Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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The First Circuit dismissed the appeal in the underlying putative action removed from Massachusetts state court to the federal district court concerning a motion to compel arbitration, holding that the order was not a final decision and not within an exception that would permit interlocutory review.Plaintiff brought this putative class action alleging that Defendant, a debt collector, alleging violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A and 940 Mass. Code Regs. 7.01-.10. Defendant moved to compel arbitration in the state court, relying on an arbitration provision in the service contract between Plaintiff and the holder of the alleged debt Defendant was attempting to collect. The state court denied the motion, after which Defendant removed the case to federal court, where it filed another motion to compel arbitration. The district court treated the motion as a motion for reconsideration of the state court order denying the arbitration and then denied it. The First Circuit dismissed Defendant's appeal, holding that this was an improper interlocutory appeal. View "Powers v. Receivables Performance Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) stopped providing “Rapid Delivery”1 to Amazon Prime (“Prime”) subscribers. Because Prime subscribers were not notified of the suspension and continued to pay full price for their memberships, Plaintiff and others brought a putative class action against Amazon alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”), and unjust enrichment. The district court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim with prejudice because it found that Amazon did not have a duty to provide unqualified Rapid Delivery to Prime subscribers.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that it is allowed to use its “experience and common sense” to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic even though it was not included as a factual allegation in the First Amended Complaint. The court dispensed with this argument because Amazon’s prioritization of essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic obviously did not harm the public interest. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs specifically incorporated the terms of their contract with Amazon as part of their unjust enrichment count. So, while Plaintiffs may plead breach of contract and unjust enrichment in the alternative, they have not done so. Instead, Plaintiffs pleaded a contractual relationship as part of their unjust enrichment claim, and that contractual relationship defeats their unjust enrichment claim under Washington law. View "Andrez Marquez, et al v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a putative class action involving a water main break the Supreme Court denied a requested writ of prohibition sought by West Virginia-American Water Company (WVAWC) to preclude enforcement of the circuit court's order certifying an "issues" class pursuant to W. Va. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(4), holding that WVAWC failed to demonstrate that the circuit court's class certification was clearly erroneous.The water break in this case and its ensuing repair resulted in water service interruptions that caused outages, inadequate water pressure, and boil water advisories affecting 25,000 WVAWC customers. Respondents filed this putative class complaint on behalf of the putative class asserting breach of contract and other claims. The circuit court certified the "issues" class to determine "the overarching common issues" as to WVAWC's liability, resulting in WVAWC bringing this action. The Supreme Court denied the requested writ of prohibition, holding that WVAWC failed to demonstrate that the circuit court's class certification was clearly erroneous. View "State ex rel. West Virginia-American Water Co. v. Honorable Webster" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding that Ford Motor Credit Company, LLC failed to meet its evidentiary burden to show the existence of an arbitration agreement in this case surrounding a dispute over the unpaid balance on an automobile loan, holding that the circuit court erred.Ford Credit sued Ronald Miller for the alleged balance due on a loan. Miller asserted a class action counterclaim for unlawful debt collection practices, in response to which Ford Credit filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Ford Credit failed to provide evidence that an arbitration agreement existed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the existence of an arbitration agreement between the parties had been established. View "Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) prohibits the misbranding of any food. A food is deemed to be misbranded if it meets any of the definitions in 21 U.S.C. Section 343. To implement this subsection, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) promulgated regulations governing the nutrition labeling of dietary supplements. Plaintiff alleged that she and other consumers were damaged because “they paid for a product that they would not have purchased had it truthfully disclosed that it did not contain Glucosamine Sulfate.” The second amended complaint claimed violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Competition Law, the California False Advertising Law, unjust enrichment, restitution, and breach of warranty. The district court concluded that Walmart had carried its burden of showing Plaintiff’s state-law claims were preempted by federal law.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment for Walmart Inc. The panel held that Defendant’s proposed rule to the contrary was preempted. The holding in Durnford v. MusclePharm Corp., 907 F.3d 595 (9th Cir. 2018), did not provide otherwise. Nothing in Durnford suggested its analysis applied only to the nutrition panel. The panel concluded that Defendant’s claims were preempted, and Walmart was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "DARLENE HOLLINS, ET AL V. WALMART INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Medical Center seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and alleging violations of the unfair competition law (UCL) and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) in connection with Medical Center’s emergency room billing practices. Briefly summarized, Plaintiff alleged Medical Center’s practice of charging him (and other similarly situated patients) an undisclosed “Evaluation and Management Services Fee” (EMS Fee) was an “unfair, deceptive, and unlawful practice.” The trial entered judgment in favor of Defendants.   The Fifth Appellate District reversed. The court held that Plaintiff sought a declaration of the parties' rights and duties under the COA and their legal rights in connection with EMS Fee disclosures. An actual controversy is alleged and appears to exist. Plaintiff is entitled to seek declaratory relief in regard to each controversy stated. The court concluded he has adequately stated a cause of action for declaratory relief. The court wrote that on remand, the trial court will have the discretion to consider a motion by Plaintiff to amend the FAC to state a cause of action for breach of contract should Plaintiff choose to file one. View "Naranjo v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Butter! Spray is a butter-flavored vegetable oil dispensed in pump-action squirt bottles with a spray mechanism. The front label on the product states that the Butter! Spray has 0 calories and 0 grams of fat per serving. Plaintiffs are a class of consumers who brought their lawsuit against the then-manufacturer, Unilever United States, Inc., contending that the product’s label makes misrepresentations about fat and calorie content based on artificially low serving sizes. The district court found that Plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that Butter! Spray was not a “spray type” fat or oil under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The district court further held that the FDCA preempted plaintiffs’ serving size claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal. The panel held that, as a matter of legal classification, Butter! Spray was a “spray.” In common parlance, a “spray” refers to liquid dispensed in the form of droplets, emitted from a mechanism that allows the product to be applied in that manner. In addition, the notion that Butter! Spray could be housed under the FDA’s legal classification for “butter” is implausible. The panel also rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that Butter! Spray is a “butter substitute” based on how it is marketed so it should be treated as “butter” for serving size purposes, too. The court explained that because Plaintiffs’ challenge to the Butter! Spray serving sizes would “directly or indirectly establish” a requirement for food labeling that is “not identical” to federal requirements, the FDCA preempts their serving size claims. View "KYM PARDINI, ET AL V. UNILEVER UNITED STATES, INC." on Justia Law

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This is an appeal from a district court order approving a class-action settlement that purports to provide injunctive relief and up to $8 million in monetary relief to a class of individuals (the “Class”) who purchased one or more “brain performance supplements” manufactured and sold by Defendants Reckitt Benckiser LLC and RB Health (US) LLC (together, “RB”) under the brand name “Neuriva.” Five Plaintiffs (together, the “Named Plaintiffs”) who had previously purchased Neuriva brought a putative class action, alleging that RB used false and misleading statements to give consumers the impression that Neuriva and its “active ingredients” had been clinically tested and proven to improve brain function. The parties promptly agreed to a global settlement (the “Settlement” or “Settlement Agreement”) that sought to resolve the claims of all Plaintiffs and absent Class members. The current appeal involves one unnamed Class member, an attorney and frequent class-action objector, who objected in district court and subsequently appealed the district court’s approval order.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that the Named Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims for injunctive relief. The court explained that Plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief must establish that they are likely to suffer an injury that is “actual or imminent,” not “conjectural or hypothetical.” But none of the Named Plaintiffs allege that they plan to purchase any of the Neuriva Products again. The district court, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to award injunctive relief to the Named Plaintiffs or absent Class members, and its approval of the Settlement Agreement was an abuse of discretion. View "David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Minnesota sued a litany of fossil fuel producers1 (together, the Energy Companies) in state court for common law fraud and violations of Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes. In doing so, it joined the growing list of states and municipalities trying to hold fossil fuel producers responsible for alleged misrepresentations about the effects fossil fuels have had on the environment. The Energy Companies removed to federal court. The district court granted Minnesota’s motion to remand, and the Energy Companies appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Congress has not acted to displace the state-law claims, and federal common law does not supply a substitute cause of action, the state-law claims are not completely preempted. The court reasoned that because the “necessarily raised” element is not satisfied, the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule does not apply to Minnesota’s claims. Further, the court wrote that the connection between the Energy Companies’ marketing activities and their OCS operations is even more attenuated. Thus, neither requirement is met, there is no federal jurisdiction under Section 1349. View "State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute" on Justia Law

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A putative class of over 12 million merchants brought this antitrust action under the Sherman Act against Visa U.S.A. Inc., MasterCard International Inc., and numerous banks that serve as payment-card issuers for those networks. Plaintiffs alleged that Visa and MasterCard adopted and enforced rules and practices relating to payment cards that had the combined effect of injuring merchants by allowing Visa and MasterCard to charge supracompetitive fees (known as “interchange fees”) on each payment card transaction. After nearly fifteen years of litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement of roughly $ 5.6 billion, which was approved by the district court over numerous objections. In so doing, $900,000 in service awards was granted to lead plaintiffs, and roughly $523 million was granted in attorneys’ fees. Appellants are various objectors who argue that the district court erred when it certified the class, approved the settlement, granted service awards and computed attorneys’ fees.   The Second Circuit affirmed in all respects the district court’s orders to the extent they constituted a final judgment, with the exception that the court directed the district court to reduce the service award to class representatives to the extent that its size was increased by time spent in lobbying efforts that would not increase the recovery of damages. The court made no ruling as to how damages should be allocated between branded oil companies and their branded service station franchisees, the reasonableness of the special master’s ultimate findings, or the legality of releasing an as-of-yet hypothetical future claim. View "In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust" on Justia Law