Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer 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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General Motors (“GM”) installed Generation IV 5.3 Liter V8 Vortec 5300 LC9 engines (“Gen IV engine”) in seven different GMC and Chevrolet trucks and SUVs in model years 2010 to 2014 (the “affected vehicles”). In 2016, representatives from various States filed a putative class action alleging that the affected vehicles contain a defect that causes excess oil consumption and other engine damage (the “oil consumption defect”). Plaintiffs appealed only the dismissal of their Missouri Merchandising Practice Act (MMPA) claim, stating that “the sole issue presented on appeal is whether the district court improperly applied the concept of puffery to  their deceptive omissions claims under the MMPA.”   The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the MMPA claims. The court concluded that advertising “puffery” does not affect an MMPA claim based on omission of a material fact, at least in this case, and the court agreed that Plaintiffs’ Class Action Complaint alleges sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state an omissions claim to relief that is plausible on its face. View "Michael Tucker v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a home-delivery subscriber to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch daily newspaper (the “Post-Dispatch”), filed a putative class action for damages against the owner and publisher of the Post-Dispatch in state court alleging that Defendants “double-billed” him for “overlapping days.” Defendants removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, alleging that Plaintiff is seeking aggregate class-wide damages for the applicable five-year statute of limitations period that exceed $5,000,000. Plaintiff filed a First Amended Class Action Complaint alleging six claims for relief under Missouri law. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing all claims.   On appeal, Plaintiff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissing his breach of contract and MMPA claims because there are genuine issues of material fact “whether overlaps cost subscribers money” and whether Defendants’ billing practices violate the MMPA because “overlaps are incorrect and wrong.”   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it might be evidence that Defendants made minor billing errors in Plaintiff’s individual subscriber account, but that claim was not pleaded. The district court did not err in granting Defendants summary judgment dismissing the claims Plaintiff asserted despite his belated raising of this unpleaded contract claim. Further, the court explained that Plaintiff failed to controvert Defendants’ evidence showing that DISCUS properly deducts from a subscriber’s payment-in-advance the applicable rate charged as each newspaper is delivered. Thus, because Plaintiff cannot establish the ascertainable loss element of an MMPA claim, the court held that it need not address his additional argument that the Post-Dispatch’s billing practices are unfair or unethical. View "Steven Goldsmith v. Lee Enterprises" 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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Plaintiff appealed the district court’s dismissal of her putative class action against the West Virginia Parkways Authority, in which she alleges that the Parkways Authority improperly collected fees. And the Parkways Authority appeals the district court’s holding that it was not entitled to sovereign immunity under the United States or West Virginia Constitutions.   Plaintiff relied on the Class Action Fairness Act for jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case remanded to the district court with directions to dismiss without prejudice. The court concluded that here, Section 1332(d)(5)(A) bars jurisdiction under Section 1332(d)(2) of the Class Action Fairness Act. The court explained that the Parkways Authority is the only, and thus “primary,” defendant. And it is a “governmental entity.” The Parkways Authority’s sovereign-immunity claim is strong enough to conclude that the district court “may be foreclosed from ordering relief” against it. So Section 1332(d)(2)’s jurisdictional grant “shall not apply.” Since that is the only provision that Plaintiff relies on to establish jurisdiction over her putative class action, the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear it. View "Blazine Monaco v. WV Parkways Authority" 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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The case arose from the district court’s dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s class-action claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), against Meta Platforms, Inc. (Meta), formerly known as Facebook, Inc. Enacted in 1991, the TCPA generally bans calls made to a telephone if the call is generated by an “automatic telephone dialing system” (commonly referred to as an “autodialer”). Plaintiff argued that Meta violated the TCPA by sending unsolicited “Birthday Announcement” text messages to consumers’ cell phones. He alleged that these Birthday Announcements were sent by Meta through an autodialer that used an RSNG to store and dial the telephone numbers of the consumers being texted. The question on appeal was whether a TCPA-defined autodialer must use an RSNG to generate the telephone numbers that are dialed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal with prejudice. The panel held that Meta did not violate the TCPA because it did not use a TCPA-defined autodialer that randomly or sequentially generated the telephone numbers in question. View "COLIN BRICKMAN V. META PLATFORMS, INC." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the approval of a class action settlement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e), holding that the absence of separate settlement counsel for distinct groups of class members made too difficult a determination whether the settlement treated class members equitably.Plaintiffs sued HelloFresh, a subscription service, alleging that its so-called "win back" marketing campaign violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The parties eventually arrived at a proposed settlement conditioned on court approval. The district court adopted the settlement agreement. An objector to the settlement appealed, arguing that the settlement process was unfair and led to an inequitable result. The First Circuit agreed and vacated the district court's approval, holding (1) the district court lacked the requisite basis for certifying the settlement class and approving an allocation among class members as fair, reasonable, and adequate; and (2) incentive payments to named class representatives are not prohibited so long as they fit within the bounds of Rule 23(e). View "Murray v. McDonald" on Justia Law

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Beasley alleged that, during the proposed class period— January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2016—Tootsie Roll manufactured, distributed, and sold products that contained artificial trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) and that trans fats are harmful and cause cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and organ damage. Beasley alleged she purchased Tootsie Roll products containing PHOs during the class period. She sought to represent a class defined as: “All citizens of California who purchased Tootsie Products containing partially hydrogenated oil in California” during the class period. Beasley asserted the use of PHOs was unlawful and unfair under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200 ) and breached the implied warranty of merchantability.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Beasley failed to allege cognizable injury and some of her claims were preempted by federal law (specifically a congressional enactment providing the use of PHOs is not to be deemed violative of food additive standards until June 18, 2018). The claim for breach of warranty is also preempted. Permitting the use of broad state statutory provisions governing “adulterated” foods to impose liability for PHO use before the federally established compliance date would create an obstacle to the achievement of Congress’s evident purpose of confirming the 2018 compliance date. View "Beasley v. Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Arkansas Video Service Act of 2013 (VSA) establishes a statewide franchising scheme for authorizing video service providers to provide services in political subdivisions within the state. Netflix and Hulu were already providing online video streaming services prior to the passage of the VSA; they have not applied for certificates of franchise authority. The City of Ashdown, Arkansas, filed a putative class action against Netflix and Hulu in 2020, seeking both a declaration that they must comply with the VSA and damages for their failure to pay the required fee. The district court granted Netflix and Hulu’s motions to dismiss, concluding, among other things, that the VSA does not give Ashdown a right of action to bring this suit. Ashdown appealed, arguing that the district court misinterpreted the VSA.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the fact that the VSA does not “prevent” a party from exercising a right does not, itself, confer a right. This provision is more logically read to preserve existing rights of action. The reference to “other laws” in the section title supports this conclusion. Further, the court wrote that the VSA does not establish such a “high duty of care” for video service providers, nor does it signal a strong public policy of protecting municipalities. Thus, the court concluded that recognizing a right of action would circumvent the intent of the VSA. View "City of Ashdown, Arkansas v. Netflix, Inc." on Justia Law