Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Hochendoner v. Genzyme Corp.
Fabry Disease, a rare genetic disorder, leaves afflicted persons unable to synthesize a key enzyme that helps the body break down fats. Untreated, Fabry patients suffer progressively more severe symptoms, including pain in their extremities, gastrointestinal issues, vision and hearing losses, stroke, and heart and kidney failure, eventually leading to premature death. Researchers at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine developed a method for producing a replacement enzyme, which effectively treats (but does not cure) Fabry. After patenting this method, Mt. Sinai granted an exclusive license to Genzyme, which became the sole producer of the replacement enzyme, "Fabrazyme," the only FDA-approved enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of Fabry. Genzyme provided the drug to Fabry patients until 2009. After a virus was discovered in improperly cleaned equipment at the company's manufacturing facility, Genzyme reduced production, leading to a Fabrazyme shortage. The company began rationing. Despite setbacks in reestablishing production levels, in 2011 Genzyme diverted some Fabrazyme to the European market, allegedly because of competition Genzyme faced from an alternative enzyme replacement therapy approved only in Europe. Two class action complaints were consolidated and dismissed. The First Circuit affirmed in part, for lack of standing, noting “the utter failure of any plaintiff (other than Mooney) to plausibly allege that he or she suffered an injury in fact as a result of accelerated disease progression or receipt of a contaminated drug.” View "Hochendoner v. Genzyme Corp." on Justia Law
Yershov v. Gannett Satellite Info. Network, Inc.
Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. is an international media company that produces news and entertainment programming through a proprietary mobile software application (the “App”). Plaintiff downloaded and installed the App on his Android mobile device. Every time Plaintiff watched a video clip on the App, Gannett shared information about Plaintiff with Adobe Systems Incorporated. Plaintiff brought this putative class-action lawsuit against Gannett for allegedly disclosing information about him to a third party in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). The district court dismissed the action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), concluding that that information disclosed by Gannett was “personally identifiable information” (PII) under the VPPA but that Plaintiff was not a “consumer” protected by the VPPA. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the complaint adequately alleged that Plaintiff was a “consumer” under the VPPA. Remanded. View "Yershov v. Gannett Satellite Info. Network, Inc." on Justia Law
In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig.
In 2011, former professional football players sued the NFL and Riddell, Inc., claiming that the NFL failed to take reasonable actions to protect them from the chronic risks of head injuries in football, and that Riddell, an equipment manufacturer, should be liable for the defective design of helmets. In 2012, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the cases in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which, in 2014, approved a class action settlement that covered over 20,000 retired players and released all concussion-related claims against the NFL. There were 202 opt-outs. Objectors argued that class certification was improper and that the settlement was unfair. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating: “This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players. It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.” View "In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig." on Justia Law
Reid v. Unilever United States, Inc.
The class representatives in three suits had purchased the Smoothing Kit, a hair product that supposedly would smooth hair and coat it with Keratin, a protein found naturally in hair. The Smoothing Kit was a disaster. Its active ingredient is extremely corrosive; if left on long enough, can dissolve the hair and burn the scalp. Asserting claims for breach of warranty, violations of state consumer fraud and deceptive practices laws, and unjust enrichment, plaintiffs in several states filed class action lawsuits. The cases were consolidated in the Northern District of Illinois, resulting in a settlement agreement. Martin objected to its approval which would provide a one‐time payment of $10 per person (the cost of the Smoothing Kit) plus payment to who suffered bodily injury. The Seventh Circuit upheld the approval, rejecting Martin’s argument that the personal injury settlement’s value was too low because it failed to recog‐ nize that there are a number of different applicable laws. The district court reasonably concluded that it had enough data for an informed decision and that the dollar amounts were within a reasonable range and reasonably considered and rejected injunctive relief. View "Reid v. Unilever United States, Inc." on Justia Law
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone
At issue in this case was the definition of “manifestation” for purposes of determining class membership in the Engle class. In Engle v. Liggett, the Supreme Court held that membership in the Engle class is established when the tobacco-related disease or medical condition “first manifested itself.” In the instant case, Plaintiff, as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased husband (Decedent), filed suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The trial court instructed the jury that “manifestation” occurred when Decedent experienced symptoms of or was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease. Decedent was not diagnosed until after the November 21, 1996, cut-off date for Engle class membership. The jury decided the issue of Engle class membership in favor of Plaintiff and later found in favor of Plaintiff on the majority of her claims. The Court of Appeal largely affirmed, concluding that Decedent’s “pre-1996 knowledge of a causal link between symptoms and tobacco” was unnecessary for class membership. The Supreme Court approved the Court of Appeal’s definition of “manifestation,” holding that “manifestation” for purposes of establishing membership in the Engle class is defined as the point at which the plaintiff began suffering from or experiencing symptoms of a tobacco-related disease or medical condition. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone" on Justia Law
Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Maurice Soffer died from lung cancer caused by smoking. Soffer’s widow, Lucille Soffer, brought a wrongful death action against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company pursuant to Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., alleging four causes of action, all of which had been pled in the Engle class litigation. Prior to trial, Soffer moved to amend her complaint to add a demand for punitive damages. The trial court granted the motion to amend. A judgment was entered for Soffer in the amount of $2 million. Soffer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it was prohibited from awarding punitive damages on the counts for negligence and strict liability based on the procedural posture of the original Engle class action. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that individual members of the Engle class action are bound by the procedural prosture of the Engle class representatives when they pursue their individual lawsuits and, thus, cannot seek punitive damages on negligence or strict liability counts. The Supreme Court quashed the Court of Appeal’s decision, holding that the individual members of the Engle class action are not prevented from seeking punitive damages on all claims properly raised in their subsequent individual actions. View "Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Lipsey v. Cox
Appellants, property owners and holders of oil and gas leases, filed a class-action complaint against Appellee, the circuit court clerk, alleging that Appellee and two of her deputies falsely and fraudulently notarized oil and gas leases. On remand and following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, concluding that Appellants had failed to show any damages as a result of Appellee’s purportedly unlawful act in recording the leases. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the grant of summary judgment was not in error, as none of the evidence relied upon by Appellants created a factual question as to whether they sustained damages as a result of the actions alleged in the complaint. View "Lipsey v. Cox" on Justia Law
Soseeah v. Sentry Insurance
Plaintiffs Delbert Soseeah, Maxine Soseeah and John Borrego filed this action against defendants Sentry Insurance, Dairyland Insurance Company, Peak Property and Casualty Insurance Company, and Viking Insurance Company of Wisconsin (collectively Sentry) claiming, in part, that Sentry failed to timely and properly notify them and other Sentry automobile insurance policyholders of the impact of two New Mexico Supreme Court decisions regarding the availability of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage under their respective policies. The complaint alleged that Delbert Soseeah, after being injured in a motor vehicle accident, made a claim for UM/UIM benefits under two policies of automobile insurance issued by Sentry to Mrs. Soseeah. According to the complaint, Mrs. Soseeah “never executed a valid waiver of UM/UIM coverage under the” two policies and, consequently, Mr. Soseeah “demanded that . . . Sentry reform” the two policies “to provide stacked uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage limits equal to the limits of the liability coverage on each of the vehicles covered by the” policies pursuant to the two New Mexico Supreme Court decisions. Sentry purportedly refused to reform the policies and rejected Mr. Soseeah’s claim for UM/UIM benefits. The complaint alleged that Sentry, by doing so, violated New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act (UPA), violated a portion of New Mexico’s Insurance Code known as the Trade Practices and Frauds Act (TPFA), breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breached the terms of the two policies. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Sentry subsequently sought and was granted permission to appeal the district court’s class certification ruling. Because plaintiffs failed to establish that all members of the general certified class suffered the common injury required by Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(2), the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court abused its discretion in certifying the general class. Because the district court’s certification ruling did not expressly address the Rule 23 factors as they applied to each of the identified subclasses, the Court did not have enough information to determine whether the district court abused its discretion in certifying two subclasses. Consequently, the Court directed the district court on remand to address these issues. View "Soseeah v. Sentry Insurance" on Justia Law
Pearson v. Philip Morris, Inc.
Plaintiffs were two individuals who purchased Marlboro Light cigarettes in Oregon. Defendant Philip Morris was the company that manufactured, marketed, and sold Marlboro Lights. Plaintiffs brought this action under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA), alleging that defendant misrepresented that Marlboro Lights would deliver less tar and nicotine than regular Marlboros and that, as a result of that misrepresentation, plaintiffs suffered economic losses. Plaintiffs moved to certify a class consisting of approximately 100,000 individuals who had purchased at least one pack of Marlboro Lights in Oregon over a 30-year period (from 1971 to 2001). The trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion after concluding that individual inquiries so predominated over common ones that a class action was not a superior means to adjudicate the putative class’s UTPA claim. On appeal, a majority of the Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s predominance assessment, concluding that the essential elements of the UTPA claim could be proved through evidence common to the class. The majority remanded to the trial court to reconsider whether, without the trial court’s predominance assessment, a class action was a superior means of litigating the class claims. In granting defendant’s petition for review, the Supreme Court considered whether common issues predominated for purposes of the class action certification decision, and what a private plaintiff in a UTPA case of this nature had to prove. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court properly denied class certification, and accordingly, it reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on the individual plaintiffs’ claims. View "Pearson v. Philip Morris, Inc." on Justia Law
Chavez v. Dole Food Co., Inc
More than 200 foreign agricultural workers allege they were exposed to the pesticide DBCP on banana farms throughout Central America, in the 1960s through the 1980s, resulting in health problems. Litigation began in 1993 with a putative class against Dole and related companies in Texas state court. Numerous suits were filed (and consolidated) in 2011 in the Eastern District of Louisiana against Dole and others. The court agreed granted Dole summary judgment based on the statute of limitations; the Fifth Circuit affirmed. Meanwhile, in 2012, several actions were filed in the District of Delaware against the same defendants and alleging the same causes of action. Dole moved to dismiss the Delaware lawsuits, arguing for the application of the first-filed rule. The court held that the rule applied while the case was on appeal to the Fifth Circuit and dismissed, reasoning that “one fair bite at the apple is sufficient.” Delaware subsequently dismissed other defendants. The Third Circuit affirmed: where there is federal concurrent jurisdiction over a matter, “the court which first ha[d] possession of the subject must decide it.” Plaintiffs conceded that the Delaware cases were “materially identical” to those previously filed in Louisiana. Concurrent jurisdiction existed at the time. View "Chavez v. Dole Food Co., Inc" on Justia Law