Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
by
The class representative of federal securities class actions appealed the dismissal of the unsecured creditor claim and amended claim he filed in the pending Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding of lead class counsel, Green Jacobson, P.C. The Eighth Circuit held that the claim for the cy pres distribution was no longer an issue because the distribution had been returned by the charity and deposited with the district court clerk for ultimate distribution for the benefit of the NationsBank class; the negligent supervision claim was time-barred; the disgorgement claim was not time-barred by Missouri's five year statute of limitations; and the bankruptcy court did not err in disallowing the bankruptcy claim as premature and lacking in supporting foundation. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Oetting v. Sosne" on Justia Law

by
Facing asbestos-related personal injury lawsuits filed in the 1980s, a group of producers of asbestos and asbestos-containing products formed the Center for Claims Resolution to administer such claims on behalf of its Members. About 20 Members negotiated and signed the Producer Agreement, which established and set forth the mechanics of the Center and the obligations of the Members. After G-I failed to pay its contractually-calculated share of personal injury settlements and Center expenses, U.S. Gypsum and Quigley were obligated to pay additional sums to cover G-I’s payment obligations. G-I filed for bankruptcy and the Center, U.S. Gypsum, and Quigley each filed a proof of claim, seeking to recover for G-I’s nonpayment under the Producer Agreement. The Center settled its claim with G-I. The Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment in G-I’s favor. The district court affirmed. The Third Circuit vacated, holding that the Producer Agreement permits the Former Members to pursue a breach of contract action against G-I for its failure to pay contractually-obligated sums due to the Center, in light of their payment of G-I’s share. View "In re: G-I Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Grace has manufactured and sold specialty chemicals and construction materials for more than 100 years. The company began facing asbestos-related lawsuits in the 1970s, based on several products and activities, including operation of a Montana vermiculite mine that released asbestos-containing dust into the atmosphere and sale of Zonolite Attic Insulation (ZAI). Montana and the Crown (Canada) have been sued for alleged failure to warn citizens of the risks posed by Grace’s products and activities. Montana settled its cases for $43 million in 2011. The Crown is a defendant in lawsuits arising from the use of ZAI. Montana and the Crown sought indemnification from Grace. Grace sought protection under the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 524(g), which allows a company to establish a trust to handle such liabilities. Montana and the Crown objected to confirmation of a Plan of Reorganization that will send all asbestos claims to two trusts, allowing protected parties to be “unconditionally, irrevocably and fully released.” The personal injury trust is funded by $ 1.5 billion from settlements with Grace’s insurers and former affiliates, an initial payment from Grace of $ 450 million, a warrant to acquire 10 million shares of Grace common stock at $ 17 per share, and annual cash payments from Grace of $100-110 million through 2033. The property damage trust is funded by an initial payment of 180 million dollars, and a subsequent payment of 30 million dollars. The two trusts have separate mechanisms for resolving claims. The bankruptcy court, the district court, and the Third Circuit confirmed the plan. View "In re: W.R. Grace & Co." on Justia Law

by
Appellant, a former TWL employee, commenced a class action adversary proceeding within TWL's bankruptcy suit, alleging violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. 2101-2109. The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's order denying appellant's related motion for class certification and dismissed the adversary proceeding. Because the reasons for the bankruptcy court's order were unclear, the court vacated in toto the orders and remanded to the district court to remand to the bankruptcy court for reconsideration. The court expressed no view as to the outcome the bankruptcy court should reach on remand in reconsidering appellant's motion for reclassification and the Trustee's motion to dismiss the adversary proceeding. View "Teta v. TWL Corp., et al" on Justia Law

by
Countrywide appealed a class certification order of the bankruptcy court. Plaintiffs are former chapter 13 debtors with mortgages serviced by Countrywide. Plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that the fees Countrywide charged while plaintiffs' bankruptcy cases were still pending were unreasonable, unapproved, and undisclosed under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 2016(a). Because the bankruptcy court's decision was not an abuse of discretion, the court affirmed its grant of class certification for plaintiff's injunctive relief claim. Because the court's precedence rejected the fail-safe class prohibition, the court concluded that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion when it defined the class in the present case. Because the court concluded that Countrywide's Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration was not based on newly discovered evidence, the court did not revisit the bankruptcy court's separate merits denial of the motion. View "Rodriguez, et al v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

by
This case stemmed from a debt which consisted of claims of tort liability possessed by relatives of people buried in a cemetery called Graceland. Creditors alleged that debtors were liable to them and the members of their class for damages because, due to inadequate record keeping, debtors were unable to locate upon request the grave sites of family members or close relatives buried in Graceland. At issue was whether a bankruptcy court in one federal district had jurisdiction to determine whether a debt was discharged in a bankruptcy case litigated in another federal district. The court held that the court lacked jurisdiction and therefore did not reach the other issues on appeal. View "Alderwoods Group, Inc., et al. v. Garcia, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs installed shingles manufactured by Owens Corning (debtor). They discovered leaks in 2009; shingles had cracked. Each sent warranty claims, which were rejected. They filed a class action alleging fraud, negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty. In 2000, the debtors had filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions; the Bankruptcy Court set a claims bar date in 2002 and approved a notice that appeared in multiple publications. Notices of the confirmation hearing for the Plan, in 2006, included generic notice to unknown claimants. At the time they filed the class action plaintiffs did not hold “claims” under 11 U.S.C. 1101. The Third Circuit subsequently established a rule that a claim arises when an individual is exposed pre-petition to a product or other conduct giving rise to an injury, which underlies a right to payment under the Bankruptcy Code. Based on that holding, the district court held that plaintiffs’ claims were discharged. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and remanded, agreeing that plaintiffs had “claims.” Both were “exposed” to the product before confirmation of the plan. Plaintiffs were not afforded due process by published notice, however, because they could not have known they had claims at the time of confirmation. View "Wright v. Owens Corning" on Justia Law

by
The company and its affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sought to resolve asbestos-related liability through the creation of a personal-injury trust under 11 U.S.C. 524(g). As part of its reorganization plan, it sought to transfer rights under insurance liability policies to the trust. The Insurers had provided liability policies to the debtors prior to bankruptcy and objected that the transfer violated the policies' anti-assignment provisions. The bankruptcy and district courts held that 11 U.S.C. 1123(a)(5)(B) preempts those provisions. The Third Circuit affirmed. Section 524 trusts are the only national statutory scheme available to resolve asbestos litigation through a quasi-administrative process. The plain language of 11 U.S.C. 1123(a) evinces clear intent for a preemptive scope that includes transfer of property to a 524 trust; that preemption reaches private contracts enforced by state common law. View "In Re: Fed-Mogul Global, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The State of Nevada filed a parens patriae lawsuit against Bank of America in Clark County District Court, alleging that the Bank misled Nevada consumers about the terms and operation of its home mortgage modification and foreclosure processes, in violation of the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Nev. Rev. Stat. 598.0903-.0999. Nevada also alleged that the Bank violated an existing consent judgment in a prior case between Nevada and several of the Bank's subsidiaries, entered in Clark County District Court. The Bank removed the action to federal district court, asserting federal subject matter jurisdiction as either a "class action" or "mass action" under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), and as arising under federal law, 28 U.S.C. 1331. Denying Nevada's motion to remand, the federal district court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the action as a CAFA "class action," but not as a "mass action," and that it also had federal question jurisdiction because resolving the state claims would require an interpretation of federal law. The court concluded that because parens patriae actions were not removable under CAFA, and the action did not otherwise satisfy CAFA's "mass action" requirements, the district court lacked jurisdiction under CAFA. The court also exercised its interlocutory appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1453(c) to review the district court's determination that it had federal question jurisdiction because the complaint referenced the federal Home Affordable Mortgage Program and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCP), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq. The court concluded that the district court lacked federal question jurisdiction. Because there was no basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction, the case was remanded to Nevada state court. View "State of Nevada v. Bank of America Corp., et al." on Justia Law

by
Named Claimants filed "class proofs of claims" in these consolidated bankruptcy cases in which Circuit City and related entities are the debtors. Named Claimants alleged that they, together with unnamed claimants, were owed almost $150 million in unpaid overtime wages. The court affirmed the decisions of the bankruptcy court with a different procedural approach for allowing claimants to file class proofs of claim and to present Rule 9014 motions. With respect to the bankruptcy court's ruling that in the circumstances of this case, the bankruptcy process would provide a process superior to the class action process for resolving the claims of former employees, the court concluded that the court's ruling fell within its discretion. With respect to these Named Claimants' challenge to notice, the court concluded that the notice to them was not constitutionally deficient - a conclusion with which they agreed - and that, with respect to unnamed claimants, the Named Claimants lacked standing to challenge the notice. View "Gentry v. Circuit City Stores, Inc." on Justia Law