Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Appellee worked at a Xerox Business Services, LLC (“XBS”) call center and was compensated according to a proprietary system of differential pay rates known as Achievement Based Compensation (“ABC”). Section 4 of the 2002 Dispute Resolution Plan ("DRP") required XBS and its agents to submit “all disputes” to binding arbitration for final and exclusive resolution. Appellee never signed the 2002 DRP. XBS issued an updated DRP (“2012 DRP”). XBS filed a motion to compel individual arbitration by 2,927 class members who had signed the 2002 DRP. The district court found that XBS had waived its right to compel arbitration.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying XBS's motion to compel. The panel noted that following Morgan v. Sundance, 142 S. Ct. 1708 (2022), the Ninth Circuit’s test for waiver of the right to compel arbitration consists of two elements: (1) knowledge of an existing right to compel arbitration; and (2) intentional acts inconsistent with that existing right. XBS challenged both prongs of the test. The panel held that XBS was correct that the district court could not compel nonparties to the case to arbitrate until after a class had been certified and the notice and opt-out period were complete. However, XBS failed to appreciate that waiver was a unilateral concept. The panel held that further undercutting XBS’s position was its own actions throughout the course of the litigation, in which XBS raised the 2012 DRP as to putative class members before the class had been certified and before it had the ability to move to enforce that agreement against them. View "TIFFANY HILL V. XEROX BUSINESS SERVICES, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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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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The case at issue began in 1994 when Plaintiffs sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Governor (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging widespread violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act (collectively “ADA”). The district court concluded that California prisons were failing to provide legally required accommodations, and this court affirmed. In these appeals, Defendants challenged two orders in which the district court found ongoing violations of disabled prisoners’ rights at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) and at five additional prisons (“Five Prisons”) resulting from Defendants’ failure to investigate adequately and discipline staff misconduct. The district court entered injunctions requiring Defendants to adopt additional remedial measures at the six prisons.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed one district court order, and affirmed in part and vacated in part a second district court order. The panel first rejected Defendants’ threshold contention that the district court did not have authority to issue either of the orders because the orders addressed misconduct that was “categorically distinct” from the allegations of wrongdoing in the Complaint. The panel determined that the new allegations in the motions at issue here were closely related to those in the operative Complaint and alleged misconduct of the same sort—that Defendants failed to accommodate class members’ disabilities, in direct contravention of the ADA. The panel affirmed the particular provisions of each order that address the prisons’ investigatory and disciplinary failures. The panel concluded that the district court abused its discretion by ordering Defendants to reform their pepper-spray policies at the Five Prisons and vacated that portion of the order. View "JOHN ARMSTRONG, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law

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USERRA Section 4316(b)(1) requires employers to provide employees who take military leave with the same non-seniority rights and benefits as their colleagues who take comparable non-military leaves. Plaintiff, a commercial airline pilot and military reservist, filed a class action brought under USERRA. Plaintiff alleged that because Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Industries (collectively, the “Airlines”) provide paid leave for non-military leaves, including jury duty, bereavement, and sick leave, the Airlines are also required to pay pilots during short-term military leaves. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment to the Airlines and concluding as a matter of law that military leave is not comparable to any other form of leave offered by the Airlines.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable jury could find military leave comparable to non-military leave. In reaching this conclusion, the district court erred by comparing all military leaves, rather than just the short-term military leaves at issue here, with the comparator non-military leaves. The district court also erred by disregarding factual disputes about each of the three factors in the comparability analysis: duration, purpose, and control. The panel held that because factual disputes existed, comparability was an issue for the jury.   The panel, therefore, reversed and remanded. It instructed that on remand, the district court should consider in the first instance the issue of whether “pay during leave” was a standalone benefit that the airlines provided under their collective bargaining agreements to any employee on leave. View "CASEY CLARKSON V. ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., ET AL" 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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Plaintiffs submitted health plan coverage requests, which United Behavioral Health (“UBH”) denied. Plaintiffs brought claims under ERISA for breach of fiduciary duty and improper denial of benefits. The parties stipulated to a sample class, from which they submitted a sample of health insurance plans. Plaintiffs alleged that the plans provided coverage for treatment consistent with generally accepted standards of case (“GASC”) or were governed by state laws specifying certain criteria for making coverage or medical necessity determinations. Plaintiffs alleged that UBH’s Level of Care Guidelines and Coverage Determination Guidelines for making these determinations were more restrictive than GASC and were also more restrictive than state-mandated criteria. The district court certified three classes, conducted a bench trial, and entered judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor. The district court issued declaratory and injunctive relief, directed the implementation of court-determined claims processing guidelines, ordered “reprocessing” of all class members’ claims in accordance with the new guidelines, and appointed a special master to oversee compliance for ten years.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The panel held that Plaintiffs had Article III standing to bring their breach of fiduciary duty and improper denial of benefits claims. And the district court did not err in certifying three classes to pursue the fiduciary duty claim. However, because Plaintiffs expressly declined to make any showing, or seek a determination of, their entitlement to benefits, permitting Plaintiffs to proceed with their denial of benefits claim under the guise of a “reprocessing” remedy on a class-wide basis violated the Rules Enabling Act. View "DAVID WIT, ET AL V. UNITED BEHAVIORAL HEALTH" on Justia Law

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DirecTV and Dish Network (“Defendants”) provide video services in part through the Internet. The City of Creve Coeur filed this class action in Missouri state court on behalf of local government authorities, seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendants are liable under the Video Services Providers Act (“VSPA”) and implementing local ordinances, plus injunctive relief, an accounting of unpaid fees, and damages. Defendants removed the action based on diversity jurisdiction and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). After the state court entered an interlocutory order declaring that VSPA payments are fees, rather than taxes, DirecTV filed a second notice of removal, arguing this order established the required federal jurisdiction. The district court granted Creve Coeur’s motion to remand.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on different grounds. The court explained that the district court’s remand order plainly stated that the remand was based on comity principles as articulated in Levin, not on “state-tax based comity concerns.” Comity as a basis to remand was raised and fully argued in the first remand proceeding. Federal courts have long precluded two bites at this apple. Second, the Supreme Court in Levin emphatically stated that the century-old comity doctrine is not limited to the state-tax-interference concerns that later led Congress to enact the TIA. Third, the state court’s December 2020 Order addressed, preliminarily, only the VSPA fee-or-tax issue under state law. It did not address the broader considerations comity addresses. The state court order in no way overruled or undermined the basis for the district court’s first remand order. Therefore, DirecTV failed to establish the essential basis for a second removal. View "City of Creve Coeur v. DirecTV LLC" 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