Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Direct purchasers of drywall—not including Home Depot—sued seven drywall suppliers for conspiring to fix prices. Those cases were centralized in multi-district litigation. Home Depot was a member of the putative class. Georgia-Pacific was not sued. Before class-certification or dispositive motions were filed, a settlement with defendants USG and TIN was certified. Home Depot did not opt-out. Lafarge settled. The court certified a new settlement class; Home Depot opted out. The court later certified a new settlement class with respect to the remaining defendants with terms similar to the USG/TIN settlement—preserving the right of class members to pursue claims against alleged co-conspirators other than the settling defendants. Home Depot remained in the settlement class. The court entered judgment.Home Depot then sued Lafarge. Home Depot never bought drywall from Lafarge, but argued that Lafarge was liable for the overcharges Home Depot paid its suppliers; its expert opined that the pricing behaviors of Lafarge and other suppliers, including USG, CertainTeed, and Georgia-Pacific, were indicative of a conspiracy to fix prices. The court struck the expert report, citing issue preclusion and the law of the case, noting the grant of summary judgment to CertainTeed, that Georgia-Pacific had not previously been sued, and that alleged conspirator USG settled early in the class action.The Third Circuit vacated. Issue preclusion applies only to matters which were actually litigated and decided between the parties or their privies. Home Depot was not a party (or privy) to any of the relevant events. Two of the three events to which it was “bound” were not judicial decisions. The law of the case doctrine applies only to prior decisions made in the same case. View "Home Depot USA Inc v. Lafarge North America Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Jennifer Bitner and Evelina Herrera were employed as licensed vocational nurses by defendant-respondent California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They filed a class action suit against CDCR alleging that: (1) while assigned to duties that included one-on-one suicide monitoring, they were subjected to acts of sexual harassment by prison inmates; and (2) CDCR failed to prevent or remedy the situation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12940 et seq. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of CDCR on the ground that it was entitled to statutory immunity under section 844.6, which generally provided that “a public entity is not liable for . . . [a]n injury proximately caused by any prisoner.” Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that, as a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal should interpret section 844.6 to include an exception for claims brought pursuant to FEHA. Plaintiffs also argued that, even if claims under FEHA were not exempt from the immunity granted in section 844.6, the evidence presented on summary judgment did not establish that their injuries were “ ‘proximately caused’ ” by prisoners. The Court of Appeal disagreed on both points and affirmed the judgment. View "Bitner v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

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In a class-action proceeding related to a lending scheme allegedly designed to circumvent state usury laws, Defendant appealed from three district court rulings that (1) reconsidered prior factual findings based on a new finding that Defendant made misrepresentations that substantially impacted the litigation, (2) found that Plaintiffs—Virginia citizens who took out loans (the “Borrowers”)—did not waive their right to participate in a class-action suit against him, and (3) granted class certification. Defendant argued that the district court violated the mandate rule by making factual findings related to the misrepresentations that contradicted the Fourth Circuit’s holding in the prior appeal and then relying on those factual findings when granting class certification. He also contends that the Borrowers entered into enforceable loan agreements with lending entities in which they waived their right to bring class claims against him. In addition, he asserts that common issues do not predominate so as to permit class treatment in this case.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not violate the mandate rule and that the Borrowers did not waive the right to pursue the resolution of their dispute against him in a class-action proceeding. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting class certification because common issues predominate. View "Lula Williams v. Matt Martorello" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a South Asian-American woman, began working for Bloomberg’s Dubai news bureau as a Persian Gulf economy and government reporter. Plaintiff informed Bloomberg that she wished to transfer to its New York or Washington, D.C. bureaus because of her husband’s job location. Plaintiff ultimately obtained a position at Bloomberg L.P. (“Bloomberg”) in the Washington, D.C. bureau reporting on cybersecurity.   When Plaintiff subsequently asked why she had not been considered for the U.N. position, her team leader responded that Plaintiff had never said that she wanted to cover foreign policy; he also advised her that she had to advocate for herself if she wanted to advance at Bloomberg. On behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff – now a resident of California – filed a class-action lawsuit in New York state court against Bloomberg and several of its employees; shortly thereafter, she amended her complaint. Thereafter, Bloomberg moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims against Bloomberg, including her NYCHRL and NYSHRL claims based on Bloomberg’s failure to promote her to positions in New York.   The Second Circuit concluded that the issue implicates a host of important state interests. Thus it reversed the district court’s decision and certified the following question: whether a nonresident plaintiff not yet employed in New York City or State satisfies the impact requirement of the New York City Human Rights Law (the “NYCHRL”) or the New York State Human Rights Law (the “NYSHRL”) if the plaintiff pleads and later proves that an employer deprived the plaintiff of a New York City- or State-based job opportunity on discriminatory grounds. View "Syeed v. Bloomberg L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six individuals employed by the County of Imperial, and the three unions representing them (the Imperial County Sheriff’s Association (ICSA), the Imperial County Firefighter’s Association (ICFA), and the Imperial County Probation and Corrections Peace Officers’ Association (PCPOA)), brought a class action lawsuit against the County of Imperial, the Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System, and the System’s Board alleging that the defendants were systematically miscalculating employee pension contributions. After two years of failed mediation, plaintiffs moved for class certification under Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the conflicting interests of two primary groups of employees, those hired before the effective date of the Public Employee Pension Reform Act and those hired after, precluded the court from certifying a class. The court found that because the employees hired before PEPRA took effect were entitled to an enhanced pension benefit unavailable to those hired after, the two groups’ interests were antagonistic and the community of interest among the proposed class members required for certification could not be met. The trial court also concluded the proposed class representatives had failed to show they could adequately represent the class. On appeal, plaintiffs contended insufficient evidence supported the trial court’s finding that there was an inherent conflict among the class members that precluded class certification and that the court’s legal reasoning on this factor was flawed. The plaintiffs also argued they should have been given an opportunity to show they could adequately represent the interests of the class. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning concerning the community of interest among the proposed class, and agreed with plaintiffs they should be provided an opportunity to demonstrate their adequacy. Accordingly, the order denying class certification was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court with directions to allow the proposed class representatives to file supplemental declarations addressing their adequacy to serve in this role. Thereafter, if the trial court approves of the class representatives, the court was directed to grant plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, including the creation of the subclasses identified by the Court. View "Imperial County Sheriff's Assn. v. County of Imperial" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bought a laptop with a manufacturer’s warranty from Target. He filed a class action on behalf of “all citizens of Arkansas who purchased one or more products from Target that cost over $15 and that were subject to a written warranty.” His theory was that Target violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s Pre-Sale Availability Rule by refusing to make the written warranties reasonably available, either by posting them in “close proximity to” products or placing signs nearby informing customers that they could access them upon request. Target filed a notice of removal based on the jurisdictional thresholds in the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The district court the class action against Target Corporation to Arkansas state court.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the remand order and return the case to the district court for further consideration. The court explained that the district court applied the wrong legal standard. The district court refused to acknowledge the possibility that Target’s sales figures for laptops, televisions and other accessories might have been enough to “plausibly allege” that the case is worth more than $5 million. The district court then compounded its error by focusing exclusively on the two declarations that accompanied Target’s notice of removal. The court wrote that the district court’s failure to consider Target’s lead compliance consultant’s declaration, Target’s central piece of evidence in opposing remand, “effectively denied” the company “the opportunity . . . to establish [its] claim of federal jurisdiction.” View "Robert Leflar v. Target Corporation" on Justia Law

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Fourteen women (“Plaintiffs”) from seven states brought the present putative class action against Ashley Black and her companies (“Defendants”), alleging false and deceptive marketing practices. They take issue with various representations in Defendants’ ads about a product called the FasciaBlaster, a two-foot stick with hard prongs that is registered with the Food and Drug Administration as a massager. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety.  Plaintiffs appealed the order striking the class allegations and the dismissal of individual claims.   The Fifth Circuit found that the district court correctly struck Plaintiffs’ class allegations and properly dismissed all but two of their claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the district court. The court explained that it agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs’ allegations suffer from a combination of defects, including a failure to plead adequately what representations were actually made when those representations were made, who made the representations, and where those representations occurred.   However, the court reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ breach of express warranty under, respectively, California Consumer Code Sections 2313 & 10210, and Florida Statutes Sections 672.313 & 680.21. The court wrote that the district court did not apply the law of a specific jurisdiction when conducting its analysis. Plaintiffs on appeal cite various Fifth Circuit cases in addition to Texas and California state law precedents. Defendants proffer Fifth Circuit, California, and Florida precedents. Neither party, however, briefed what law should be applied to each claim. View "Elson v. Black" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a class of children, appearing through their guardians ad litem, filed a lawsuit against Google LLC and others, alleging that Google used persistent identifiers to collect data and track their online behavior surreptitiously and without their consent in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). They pled only state law claims arising under the constitutional, statutory, and common law of California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Tennessee, but also allege Google’s activities violate COPPA. The district court held that the “core allegations” in the third amended complaint were squarely covered, and preempted, by COPPA.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal on preemption grounds. The panel considered the question of whether COPPA preempts state law claims based on underlying conduct that also violates COPPA’s regulations. The Supreme Court has identified three different types of preemption—express, conflict, and field. First, express preemption is a question of statutory construction. The panel concluded that COPPA’s preemption clause does not bar state-law causes of action that are parallel to, or proscribe, the same conduct forbidden by, COPPA. Accordingly, express preemption does not apply to the plaintiff class’s claims. Second, even if express preemption is not applicable, preemptive intent may be inferred through conflict preemption principles. The panel held that although express and conflict preemption are analytically distinct inquiries, they effectively collapse into one when the preemption clause uses the term “inconsistent.” For the same reasons that the panel concluded there was no express preemption, the panel concluded that conflict preemption did not bar Plaintiffs’ claims. View "CARA JONES, ET AL V. GOOGLE LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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HyreCar is an intermediary between people who own vehicles and people who would like to drive for services such as Uber and GrubHub. Before leasing a car, HyreCar sends an applicant’s information, including a photograph, to Mitek, which provides identity-verification services. Johnson, a HyreCar driver, brought a putative class action, alleging Mitek used that information without the consent required by the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act. Mitek asked the district court to send the case to arbitration, citing an Arbitration Agreement in Johnson’s contract with HyreCar, applicable to drivers, HyreCar, and “any subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, employees, predecessors in interest, successors, and assigns, as well as all authorized or unauthorized users or beneficiaries of services or goods provided under the Agreement.The district court concluded that suppliers such as Mitek were not covered. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Mitek’s claim that it is a “beneficiary of services or goods provided under the Agreement.” The “services or goods provided under the Agreement” are vehicles. Mitek cannot be classified as a “user” of HyreCar’s services or goods. Mitek has its own contract with HyreCar, but does not have a contract with any HyreCar driver. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 2 does not change the result. The court noted that claims under the Illinois Act cannot be litigated in federal court unless the plaintiff can show concrete harm. Johnson seeks only statutory damages. Johnson’s claim must be remanded to state court. View "Johnson v. Mitek Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner-appellant Sharlene Allen was a former employee of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC). After SDCCC terminated Allen, she filed a class action lawsuit against SDCCC alleging various violations of the California Labor Code. The trial court largely sustained SDCCC’s demurrer to the complaint on the grounds that the corporation was exempt from liability as a government entity. The court, however, left intact one claim for untimely payment of final wages under Labor Code sections 201, 202, and 203,1 and derivative claims under the Unfair Competition Law and the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Allen then moved for class certification for her surviving causes of action. The trial court denied the motion based on Allen’s concession that her claim for untimely final payment was not viable because it was derivative of the other claims dismissed at the demurrer stage. Allen appealed the denial of the motion for class certification, which she claimed was the "death knell" of her class claims and thus, the lawsuit. She argued the trial court’s ruling on the demurrer was incorrect because SDCCC did not establish as a matter of law that it was exempt from liability. In response, SDCCC argued Allen’s appeal should have been dismissed as taken from a nonappealable order. Alternatively, SDCCC contended the trial court’s order sustaining its demurrer was correct, and the subsequent denial of class certification should be affirmed. The Court of Appeal rejected SDCCC’s assertion that the order was not appealable. However, the Court agreed that class certification was properly denied by the trial court and affirmed the order. View "Allen v. San Diego Convention Center Corp., Inc." on Justia Law