Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Blazine Monaco v. WV Parkways Authority
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
CARA JONES, ET AL V. GOOGLE LLC, ET AL
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
COLIN BRICKMAN V. META PLATFORMS, INC.
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
Murray v. McDonald
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
Beasley v. Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc.
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
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Class Action, Consumer Law, Personal Injury
City of Ashdown, Arkansas v. Netflix, Inc.
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
Morgan v. Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc.
In 2008, California enacted a Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE) as a method for homeowners to finance energy and water conservation improvements. A PACE debt was created by contract and secured by the improved property. But like a tax, the installment payments were billed and paid as a special assessment on the improved property, resulting in a first-priority tax lien in the event of default. The named plaintiffs in these putative class actions were over 65 years old and entered into PACE contracts. The defendants were private companies who either made PACE loans to plaintiffs, were assigned rights to payment, and/or administered PACE programs for municipalities. The gravamen of the complaint in each case was that PACE financing was actually, and should have been treated as, a secured home improvement loan. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by violating consumer protection laws, including Civil Code section 1804.1(j), which prohibited taking a security interest in a senior citizen’s residence to secure a home improvement loan. Generally, a taxpayer could not pursue a court action for a refund of property taxes without first applying to the local board of equalization for a reduction and then filing an administrative claim for a refund. Here, defendants demurred to the complaints on the sole ground that plaintiffs failed to allege they first exhausted administrative remedies. The trial court agreed, sustained the demurrers without leave to amend, and entered a judgment of dismissal in each case. On appeal, plaintiffs primarily contend they were not required to pursue administrative remedies because they have sued only private companies and do not challenge “any aspect of the municipal tax process involved.” The Court of Appeal found that despite their assertions to the contrary, plaintiffs did challenge their property tax assessments. And although they did not sue any government entity, the “consumer protection statutes under which plaintiffs brought their action cannot be employed to avoid the limitations and procedures set out by the Revenue and Taxation Code.” Thus, the Court concluded plaintiffs were required to submit their claims through the administrative appeals process in the first instance. "Their failure to do so requires the judgments to be affirmed." View "Morgan v. Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc." on Justia Law
IN RE: NAMED PLAINTIFFS, ET AL V. APPLE INC.
Apple entered into a $310 million settlement with a class of individuals based on claims that Apple secretly throttled the system performance of certain model iPhones to mask battery defects. Five class objectors sought to vacate the settlement on various grounds, including 1.) that the district court provided inadequate notice of the settlement to nonnatural persons; 2.) the settlement extinguished the claims of “all former or current U.S. owners” of certain devices who downloaded iOS software before Apple disclosed potential defect, but the settlement limited recovery to the subset of owners who can attest that “they experienced” the alleged defects; and 3.) that the district court cited the wrong legal standard in examining the settlement’s fairness by improperly applying a presumption of reasonableness to the settlement rather than applying a heightened scrutiny.The Ninth Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong legal standard when reviewing the settlement’s fairness. View "IN RE: NAMED PLAINTIFFS, ET AL V. APPLE INC." on Justia Law
Tammie Thompson v. Ciox Health, LLC
Plaintiffs were injured in unspecified accidents and treated by South Carolina health care providers. Seeking to pursue personal injury lawsuits, Plaintiffs requested their medical records from the relevant providers. Those records—and accompanying invoices—were supplied by defendants Ciox Health, LLC and ScanSTAT Technologies LLC, “information management companies” that retrieve medical records from health care providers and transmit them to requesting patients or patient representatives. Claiming the invoiced fees were too high or otherwise illegal, Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Ciox and ScanSTAT in federal district court. The district court dismissed the complaint and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that South Carolina law gives patients a right to obtain copies of their medical records, while capping the fees “a physician, or other owner” may bill for providing them. However, the statutory obligations at issue apply only to physicians and other owners of medical records, not medical records companies. View "Tammie Thompson v. Ciox Health, LLC" on Justia Law
Limon v. Circle K Stores
Plaintiff’s complaint alleged Circle K violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by failing to provide him with proper FCRA disclosures when it sought and received his authorization to obtain a consumer report about him in connection with his application for employment, and by actually obtaining the consumer report in reliance on that authorization. Plaintiff appealed from a judgment of dismissal entered in favor of respondent Circle K Stores Inc. (Circle K) and against Plaintiff after the trial court sustained Circle K’s demurrer to Plaintiff’s CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT (complaint) without leave to amend. The Fifth Appellate affirmed the judgment of dismissal. The court explained that Plaintiff did not allege he did not receive a copy of the consumer report that Circle K obtained. Plaintiff does not allege the consumer report obtained by Circle K contains any defamatory content or other per se injurious content. He does not allege the consumer report contained false or inaccurate information. Similarly, there are no allegations of any exposure to a material risk of future harm, imminent or substantial. Thus, there was no injury to Plaintiff’s protected interest in ensuring fair and accurate credit (or background) reporting. The court also rejected Plaintiff’s claims he suffered “informational injury” sufficient to confer upon him standing to maintain his action. “Informational injury that causes no adverse effects”—e.g., where required information is provided but is provided in the wrong format as in the present case—has been held insufficient to satisfy Article III standing. View "Limon v. Circle K Stores" on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Class Action, Consumer Law