Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Contracts
Eddlemon v. Bradley Universityx
In March 2020, Bradley University closed its campus and canceled in-person activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It canceled one week of classes as it migrated to remote learning. Bradley resumed classes virtually and offered remote activities and resources. The campus remained closed for the rest of the semester. Bradley never rescheduled the week of canceled classes; the Spring 2020 Semester was 14 weeks instead of the planned 15 weeks of classes listed in Bradley’s Catalog, which stated: “This catalog serves as a contract between a student and Bradley.” Full-time, on-campus students had paid $17,100 in tuition and an $85 activity fee. The University provided pro-rata refunds for room and board to students who were forced to leave on-campus housing but did not refund tuition or activity fees.Eddlemon filed a purported class action, alleging that Bradley breached an implied contract to provide 15 weeks of classes and on-campus activities, and, alternatively that the University’s retention of tuition and activity fees constituted unjust enrichment. The district court certified a “Tuition Class” and an “Activity Fee Class.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court did not conduct the rigorous analysis required by Rule 23 for class certification but repeatedly referred to Eddlemon’s allegations without addressing his proffered evidence or examining how he would prove his allegations with common evidence. View "Eddlemon v. Bradley Universityx" on Justia Law
Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP
Plaintiff filed suit against Homolka, Homolka P.A., Watts Guerra, and Watts, alleging he is owed (1) $10,000 per month as leasing payments from October 2015, the first month he stopped receiving payments, until the September 2017 settlement; (2) a promised $50,000 truck reimbursement; and (3) a $3.4 million bonus. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for Plaintiff, finding that Homolka breached the oral contract, acting as an agent of Homolka P.A. and Watts Guerra. The jury awarded $175,000 in compensatory damages with no prejudgment interest. The district court denied Watts Guerra’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. Watts Guerra and Plaintiff cross-appealed these rulings. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that it agreed with the district court that the jury reasonably found Watts Guerra liable on an ostensible agency theory for Homolka’s breaches of the contract underlying the jury’s award of $175,000 in compensatory damages. The court reasoned that in considering these issues, “we start with the assumption jurors fulfilled their obligation to decide the case correctly,” and “we defer second to the trial court, which has a far better sense of what the jury likely was thinking and also whether there is any injustice in allowing the verdict to stand.” Applying these deferential standards, the court wrote that it has no difficulty concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The jury verdict awarding $175,000 compensatory damages was neither inadequate nor the product of an inappropriate compromise. View "Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP" on Justia Law
Christina Rynasko v. New York University
Plaintiff appealed the district court’s decision dismissing her claims against New York University (NYU) and declining to allow her to amend her complaint to add another plaintiff. Plaintiff s a parent of an adult student who attended New York University (NYU) (Defendant-Appellee) during the Spring 2020 semester—a semester during which NYU suspended its in-person operations and transitioned to remote instruction. Alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and other claims, Plaintiff brought a putative class action suit against NYU to partially recover the tuition and fees she paid for her daughter’s Spring 2020 semester. The district court granted NYU’s motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff lacked standing and denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint to add a current NYU student as an additional plaintiff because it concluded that amendment would be futile. The Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court correctly determined that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring her breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims because she has not alleged an injury-in-fact to herself, rather than to her daughter. The court held that Plaintiff fails to plausibly allege a claim for conversion. The court wrote that for these reasons, the district court properly dismissed her claims. However, the court concluded that amending the complaint to add a current student as plaintiff would not be futile. The student plaintiff plausibly alleged claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and money had and received that would survive a motion to dismiss. View "Christina Rynasko v. New York University" on Justia Law
Decker v. Star Financial Group Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting a motion to compel arbitration brought by Defendant Star Financial Group, Inc. in this class-action complaint alleging that Defendant collected improper overdraft fees, holding that Plaintiffs' account agreement did not allow Defendant to add an addendum to the terms and conditions of the account agreement.When Plaintiffs opened their checking account they assented to an account agreement detailing the terms and conditions of their relationship with Defendant. Before Plaintiffs brought this suit Defendant added an arbitration and no-class-action addendum to the terms and conditions of Plaintiffs' account agreement. When Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit Defendants cited the addendum and filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs were not bound by the arbitration addendum to their account agreement because the account agreement's change-of-terms provision did not allow Plaintiff to add the addendum. View "Decker v. Star Financial Group Inc." on Justia Law
McCutcheon v. Colgate-Palmolive Co.
Plaintiffs brought a class action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), arguing that Defendant Colgate-Palmolive Co. miscalculated residual annuities based on an erroneous interpretation of its retirement income plan and improperly used a pre-retirement mortality discount to calculate residual annuities, thereby working an impermissible forfeiture of benefits under ERISA. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs on these claims. Colgate appealed that order and the final judgment of the district court. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the text of the RAA is unambiguous and requires Colgate to calculate a member's residual annuity by subtracting the AE of LS from that member's winning annuity under Appendix C Section 2(b). Further, the court wrote that Colgate's "same-benefit" argument does not disturb our conclusion that the RAA's language is unambiguous. Because "unambiguous language in an ERISA plan must be interpreted and enforced in accordance with its plain meaning," the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the class Plaintiffs as to Error 1. View "McCutcheon v. Colgate-Palmolive Co." on Justia Law
Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
Lindenwood Female College (Lindenwood) asserted class action claims against its casualty insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), alleging a wrongful denial of coverage for COVID-19 business interruption at its Missouri and Illinois properties. The district court granted Zurich’s motion to dismiss, finding no plausible allegation of coverage. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Lindenwood’s argument fails to identify an ambiguity. The court explained that in its view, no lay person—no reasonable insured—could look at the policy as a whole and fail to appreciate that the state-specific endorsements are intended to apply in the respective states. The references to Louisiana and other states are not mere titles; they serve to establish the structure of the policy as a whole. And it would simply make no sense to define a contamination exclusion with express reference to viral contamination in the main body of the policy only to wholly eliminate that same exclusion nationwide in a later endorsement that references an individual state. View "Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company
Plaintiffs are three skiers who purchased an Ikon Pass for the 2019–20 ski season. Each pass provided purchasers with unlimited ski access at participating Ikon resorts in North America. Along with their Ikon Pass, Plaintiffs purchased an optional Ski Pass Preserver insurance policy from Arch. After Plaintiffs purchased their passes, state and local governments issued orders, colloquially called “stay-at-home orders,” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In response to these orders, ski resorts throughout North America closed with approximately one-third of the ski season remaining. Plaintiffs sought reimbursement for the loss of their ski pass benefits under the policy based on the Season Pass Interruption coverage. Arch denied their claims. The company took the position that the stay-at-home orders were not quarantines under the policy, later posting a “blanket denial” for such claims on its website. Plaintiffs filed one master consolidated class action complaint on behalf of themselves and a nationwide putative class of individuals who purchased the Ski Pass Preserver policy for the 2019–20 ski season. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege a covered loss because the term “quarantined,” as used in the policy, did not encompass stay-at-home orders that merely limited travel and activities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the ordinary person at the time the Ski Pass Preserver policy was purchased would have understood “quarantined” to mean the compulsory isolation of the insured. Reading the policy as a whole, this is the only reasonable construction, and the court agreed with the district court that the policy language is unambiguous. View "Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company" on Justia Law
TIFFANY HILL V. XEROX BUSINESS SERVICES, LLC, ET AL
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
Steven Goldsmith v. Lee Enterprises
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
KEVIN JOHNSON V. WALMART INC.