Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Patti Cahoo v. SAS Institute, Inc.
Out-of-work residents of Michigan may claim unemployment benefits if they meet certain eligibility criteria. The State’s Unemployment Insurance Agency oversees the benefits system. In 2011, with the help of private contractors, the Agency began to develop software to administer the unemployment system. The Agency sought to equip the software to auto-adjudicate as many parts of the claims process as possible. The Agency programmed software that used logic trees to help process cases and identify fraud. A claimant’s failure to return the fact-finding questionnaire, for example, led to a fraud finding, as did the claimant’s selection of certain multiple-choice responses. In August 2015, problems arose with some features of the system, prompting the Agency to turn off the auto-adjudication feature for fraud claims.Plaintiffs are four individuals who obtained unemployment benefits, which were terminated after the Agency flagged their claims for fraud. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against three government contractors and nineteen Agency staffers, raising claims under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, 26 U.S.C. Sec. 6402(f), and Michigan tort law. In a previous proceeding, the court held that plaintiffs’ due process rights clearly existed because they had alleged a deprivation of their property interests without adequate notice and without an opportunity for a pre-deprivation hearing.At this stage, because the remaining plaintiffs have failed to show that these procedures violate any clearly established law, the supervisors of the unemployment insurance agency are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court also found that an intervening plaintiff was properly prevented from joining the case, based on her untimely filing. View "Patti Cahoo v. SAS Institute, Inc." on Justia Law
Barajas v. Satvia L.A. County Water Dist.
The Sativa Water District was created in 1938 under the County Water District Law to provide potable drinking water to the residents living in a neighborhood in the unincorporated community of Willowbrook and parts of the City of Compton within Los Angeles County. On July 9, 2018, four named individuals— (collectively, Plaintiffs)—filed a putative class action lawsuit against the Sativa Water District. The Sativa Water District moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ entire lawsuit. Following a briefing, a hearing, and supplemental briefing, the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiffs asserted that the trial court erred in (1) granting the Sativa Water District’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, (2) denying Plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the order dismissing the County as a defendant, and (3) decertifying their class as to the nuisance claim. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the Reorganization Act grants a LAFCO discretion whether to permit a district to wind up its own affairs or whether instead to appoint a successor agency responsible for doing so. Because the LAFCO, in this case, took the latter route, Plaintiffs’ class action lawsuit against the dissolved district must be dismissed. The court further concluded that the trial court’s dismissal of the successor agency was proper because Legislature expressly granted civil immunity to that agency. View "Barajas v. Satvia L.A. County Water Dist." on Justia Law
LULAC Texas v. Hughes
After the Texas Legislature amended the Election Code in 2021, the United States and others sued, alleging the changes were racially discriminatory. When Plaintiffs sought discovery from individual, nonparty state legislators, those legislators withheld some documents, citing legislative privilege. The district court largely rejected the legislators’ privilege claims, and they filed this interlocutory appeal. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The court explained that for their part, the legislators rely on the privilege for each of the disputed documents. Plaintiffs, too, do not argue that the documents are non-legislative. Instead, they argue only that the privilege either “was waived” or “must yield.” The court wrote that the legislators did not waive the legislative privilege when they “communicated with parties outside the legislature, such as party leaders and lobbyists.” The district court’s contrary holding flouts the rule that the privilege covers “legislators’ actions in the proposal, formulation, and passage of legislation.” Finally, the court reasoned that Plaintiffs’ reliance on Jefferson Community Health Care Centers, Inc. v. Jefferson Parish Government is misplaced. That decision stated that “while the common-law legislative immunity for state legislators is absolute, the legislative privilege for state lawmakers is, at best, one which is qualified.” But that case provides no support for the idea that state legislators can be compelled to produce documents concerning the legislative process and a legislator’s subjective thoughts and motives. View "LULAC Texas v. Hughes" on Justia Law
Naranjo v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, Inc.
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
MSP v. Hereford
Plaintiff, MSP Recovery Claims, Series LLC (“MSP”) appealed from the district court’s judgment dismissing for lack of standing its putative class action against Defendant Hereford Insurance Company (“Hereford”) and denying leave to amend. MSP has brought several lawsuits around the country seeking to recover from insurance companies that allegedly owe payments to Medicare Advantage Organizations (“MAOs”) under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (the “MSP Act”). In the putative class action brought here, MSP charges Hereford with “deliberate and systematic avoidance” of Hereford’s reimbursement obligations under the MSP Act. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that MSP lacked standing because its allegations do not support an inference that it has suffered a cognizable injury or that the injury it claims is traceable to Hereford. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied MSP leave to amend based on MSP’s repeated failures to cure. The court explained that the plain language of Section 111 provides that when a no-fault insurance provider such as Hereford reports a claim pursuant to Section 111, it does not thereby admit that it is liable for the claim. The statutory context of the section’s reporting obligation and the purpose of the reporting obligation confirms the correctness of this interpretation. Because MSP’s argument that the payments made by EmblemHealth are reimbursable by Hereford rests entirely on its proposed interpretation of Section 111, MSP has not adequately alleged a “concrete” or “actual” injury or that the injury it alleges is fairly traceable to Hereford. View "MSP v. Hereford" on Justia Law
KYM PARDINI, ET AL V. UNILEVER UNITED STATES, INC.
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
Mexican Gulf v. U.S. Dept. of Comm
Plaintiffs are captains of charter boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico with federal for-hire permits, and their companies. They filed a class-action complaint in the Eastern District of Louisiana in August of 2020, naming as Defendants the Department of Commerce, NOAA, NMFS, and related federal officials. This appeal concerns a regulation issued by the United States Department of Commerce that requires charter-boat owners to, at their own expense, install onboard a vessel monitoring system that continuously transmits the boat’s GPS location to the Government, regardless of whether the vessel is being used for commercial or personal purposes. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and held that in promulgating this regulation, the Government committed multiple independent Administrative Procedure Act violations, and very likely violated the Fourth Amendment. The court wrote that two components of the Final Rule are unlawful. First, the Magnuson-Stevens Act does not authorize the Government to issue the GPS-tracking requirement. In addition, that rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is arbitrary and capricious, in turn because the Government failed to address Fourth Amendment issues when considering it and failed to rationally consider the associated costs and benefits. Second, the business-information requirement violates the APA because the Government did not give fair notice that it would require the type of data specified in the Final Rule. View "Mexican Gulf v. U.S. Dept. of Comm" on Justia Law
Kluge v. Department of Homeland Security
Kluge, an Army Reserve commissioned officer and a civilian employee of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was ordered under 10 U.S.C. 12301(d) to report to active duty in support of a contingency operation, Operation Enduring Freedom. He was absent from his DHS job from January 15 to July 30, 2011. For the first few weeks, Kluge was on paid military leave; from February 27 until July 30, DHS did not pay him except for the July 4 holiday. Kluge sought to recover differential pay under 5 U.S.C. 5538 for himself and similarly situated service members employed by the federal government, naming the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as the respondent.An administrative judge denied class certification and substituted DHS for OPM. DHS and Kluge stipulated that he was eligible for differential pay. The AJ determined that DHS owed Kluge $274.37 plus interest. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The court upheld a finding that putative class members lack commonality or that identifying class members and adjudicating their claims as a class would not be fairer or more efficient. There was no legal error or abuse of discretion in the substitution of DHS for OPM. Kluge failed to show any error in calculating the differential pay. View "Kluge v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law
Bitner v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation
Plaintiffs-appellants Jennifer Bitner and Evelina Herrera were employed as licensed vocational nurses by defendant-respondent California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They filed a class action suit against CDCR alleging that: (1) while assigned to duties that included one-on-one suicide monitoring, they were subjected to acts of sexual harassment by prison inmates; and (2) CDCR failed to prevent or remedy the situation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12940 et seq. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of CDCR on the ground that it was entitled to statutory immunity under section 844.6, which generally provided that “a public entity is not liable for . . . [a]n injury proximately caused by any prisoner.” Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that, as a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal should interpret section 844.6 to include an exception for claims brought pursuant to FEHA. Plaintiffs also argued that, even if claims under FEHA were not exempt from the immunity granted in section 844.6, the evidence presented on summary judgment did not establish that their injuries were “ ‘proximately caused’ ” by prisoners. The Court of Appeal disagreed on both points and affirmed the judgment. View "Bitner v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation" on Justia Law
Imperial County Sheriff’s Assn. v. County of Imperial
Plaintiffs, six individuals employed by the County of Imperial, and the three unions representing them (the Imperial County Sheriff’s Association (ICSA), the Imperial County Firefighter’s Association (ICFA), and the Imperial County Probation and Corrections Peace Officers’ Association (PCPOA)), brought a class action lawsuit against the County of Imperial, the Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System, and the System’s Board alleging that the defendants were systematically miscalculating employee pension contributions. After two years of failed mediation, plaintiffs moved for class certification under Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the conflicting interests of two primary groups of employees, those hired before the effective date of the Public Employee Pension Reform Act and those hired after, precluded the court from certifying a class. The court found that because the employees hired before PEPRA took effect were entitled to an enhanced pension benefit unavailable to those hired after, the two groups’ interests were antagonistic and the community of interest among the proposed class members required for certification could not be met. The trial court also concluded the proposed class representatives had failed to show they could adequately represent the class. On appeal, plaintiffs contended insufficient evidence supported the trial court’s finding that there was an inherent conflict among the class members that precluded class certification and that the court’s legal reasoning on this factor was flawed. The plaintiffs also argued they should have been given an opportunity to show they could adequately represent the interests of the class. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning concerning the community of interest among the proposed class, and agreed with plaintiffs they should be provided an opportunity to demonstrate their adequacy. Accordingly, the order denying class certification was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court with directions to allow the proposed class representatives to file supplemental declarations addressing their adequacy to serve in this role. Thereafter, if the trial court approves of the class representatives, the court was directed to grant plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, including the creation of the subclasses identified by the Court. View "Imperial County Sheriff's Assn. v. County of Imperial" on Justia Law