Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Street v. BP Expl & Prod
These consolidated cases continue the Fifth Circuit’s saga of Deepwater Horizon. Plaintiffs argue the district court judge abused his discretion by failing to disqualify himself at their request. The Street Plaintiffs do not challenge Judge Ashe’s decision to exclude the expert’s testimony under Daubert, nor do they raise any argument on the merits as to why his granting of summary judgment to BP was erroneous. In the briefing before the Fifth Circuit, the two arguments raised were that Judge Ashe should have disqualified himself and, in the alternative, that he should have extended the case-management deadlines. The Street plaintiffs argued that Judge Ashe abused his discretion for not disqualifying himself under 28 U.S.C. Section 455(b)(2) because he was a partner at Stone Pigman when it represented Cameron in the Phase One liability trial. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Street Plaintiffs do not challenge the judge’s actual impartiality on appeal. Instead, they rely solely on the “matter in controversy” language found in Section 455(b)(2) and argue that recusal was mandatory. The court explained that even mandatory recusal under Section 455(b)(2) can be harmless. The court wrote that if Judge Ashe erred when he failed to recuse in these cases, that error was harmless. Nonetheless, as the arguments on this appeal support, potential conflicts of interest must be taken seriously by every member of the judiciary. The litigants and the public need to be confident in the impartiality of those who will decide legal disputes. View "Street v. BP Expl & Prod" on Justia Law
Quint, et al. v. Vail Resorts
Randy Quint, John Linn, and Mark Molina (“Colorado Plaintiffs”) filed a class and collective action against Vail Resorts, Inc. alleging violations of federal and state labor laws (“Colorado Action”). Different plaintiffs filed similar lawsuits against a Vail subsidiary, which were pending in federal and state courts in California. After Vail gave notice that it had agreed to a nationwide settlement with some of the other plaintiffs, Colorado Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion asking the district court to enjoin Vail from consummating the settlement. The district court denied their motion, and Colorado Plaintiffs filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing the district court erred by: (1) applying the wrong standard in reviewing the report and recommendation ("R&R"); (2) holding the Anti-Injunction Act applied to an injunction against Vail rather than the state court; (3) declining to consider one exception to the Anti-Injunction Act; (4) holding a second exception to the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply; (5) failing to enforce the first-to-file rule; and (6) abstaining under the Colorado River doctrine. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Quint, et al. v. Vail Resorts" on Justia Law
Huber v. Simons Agency Inc
Huber visited Crozer doctors on four separate occasions, incurring debts to Crozer of $178, $78, $83.50, and $178. Crozer's debt collection agency, SAI, sent a form collection letter, with an “Account Summary” that provided two figures: the specific debt SAI sought to collect, entitled “Amount,” and a second figure, entitled “Various Other Acc[oun]ts Total Balance.” The fourth such letter to Huber informed Huber that she owed an “Amount” of $178, while her “Various Other Accounts Total Balance” was $517.50. Huber testified that she was confused as to how much she owed in total: Was it $695.50 or $517.50. She consulted a financial advisor.Huber filed this putative class action, asserting a “false, deceptive, or misleading” means of collecting a debt and failure to disclose the “amount of the debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692. The district court held, on summary judgment, that there was no actionable failure to disclose but found the letters “misleading and deceptive,” and certified the class.The Third Circuit affirmed. Huber has standing, but not under the “informational injury doctrine.” Huber did not identify omitted information to which she has entitlement but the financial harm she suffered in reliance on the letter bears a “close relationship” to the harm associated with the tort of fraudulent misrepresentation. The court remanded for determination of whether any of the class members suffered any consequences beyond confusion. View "Huber v. Simons Agency Inc" on Justia Law
United Svcs Automobile v. Sampson
Defendants United Services Automobile Association and USAA General Indemnity Company (“USAA”) contract with insureds to pay “Actual Cash Value” (“ACV”) for totaled vehicles. USAA calculates ACV using the CCC One Market Valuation Report (“CCC”) rather than, e.g., the National Automobile Dealers Association guidebook (“NADA”) or Kelley Blue Book (“KBB”). Plaintiffs are USAA-insureds whose vehicles were totaled and who received ACV as determined by CCC. Plaintiffs alleged that CCC violates Louisiana statutory law, that they would have been paid more if USAA used NADA, and that they are owed the difference. Plaintiffs sought certification for a class of USAA-insureds who were paid less under CCC, and the district court granted it. USAA appealed class certification. On appeal, the parties dispute, among other things, whether common questions across the class involving damages and liability predominate over individual differences between class members, as required for class certification under Rule 23(b)(3). The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that Plaintiffs failed to show injury and therefore failed to establish USAA’s liability on a class-wide basis because they failed to demonstrate entitlement to the NADA values for their totaled vehicles. The court held that with respect to Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim, the district court’s choice of NADA is not simply an arbitrary choice among imperfect damages models. It is an arbitrary choice of a liability model, and a district court’s wide discretion to choose an imperfect estimative-damages model at the certification stage does not carry over from the context of damages to the context of liability. View "United Svcs Automobile v. Sampson" on Justia Law
Brayman, et al. v. Keypoint Government Solutions
Plaintiffs brought two actions against KeyPoint Government Solutions: a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA) on behalf of KeyPoint employees nationwide, and a state-law putative class action on behalf of California employees. They alleged KeyPoint violated the FLSA through policies requiring employees to work uncompensated overtime and also violated certain provisions of California’s wage-and-hour laws. On appeal, KeyPoint argued: (1) the district court erred in denying KeyPoint’s motion to compel arbitration of California state-law claims by some California Plaintiffs; and (2) the district court erred in certifying under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 of the California employee class. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district court’s denial of KeyPoint’s motion to compel arbitration, vacated the court’s certification of the Rule 23 class, and remanded for further proceedings. "The district court did not distinguish Plaintiffs’ meal- and rest-break claims from Plaintiffs’ off-the-clock claims. It analyzed only KeyPoint’s allegedly unlawful policy and assumed that the policy could 'prohibit Plaintiffs from taking required meal and rest breaks.' This was insufficient. ... The court abused its discretion in failing to perform claim-specific analysis. We vacate the district court’s Rule 23 class certification so that the district court can properly consider predominance." View "Brayman, et al. v. Keypoint Government Solutions" on Justia Law
Sudholt v. Country Mutual Insurance Co.
Current and former policyholders filed a class action lawsuit in Illinois against Country Mutual and 46 of its current and former officers and directors. Every member of the proposed class is an Illinois citizen under the Class Action Fairness Act, CAFA, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2), as are Country Mutual and 45 of the individuals. The 46th defendant, Bateman, is a citizen of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs alleged that the firm accumulated and retained excess surplus of over $3.5 billion from premium revenues exceeding the cost of claims and thereby failed to supply those policies at cost. They claimed breach of contract, violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty.Based on putative class size, the amount in controversy, and the minimal diversity created by Bateman, Country Mutual removed this case to federal district court, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d); 1453(b). The Seventh Circuit remanded to state court. Under CAFA’s internal affairs exception, each claim sounds in allegations of corporate mismanagement that cannot be adjudicated without immersion into the boundaries of the discretion afforded by Illinois law to officers and directors of a mutual insurance company to set capital levels and make related decisions about surplus distributions to policyholder members. The case is also within CAFA’s home-state controversy exception, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4)(B), as Bateman, who creates minimal diversity, is not a “primary defendant.” View "Sudholt v. Country Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Fleming v. Bayou Steel
BD LaPlace, LLC, doing business as Bayou Steel (Bayou Steel), operated a steel mill in LaPlace, Louisiana. Without giving The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice, Bayou Steel terminated Plaintiffs’ employment and closed the LaPlace mill where they worked. Seeking to recover under the WARN Act, Plaintiffs initially filed a putative class action complaint against Bayou Steel in Delaware bankruptcy court. Plaintiffs dismissed that action and filed the instant class action in federal district court. Rather than suing their employer Bayou Steel, Plaintiffs sued Bayou Steel BD Holdings II, LLC and Black Diamond Capital Management, LLC(a private equity firm that advised the fund that owned BD Holdings II). Plaintiffs demanded a jury trial, which the district court denied. Defendants sought summary judgment, which the district court granted. Plaintiffs appealed, challenging both the denial of their jury demand and the summary judgment for Defendants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that there is no right to a jury trial under the WARN Act. The court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to BD Holdings II. But the district court erred in granting summary judgment to BDCM because there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether BDCM exercised de facto control over Bayou Steel’s decision to close its LaPlace steel mill and order Plaintiffs’ layoffs. The court explained that if BDCM “specifically directed” the closing of the mill without proper notice, the company may be liable for Bayou Steel’s WARN Act violation even absent the other factors. View "Fleming v. Bayou Steel" on Justia Law
KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
Plaintiff asserted that ZoomInfo did not obtain her permission or compensate her when it used her name and likeness in its online directory to promote its product, in violation of California’s Right of Publicity statute and her common-law privacy and intellectual property rights. ZoomInfo moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute. In the district court, ZoomInfo moved to dismiss the complaint and to cut off the claims at the pleading stage. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and rejected ZoomInfo’s special motion to strike the complaint under California anti-SLAPP statute. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to review the denial of ZoomInfo’s anti-SLAPP motion. The panel also held that, at this stage, Martinez has plausibly pleaded that she suffered sufficient injury to establish constitutional standing to sue. The panel wrote that although the district court did not address the exemptions, Plaintiff’s case fell within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP law. Plaintiff met the three conditions for the public interest exemption: Plaintiff requests all relief on behalf of the alleged class of which she is a member and does not seek any additional relief for herself; Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the public interest of the right to control one’s name and likeness; and private enforcement is necessary and disproportionately burdensome. View "KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC." on Justia Law
Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this case to consider whether the common law litigation privilege for party-generated publicity in pending class action litigation excluded situations in which the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. In 2018, two law firms, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP and Towards Justice (collectively, along with attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, “the attorneys”), filed on behalf of former employee and nail technician Lisa Miles and those similarly situated a federal class action lawsuit. This lawsuit named as defendants BKP, Inc.; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar LLC; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-2, LLC; and Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-3, LLC (collectively, “the employer”), among others. The employer operated three beauty bars in the Denver metropolitan area. Pertinent here, the class action complaint alleged that the employer’s business operation was “founded on the exploitation of its workers.” The complaint alleged that the employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Colorado Wage Claim Act by not paying service technicians for hours spent performing janitorial work, electing to forgo hiring a janitorial service. The Supreme Court concluded the division erred in conditioning the applicability of the litigation privilege in pending class action litigation on whether the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. The Court reached this conclusion for two reasons: (1) ascertainability was generally a requirement in class action litigation, and imposing such a condition would unduly limit the privilege in this kind of case; and (2) the eventual identification of class members by way of documents obtained during discovery was not a substitute for reaching absent class members and witnesses in the beginning stages of litigation. The Court found the litigation privilege applied in this case: five allegedly defamatory statements at issue "merely repeated, summarized, or paraphrased the allegations made in the class action complaint, and which served the purpose of notifying the public, absent class members, and witnesses about the litigation, were absolutely privileged." View "Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc." on Justia Law
Self v. B P X Operating
Louisiana oil and gas law authorizes the state Commissioner of Conservation to combine separate tracts of land and appoint a unit operator to extract the minerals. Plaintiffs own unleased mineral interests in Louisiana that are part of a forced drilling unit. BPX is the operator. Plaintiffs alleged on behalf of themselves and a named class that BPX has been improperly deducting post-production costs from their pro rata share of production and that this practice is improper per se. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ per se claims, holding that the quasi-contractual doctrine of negotiorum gestio provides a mechanism for BPX to properly deduct postproduction costs. Plaintiffs filed this action as purported representatives of a named class of unleased mineral owners whose interests are situated within forced drilling units formed by the Louisiana Office of Conservation and operated by BPX. BPX removed this action to the district court based on both diversity and federal question jurisdiction. BPX sought dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ primary claim. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss. The district court certified its ruling for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b).The Fifth Circuit wrote that no controlling Louisiana case resolves the parties’ issue. Accordingly, the court certified the following determinative question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court: 1) Does La. Civ. Code art. 2292 applies to unit operators selling production in accordance with La. R.S. 30:10(A)(3)? View "Self v. B P X Operating" on Justia Law