Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
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
Cisneros v. Elder
In November 2017, Saul Cisneros was charged with two misdemeanor offenses and jailed. The court set Cisneros’s bond at $2,000, and Cisneros’s daughter posted that bond four days later, but the County Sheriff’s Office did not release him. Instead, pursuant to Sheriff Bill Elder’s policies and practices, the Sheriff’s Office notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that the jail had been asked to release Cisneros on bond. ICE then sent the jail a detainer and administrative warrant, requesting that the jail continue to detain Cisneros because ICE suspected that he was removable from the United States. Cisneros was placed on an indefinite “ICE hold,” and remained in detention. During his detention, Cisneros, along with another pretrial detainee, initiated a class action in state court against Sheriff Elder, in his official capacity, for declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the appellate court erred in concluding that section 24-10-106(1.5)(b), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”) did not waive sovereign immunity for intentional torts that result from the operation of a jail for claimants who were incarcerated but not convicted. The Supreme Court concluded section 24-10-106(1.5)(b) waived immunity for such intentional torts. "In reaching this determination, we conclude that the statutory language waiving immunity for 'claimants who are incarcerated but not yet convicted' and who 'can show injury due to negligence' sets a floor, not a ceiling. To hold otherwise would mean that a pre-conviction claimant could recover for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a jail but not for injuries resulting from the intentionally tortious operation of the same jail, an absurd result that we cannot countenance." Accordingly, the judgment of the division below was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cisneros v. Elder" on Justia Law
BP America Prod. Co. v. Patterson
In 2003, Plaintiffs filed a class action alleging that Defendant BP America Production Company (BP) improperly deducted postproduction costs from royalty payments due between January 1986 and December 1997. To toll the applicable six-year statute of limitations, Plaintiffs claimed that BP fraudulently concealed material facts which gave rise to their claims. The trial court certified the class, and the appellate court affirmed. BP then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing: (1) proof of fraudulent concealment was inherently individualized, and not amenable to resolution on a class basis; and, (2) the class time period was overly broad and as a result, includes members who had no costs deducted under the "netback" methodology. BP thus argued that the trial court erred in certifying the class. Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed with either of BP's arguments, and affirmed the trial court's certification of the class.
Garcia v. Medved Chevrolet, Inc
Consumers brought a class action against ten automobile dealerships operating under the "Medved" name and their owner John Medved, alleging violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). Plaintiffs alleged that Medved's sales documents failed to disclose the price and existence of various dealer-added aftermarket products, injuring Plaintiffs who paid for those products. Plaintiffs sought certification of two classes: one which included customers who paid for the add-ons but that were never installed, and another class for those who paid for the add-ons but who were unaware of them due to Medved's sales documents. The trial court determined that Plaintiffs could prove causation and injury in their CCPA claims with circumstantial evidence. However, the trial court did not consider whether the individual evidence presented by Medved rebutted the class-wide inferences of causation and injury which was crucial to certification of both classes. The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred by not rigorously analyzing the evidence presented by Medved to refute Plaintiffs' theories of liability. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court, and remanded the case back to the trial court for further analysis to determine "to its satisfaction whether Plaintiffs could establish causation and injury.
Jackson v. Unocal Corp
The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court in this case pertained to the standards a trial court applies when it decides whether to certify a class pursuant to C.R.C.P. 23. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' rulings: that the trial court must apply a "preponderance of the evidence" standard to C.R.C.P. 23's requirements, that the trial court must resolve factual or legal disputes dispositive of class certification regardless of any overlap with the merits, and that the trial court must resolve expert disputes regardless of any overlap with the merits. The Court also concluded that the trial court rigorously analyzed the evidence in determining that Plaintiffs in this case established an identifiable class and satisfied C.R.C.P. 23(b)(3)'s "predominance" requirement.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Reyher
The class certification issue presented in this case arose from a dispute concerning the payment of medical bills under the Colorado Automobile Accident Reparations Act (No-Fault Act). Plaintiffs Pauline Reyher and Dr. Wallace Brucker filed suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) alleging that it failed to pay full, reasonable amounts in medical expenses in violation of the No-Fault Act and its own contracts. Plaintiffs subsequently moved to certify two classes that included all insureds and providers, respectively, who submitted medical bills to State Farm and were reimbursed for less than the full amounts. The trial court denied the motion for certification on grounds that Plaintiffs failed (among other things) to establish the "predominance" requirement. The appellate court reversed and remanded the case to enter an order certifying the class. State Farm appealed, arguing that the appellate court's finding of "predominance" was made in error. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision and reversed the appellate court.