stock prices to plummet, amounting to about a $48 billion loss in market capitalization. Investors filed suit. The court denied defendants’ motions to dismiss under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act’s heightened pleading standard, denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and granted class certification. Investors were provided with Rule 23(c)(2) notice of their right to opt-out: “you will not be bound by any judgment in this Action” and “will retain any right you have to individually pursue any legal rights.” After the opt-out period, the court approved settlements, offering opt-out investors 45 days to rejoin and share in the recovery, while stating that opt-outs “shall not be bound” to the settlement. Sixteen opt-out investors filed suits, tracking the class action claims, and adding a New Jersey common law fraud claim. After the Supreme Court held that American Pipe tolling does not extend to statutes of repose, plaintiffs were left with only their state-law claims. The court dismissed those as barred by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act, 15 U.S.C. 10 78bb(f)(5)(B)(ii)(II). The Third Circuit reversed, finding that the class actions and the opt-out suits were not “joined, consolidated, or otherwise proceed[ing] as a single action for any purpose.” View "North Sound Capital LLC v. Merck & Co., Inc" on Justia Law
Sampson v. Knight Transp., Inc.
The federal district court in Washington State certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Plaintiffs Valerie Sampson and David Raymond (collectively, Sampson) were Washington residents who worked as commercial truck drivers for defendants Knight Transportation Inc., Knight Refrigerated, LLC, and Knight Port Services LLC (collectively, Knight). Plaintiffs brought this putative class action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated for several alleged violations of Washington wage and hour laws. At issue here was Sampson's claim that piece-rate drivers must receive separate hourly compensation for all time spent "on-duty not- driving." The question the federal court posed to the Supreme Court was whether the Washington Minimum Wage Act required non-agricultural employers to pay their piece-rate employees per hour for time spent performing activities outside of piece-rate work. The Supreme Court responded: no. "All workers must be compensated for all hours worked in a work week in accordance with the Minimum Wage Act (MWA). For nonagricultural workers, WAC 296-126-021 validly allows employers to demonstrate compliance with the MWA's guaranty that Washington workers receive a minimum wage for each hour worked by ensuring that the total wages for the week do not fall below the statutory minimum wage for each hour worked. Accordingly, the plaintiffs in this case fail to demonstrate as a matter of law that they were uncompensated for time spent "loading and unloading, pre-trip inspections, fueling, detention at a shipper or consignee, washing trucks, and other similar activities." View "Sampson v. Knight Transp., Inc." on Justia Law
Argelia Arias v. Residence Inn by Marriott
Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Marriott in state court, alleging that Marriott failed to compensate its employees for wages and missed meal breaks and failed to issue accurate itemized wage statements. Marriott then removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's sua sponte remand to state court, affirming three principles that apply in CAFA removal cases. First, a removing defendant's notice of removal need not contain evidentiary submissions but only plausible allegations of the jurisdictional elements. Second, when a defendant's allegations of removal jurisdiction are challenged, the defendant's showing on the amount in controversy may rely on reasonable assumptions. Third, when a statute or contract provides for the recovery of attorneys' fees, prospective attorneys' fees must be included in the assessment of the amount in controversy. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings in this case to allow the parties to present evidence and argument on the amount in controversy. View "Argelia Arias v. Residence Inn by Marriott" on Justia Law