Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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This case involves a dispute between a lawyer, George Fleming, and his former clients, referred to as the "Wilson plaintiffs". Fleming had represented over 8,000 plaintiffs in a mass-tort action against the manufacturer of a diet pill known as "fen-phen". The Wilson plaintiffs are about 4,000 of Fleming’s former clients. Fleming had spent roughly $20 million to medically screen over 40,000 potential claimants, about 20% of whom became his clients. In 2006, Fleming settled the case for $339 million and reimbursed himself for the costs of the screenings by deducting that amount from the settlement funds. He charged his clients not just for their own medical-screening costs but also for those of approximately 32,000 people who never became his clients and who did not participate in the underlying case. This financial choice led to further litigation, with Fleming as the defendant in various actions brought by his former clients.In the lower courts, Fleming successfully opposed a motion for class certification in a federal court case brought by two of his former clients, arguing that the claims of his former clients were not sufficiently common for aggregate treatment. After the denial of class certification, another group of about 650 former clients sued Fleming for breaches of contract and fiduciary duty. Following a verdict against Fleming in this case, the Wilson plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on the ground that the verdict collaterally estopped Fleming from contesting the merits of their claims against him. Fleming successfully opposed that motion, arguing that the issues presented by the other plaintiffs were not identical to those of the Wilson plaintiffs. The trial court denied the Wilson plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment without explanation. Later, Fleming moved for summary judgment, asserting defensive collateral estoppel against the Wilson plaintiffs.The Supreme Court of Texas affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals, but for a different reason. The court concluded that Fleming was judicially estopped from establishing an essential component of his summary-judgment motion. The court found that Fleming's assertions in prior litigation clearly and unequivocally contradicted his summary-judgment motion’s assertions regarding whether the Wilson plaintiffs’ legal and factual positions were materially identical to those of the other plaintiffs. The court held that Fleming was estopped from asserting that the thousands of remaining plaintiffs’ claims were materially indistinguishable. View "FLEMING v. WILSON" on Justia Law

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The case involves plaintiffs Christopher Maia and Sean Howarth, who were employed as laborers for defendant IEW Construction Group. The company required them to perform “pre-shift” and “post-shift” work, for which they were not paid. Both Maia and Howarth were laid off in November 2021. In April 2022, they filed a class action complaint alleging that IEW violated the Wage Payment Law (WPL) and the Wage and Hour Law (WHL).The trial judge held that Chapter 212, which amended the WPL and WHL, does not apply retroactively and thus dismissed plaintiffs’ claims for conduct that arose prior to Chapter 212’s effective date of August 6, 2019. The Appellate Division reversed this decision.The Supreme Court of New Jersey granted leave to appeal. The court held that Chapter 212 is to be applied prospectively to conduct that occurred on or after August 6, 2019, not retroactively to conduct that occurred before that date. The trial judge properly dismissed the portions of the complaint relying on Chapter 212 but arising from conduct prior to its effective date. The court reversed the Appellate Division’s judgment, reinstated the trial judge’s order partially dismissing plaintiffs’ complaint, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maia v. IEW Construction Group" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a data privacy dispute involving Pebbles Martin and LCMC Health Holdings and Louisiana Children’s Medical Center (collectively, “LCMC”). Martin filed a class action suit alleging that LCMC violated Louisiana law by embedding tracking pixels onto its website that shared her private health information with third-party websites. The question before the court was not to determine the merits of Martin’s claims, but instead to determine which forum—state or federal—is proper to hear this dispute. LCMC argued that the suit should proceed in federal court because it acted under the direction of a federal officer when it allegedly violated Louisiana law. Martin, however, argued that the suit should remain in state court because LCMC fails to show a basis for federal jurisdiction.LCMC had removed the case to federal court, invoking the federal officer removal statute as the basis for jurisdiction. Martin moved to remand to state court, and the district court granted Martin’s motion, holding that LCMC did not act under the direction of a federal officer when it disclosed private health information to third-party websites. LCMC appealed the remand order.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that LCMC did not act under the direction of a federal officer when it embedded tracking pixels onto its website. The court noted that a hospital does not act under the direction of the federal government when it maintains an online patient portal that utilizes tracking pixels. Therefore, the federal officer removal statute does not provide jurisdiction for this case to be heard in federal court. The court affirmed the district court’s order remanding this case to state court. View "Martin v. LCMC Health Holdings" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around an oil spill caused by Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (Plains). The spill resulted in the unlawful discharge of over 142,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean and onto a beach. The trial court considered restitution for four groups of claimants who alleged losses due to the spill. The People of the State of California appealed the denial of restitution for claimants in two of these groups.The trial court had previously ruled that oil industry claimants were not direct victims of Plains' crimes and accepted mediated settlements in lieu of restitution. It also denied restitution to fishers based on a pending class action lawsuit, declined to consider aggregate proof presented by fishers, and refused to consider Plains' criminal conduct.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Six held that restitution could not be denied based on mediated civil settlements or a class action lawsuit. However, it upheld the trial court's decision to deny restitution to fishers and oil industry workers, stating that they were not direct victims of the pipeline shutdown after the spill. The court remanded the case for consideration of restitution for four fisher claims, but in all other respects, it affirmed the trial court's decision and denied the writ petition. View "People v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P." on Justia Law

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The case originated as a class action dispute about the underpayment of oil and gas royalties due on wells in Oklahoma. The plaintiff, Chieftain Royalty Company, sued SM Energy Company, the operator of the wells, under various tort theories, including fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. In 2015, the claims were settled for approximately $52 million. Following the settlement, Chieftain's counsel moved for attorneys’ fees, and Chieftain sought an incentive award for its CEO, Robert Abernathy. Two class members objected to the awards and appealed. The court affirmed the settlement but reversed the attorneys’ fees and incentive awards, remanding to the district court for further proceedings.On remand, the district court re-awarded the fees and incentive award. The class did not receive notice of the 2018 attorneys’ fees motion as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(h)(1), so the court vacated the district court order awarding attorneys’ fees and remanded with instructions to direct class-wide notice of the 2018 attorneys’ fees motion and to re-open the period for objections. The court did not reach the merits of the appellate challenge to the re-awarded attorneys’ fees. The court affirmed the district court’s incentive award to Mr. Abernathy. View "Chieftain Royalty Company v. SM Energy Company" on Justia Law

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The case involves Karen Frohn, who applied for and received a life insurance policy from Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company on behalf of her husband, Greg Frohn. After Greg's death, Karen submitted a claim for death benefits, which Globe denied. Karen then sued Globe, both individually and on behalf of a putative class of beneficiaries, challenging the denial of her claim.Globe moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to rescind the life insurance policy because Karen was not truthful in her application for insurance. The district court granted Globe’s motion, barring Karen from recovery on her claims against Globe. Karen also asked the court to redact certain portions of that order, but the district court published it without any redactions. Karen appealed these decisions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that Karen had voluntarily waived her husband's physician-patient privilege by signing an Authorization for Release, allowing Globe to access Greg's medical records. The court also found that Globe was entitled to rescind the policy under Ohio law because Karen had made material misrepresentations in the insurance application. The court concluded that Globe's defense barred Karen's breach-of-contract and bad-faith claims. View "Frohn v. Globe Life and Accident Ins Co" on Justia Law

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A class of stock purchasers alleged that Anadarko Petroleum Corporation fraudulently misrepresented the potential value of its Shenandoah oil field project in the Gulf of Mexico, violating federal securities law. The plaintiffs claimed that a decline in Anadarko’s stock price resulted from the company's disclosure that the Shenandoah project was dry and that Anadarko was taking a significant write-off for the project. The plaintiffs invoked the Basic presumption, a legal principle that allows courts to presume an investor's reliance on any public material misrepresentations if certain requirements are met.The District Court for the Southern District of Texas certified the class, relying on new evidence presented by the plaintiffs in their reply brief. Anadarko argued that it was not given a fair opportunity to respond to this new evidence and appealed the decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with Anadarko, stating that the district court should have allowed a sur-reply when the plaintiffs presented new evidence in their reply brief. The court held that when a party raises new arguments or evidence for the first time in a reply, the district court must either give the other party an opportunity to respond or decline to rely on the new arguments and evidence. The court also agreed that the district court failed to perform a full Daubert analysis, a standard for admitting expert scientific testimony. The court vacated the class certification order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Georgia Firefighters' Pension Fund v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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The case involves Sherry and David Lewis, who sued their auto insurer, GEICO, for allegedly breaching their insurance contract when their car was totaled. The Lewises claimed that GEICO undercompensated them by applying a "condition adjustment" that artificially reduced its valuation of their car and by failing to reimburse them for taxes and fees necessary to replace the car. They sought to certify a class of similarly underpaid insureds for each instance of underpayment.The District Court certified both classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. GEICO appealed the decision, challenging the certification of the classes.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the order certifying the class for the taxes-and-fees claim. However, the court found that the Lewises lacked standing to bring the condition-adjustment claim as they failed to show that GEICO caused them concrete harm when it applied the condition adjustment. Therefore, the court vacated the District Court’s order in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss the condition-adjustment claim.Regarding the taxes-and-fees claim, the court found that the Lewises met the requirements for standing as they alleged financial harm stemming from GEICO's pre-2020 practice of declining to pay taxes and fees to lessee insureds. The court also found that the class was ascertainable, meeting the requirements for class certification. View "Lewis v. GEICO" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Lisa Stone, a tenant who signed a lease agreement that required her to provide maintenance services for which she alleges she was not compensated, in violation of Minnesota law. She initiated a class-action lawsuit against Invitation Homes, Inc., the parent company of her landlord, and THR Property Management, L.P., the manager of the leased property. Stone later amended her complaint to include various subsidiaries of Invitation Homes as defendants. Some of these subsidiaries argued that Stone lacked standing to sue them as she had not alleged that they had caused any injuries.The district court denied the subsidiaries' motion to dismiss. The subsidiaries appealed this decision to the court of appeals, which reversed the district court's decision and dismissed Stone's claims against the subsidiaries. The court of appeals reasoned that Stone lacked standing to bring her claims under the theory for standing found by the district court, and the juridical-link doctrine was improperly raised by Stone for the first time on appeal and did not apply in this case.Stone appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota, arguing that she has standing against the subsidiaries under the juridical-link doctrine. This doctrine posits that in a class action in which a named plaintiff has not alleged an injury caused by all defendants, a class may be certified when all defendants are linked by a conspiracy or concerted scheme that harmed the class. However, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, stating that Stone had forfeited the ability to have the merits of standing under the juridical-link doctrine determined on appeal as she failed to assert standing based on the juridical-link doctrine in the district court. View "Stone, vs. Invitation Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Maryland has ruled that the term "rent" under Real Property § 8-401, as applied to residential leases, refers to the fixed, periodic payments a tenant is required to make for use or occupancy of a rented premises. This definition excludes additional charges such as late fees, attorney’s fees, and court costs. The court also ruled that any provision in a residential lease that allows a landlord to allocate payments of "rent" to other obligations, thereby subjecting a tenant to eviction proceedings based on failure to pay "rent", violates Real Property § 8-208(d)(2). Further, penalties for late payment of rent, capped at 5% of the monthly amount of rent due, are inclusive of any costs of collection other than court-awarded costs. Finally, the court ruled that the Circuit Court erred in declining to review the merits of the tenants’ second renewed motion for class certification. The case has been remanded for further proceedings in line with these holdings. View "Westminster Management v. Smith" on Justia Law