Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Briggs v. Merck Sharp & Dohme
Plaintiffs alleged in five separate tort cases that they, or the deceased individuals they represent, suffered from pancreatic cancer due to their use of incretin-based therapies for diabetes, including those developed by Defendant Merck and other defendant drug companies. Merck removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(11)(A), (B), and plaintiffs moved to remand the cases. The district court denied the motions for remand and subsequent motions for reconsideration. The court held, however, that plaintiffs' petitions for permission to appeal removal to federal court were timely because a timely motion for reconsideration of an order denying or granting a motion for remand under 28 U.S.C. 1453(c)(1) restarts the ten-day period during which a party may file a petition for permission to appeal. The court further held that in none of the five cases did plaintiffs propose that the claims of one hundred or more persons be tried jointly and therefore, the cases do not constitute a mass action under CAFA. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to grant plaintiffs' motions to remand. View "Briggs v. Merck Sharp & Dohme" on Justia Law
Windesheim v. Larocca
Respondents, three married couples, obtained home equity lines of credit from Petitioners, a bank and its loan officer. Approximately four years later, Petitioners filed a putative class action alleging that these transactions were part of an elaborate “buy-first-sell-later” mortgage fraud arrangement carried out by Petitioners and other defendants. Petitioners alleged numerous causes of action, including fraud, conspiracy, and violations of Maryland consumer protection statutes. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Petitioners, concluding that the statute of limitations barred several of Respondents’ claims and that no Petitioner violated the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law as a matter of law. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Court of Special Appeals (1) erred in concluding that Respondents stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law; and (2) erred in concluding that it was a question of fact to be decided by the jury as to whether Respondents’ claims against Petitioners were barred by the relevant statute of limitations. View "Windesheim v. Larocca" on Justia Law
Baker v. PHC-Minden, L.P.
Across the state, plaintiffs were filing complaints against health care providers from whom they sought treatment following automobile accidents and with whom their health care insurers had contracted reimbursement rates for the services rendered. At issue was the legality of these providers' policy of collecting or attempting to collect the undiscounted rate from the insured if a liability insurer may be liable, implemented through the filing of medical liens against plaintiffs' lawsuits and settlements pursuant to the health care provider lien statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a conflict among the appellate courts of this state on the issue of whether a class action is the superior method for adjudicating actions brought pursuant to the Health Care Consumer Billing and Disclosure Protection Act ("Balance Billing Act"). After review, the Court found plaintiffs in the Third Circuit Court of Appeal proceeded as a class, while plaintiffs in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal were denied class certification. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, the Supreme Court found the class action was superior to any other available method for a fair and efficient adjudication of the common controversy over the disputed billing and lien practices. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the Second Circuit. Finding all other requirements for class certification properly met, the Court reinstated the judgment of the trial court. View "Baker v. PHC-Minden, L.P." on Justia Law
Hood v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp.
Former and current employees filed a class action lawsuit in state court against Gilster and other defendants, alleging lung impairment (or potential lung impairment) from exposure to butter-flavoring products, including diacetyl, used in Gilster’s microwave popcorn packaging plant in Jasper, Missouri. Defendants removed the action to federal court. Six weeks later, the employees dismissed all defendants except Gilster. The district court ordered a remand to state court based on the Class Action Fairness Act’s local-controversy exception, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4), under which, a court is required to decline jurisdiction when “greater than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed,” determined as of the date of the filing. The district court permitted discovery on state citizenship. For all of the potential class members, except the current employees, plaintiffs provided only last-known addresses, some 27 years old, and did not identify state citizenship. The court ultimately found that 41 percent of potential class members were Missouri citizens. The Eighth Circuit reversed. Because the employees did not meet their burden of proof that a CAFA exception applies, the court erred by resolving doubt in favor of the party seeking remand. View "Hood v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp." on Justia Law
Folks v. State Farm Mutual
In 1998, a driver hit pedestrian-plaintiff Roberta Folks with the side mirror of his vehicle and injured her. State Farm, the driver’s insurer, informed Folks she could receive basic personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits under the driver’s policy. She received $104,000 in medical expenses and essential services. In 2002, State Farm told her she had exhausted the benefits available to her under the policy. Folks subsequently joined a lawsuit seeking additional PIP benefits in 2004. Over the course of the litigation, Folks unsuccessfully sought to certify a class on three attempts. In response to her last attempt in 2011, the district court determined she failed to satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(a) and Rule 23(b)(2) and denied class certification. A jury heard Folks’s individual claims and found in her favor in 2012. The district court amended the judgment in 2013 to correct errors in the calculation of damages. On appeal, Folks alleged the district court erred in denying class certification. She also argued the district court miscalculated the treble damages and statutory prejudgment interest to which she is entitled. Finding no error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Folks v. State Farm Mutual" on Justia Law
Allen v. Boeing Co.
In 2013, Plaintiffs filed an action against the Boeing Company and Landau Associates (Landau) in a Washington state court alleging that from the 1960s to the present years Boeing released toxins into the groundwater around its facility in Auburn, Washington and that for over a decade Landau, Boeing’s environmental-remediation contractor, had been negligent in its investigation and remediation of the pollution. Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs asserted state law claims of negligence, nuisance, and trespass. Boeing removed the action to a federal district court based on diversity jurisdiction and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The district court remanded the case to state court, concluding (1) contrary to Boeing’s allegations, Landau was not fraudulently joined, and thus there was not complete diversity; and (2) Plaintiffs’ action came within the local single event exception to CAFA federal jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that Boeing failed to show that Landau was fraudulently joined; but (2) Plaintiffs’ action does not come within the local single event exception to CAFA, and therefore, the district court has federal jurisdiction under CAFA. Remanded. View "Allen v. Boeing Co." on Justia Law
Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
In 1996, a Florida District Court of Appeal approved certification of a class-action lawsuit originating in the Circuit Court of Dade County that encompassed an estimated 700,000 Floridians who brought state-law damages claims against the major American tobacco companies for medical conditions, including cancer, "caused by their addiction to cigarettes that contain nicotine." The Florida Supreme Court then decertified the class but held that the jury findings would nonetheless have "res judicata effect" in cases thereafter brought against one or more of the tobacco companies by a former class member. Here, a member of that now-decertified class, successfully advanced strict-liability and negligence claims that trace their roots to the pre-decertified class' jury findings. Over the defendants' objection, the District Court instructed the jury that "you must apply certain findings made by the [class action] court and they must carry the same weight they would have if you had listened to all the evidence and made those findings yourselves." When the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on both claims, the defendants renewed their motion for a judgment as a matter of law, contending, among other things, that federal law preempted the jury’s imposition of tort liability as based on the class-action jury findings. The District Court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed. The Eleventh Circuit reversed: "the State of Florida may ordinarily enforce duties on cigarette manufacturers in a bid to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. But it may not enforce a duty, as it has through the [class-action] jury findings, premised on the theory that all cigarettes are inherently defective and that every cigarette sale is an inherently negligent act. So our holding is narrow indeed: it is only these specific, sweeping bases for state tort liability that we conclude frustrate the full purposes and objectives of Congress. As a result, [plaintiff's class-action]-progeny strict-liability and negligence claims are preempted, and we must reverse the District Court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law." View "Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Hess v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.
As surviving spouse of Stuart Hess and personal representative of his estate, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA (Defendant), asserting claims of fraudulent concealment and alleging that Mr. Hess detrimentally relied on and dried as a proximate result of Defendants’ fraud. A jury entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff and awarded both compensatory and punitive damages. Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law on the fraudulent concealment claim, arguing that it did not defraud Mr. Hess within the twelve-year fraud statute of repose period. The trial court denied the motion. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed for entry of judgment in Defendant’s favor on the fraudulent concealment claim and punitive damages award, concluding that the fraudulent concealment claim and punitive damages award were foreclosed by the statute of repose because Defendant did not defraud Mr. Hess within the repose period. The Supreme Court quashed the Fourth District’s decision and reinstated the jury verdict, holding that Defendant was precluded as a matter of law from raising the fraud statute of repose defense to Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim. View "Hess v. Philip Morris USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Oleszkowicz v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
In 2002, Warren Lester and hundreds of other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. and others seeking personal injury damages allegedly caused by exposure to naturally occurring radioactive material (“NORM”) and other hazardous materials at various Louisiana pipeyards operated by Intracoastal Tubular Services, Inc. (“ITCO”). A flight of several plaintiffs, including John Oleszkowicz, was severed and transferred to the 24th Judicial District Court, at which point the only remaining defendants were ITCO and Exxon. The jury considered each of the plaintiffs’ compensatory claims for increased risk of cancer, as well as a claim for exemplary damages pursuant to former La. Civ. Code art. 2315.3. During the course of trial, the district court instructed the jurors that plaintiffs could bring a “new lawsuit” in the event they actually contracted cancer. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded damages for the increased risk of cancer. Oleszkowicz was personally awarded $115,000 in compensatory damages. Significantly, the jury did not award exemplary damages to the plaintiffs for increased risk of cancer, based on a finding that Exxon did not engage in wanton or reckless conduct in the storage, handling, or transportation of hazardous or toxic substances. The court of appeal affirmed the judgment on appeal, and the Supreme Court denied writs. Several months after the verdict, Oleszkowicz was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As a result, he filed the instant suit against Exxon and others, alleging his cancer stemmed from the same NORM exposure at ITCO’s pipeyard. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the plaintiff’s claim for punitive and exemplary damages was barred by res judicata and, if so, whether “exceptional circumstances” existed to justify not applying res judicata to bar the claim, as set forth in La. Rev. Stat. 13:4232(A). Although the court of appeal cited “exceptional circumstances” to justify relief from the res judicata effect of the jury’s verdict on the issue of punitive damages, the Supreme Court found no such “exceptional circumstances” exist under the facts of this case and reversed the appellate court's ruling. View "Oleszkowicz v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
Decker v. GE Healthcare Inc.
In 2005, in connection with a magnetic resonance imaging procedure (MRI), Decker received a dose of Omniscan, a gadoliniumbased contrast agent manufactured by GEHC. After taking Omniscan, Decker developed Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF). In 2012, the Deckers sued GEHC, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL). Before the Deckers’ case, hundreds of similar cases in the MDL involving GEHC had been settled. The Decker case was the first case in the MDL to go to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Deckers on a failure-to-warn claim, awarding $5 million in damages. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that the district court judge should have recused himself from the trial and a motion for a new trial; made several erroneous evidentiary rulings, which were applicable to all MDL cases; erroneously denied GEHC’s motion for a new trial because insufficient evidence supported the jury’s verdict regarding the causation element of the Deckers’ failure-to-warn claim; and erroneously failed to issue two proposed jury instructions. View "Decker v. GE Healthcare Inc." on Justia Law