Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Internet Law
In re Google Referrer Header Privacy Litigation
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order approving the cy pres-only settlement arising from class action claims that Google violated users' privacy by disclosing their Internet search terms to owners of third-party websites. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving a cy pres- only settlement where the settlement funds were non-distributable; the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the superiority requirement was met because the litigation would otherwise be economically infeasible; the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the six cy pres recipients; the district court appropriately found that the cy pres distribution addressed the objectives of the Stored Communications Act and furthered the interests of the class members; a prior relationship or connection between the cy pres recipient and the parties or their counsel, without more, was not an absolute disqualifier; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by approving $2.125 million in fees and $21,643.16 in costs. View "In re Google Referrer Header Privacy Litigation" on Justia Law
Taha v. County of Bucks
Defendants created a publicly searchable “Inmate Lookup Tool” into which they uploaded information about thousands of people who had been held or incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility since 1938. Taha filed suit, alleging that the County and Correctional Facility had publicly disseminated information on the internet in violation of the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 9102, about his expunged 1998 arrest and incarceration. The district court granted Taha partial summary judgment on liability before certifying a punitive damages class of individuals about whom incarceration information had been disseminated online. The court then found that the only remaining question of fact was whether defendants had acted willfully in disseminating the information. After the court certified the class, the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed the class certification order, rejecting an argument that the district court erred in granting Taha partial summary judgment on liability before ruling on class certification. The court upheld conclusions that punitive damages can be imposed in a case in which the plaintiff does not recover compensatory damages, that punitive damages can be imposed on government agencies, and that the predominance requirement under FRCP 23(b)(3) was met so that a class could be certified. View "Taha v. County of Bucks" on Justia Law
Caligiuri v. Symantec Corp.
The court affirmed the approval of a class action settlement and grant of attorneys' fees and service awards in a suit alleging that Symantec failed to disclose that consumers could use various free alternatives to re-download their Norton anti-virus software. The district court did not abuse its discretion by approving the settlement without knowing the final administrative costs or the final amount received by the class; in awarding the requested fees where the circumstances of this case justified a large award, and the reasonableness of the award was cross-checked against the lodestar method; in approving the terms of the settlement agreement providing that any minimal remaining funds would be distributed to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as an appropriate cy pres recipient; and in awarding service awards to each of the named plaintiffs. View "Caligiuri v. Symantec Corp." on Justia Law
Pulaski & Middleman, LLC v. Google, Inc.
Google's AdWords program is an auction-based program through which advertisers would bid for Google to place their advertisements on websites. Pulaski and others filed a putative class action alleging that Google misled them as to the types of websites on which their advertisements could appear. On appeal, Pulaski challenged the district court's denial of class certification, holding that on the claim for restitution, common questions did not predominate over questions affecting individual class members. The court held that a court need not make individual determinations regarding entitlement to restitution. Instead, restitution is available on a class wide basis once the class representative makes the threshold showing of liability. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court erred in holding that such individual questions would predominate. In Yokoyama v. Midland National Life Insurance Co., the court held that damage calculations alone cannot defeat certification. The court concluded that Yokoyama remains the law of the court and the district court erred in not following the rule in Yokoyama. Finally, the court concluded that the proposed method for calculating restitution was not “arbitrary” under Comcast Corp. v. Behrend. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Pulaski & Middleman, LLC v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law
Byrd v. Aaron’s Inc
Aaron’s stores sell and lease residential and office furniture, consumer electronics, and appliances. Byrd leased a laptop computer from Aspen, an Aaron’s franchisee. Although Byrd asserts that she made full payments, an Aspen agent came to repossess the laptop, claiming that the payments had not been made. The agent allegedly presented a screenshot of a poker website Byrd had visited as well as a picture of Byrd taken by the laptop’s camera. Aspen obtained the picture and screenshot through spyware named “PC Rental Agent” that can collect screenshots, keystrokes, and webcam images from the computer and its users. Between November 16, 2010 and December 20, 2010, the Byrds alleged that this spyware secretly accessed their laptop 347 times on 11 different days. According their putative class action, alleging violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. 2511, 895 customers had surveillance conducted through PC Rental Agent. Concluding that the proposed classes were not ascertainable, the district court denied class certification. The Third Circuit reversed. The court erred by: misstating the rule governing ascertainability; engrafting an “underinclusive” requirement; finding that an “overly broad” class was not ascertainable; and improperly applying precedent to the issue of whether “household members” could be ascertainable. View "Byrd v. Aaron's Inc" on Justia Law
Mortensen, et al. v. Bresnan Communications, LLC
Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against Bresnan alleging violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. 2520-21, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030, and Montana state law for invasion of privacy and trespass to chattels in connection with targeted advertising they received while using Bresnan's Internet service. The district court declined to enforce a choice-of-law clause in the service subscriber agreement, provided to all Bresnan customers, specifying that New York law should apply, and an arbitration clause. The court held that AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion further limited the savings clause in the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1-2 et seq., and therefore, the court held that the FAA preempted Montana's reasonable expectations/fundamental rights rule and that the district court erred in not applying New York law because a state's preempted public policy was an impermissible basis on which to reject the parties' choice-of-law selection. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's denial of Bresnan's motion to compel arbitration and remanded to the district court with instructions to apply New York law to the arbitration agreement. View "Mortensen, et al. v. Bresnan Communications, LLC" on Justia Law
The Authors Guild Inc., et al. v. Google, Inc.
Plaintiffs, an association of authors and several individual authors, filed suit against Google alleging that it committed copyright infringement through the Library Project of its "Google Books" search tool by scanning and indexing more than 20 million books and making available for public display "snippets" of most books upon a user's search. On appeal, Google challenged the district court's grant of class certification. The court believed that the resolution of Google's fair use defense in the first instance would necessarily inform and perhaps moot the court's analysis of many class certification issues and that holding the issue of certification in abeyance until Google's fair use defense has been resolved would not prejudice the interests of either party. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to consider the fair use issues. View "The Authors Guild Inc., et al. v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law
Unspam Technologies v. Chernuk
Plaintiffs commenced this putative class action alleging that defendants participated in a global Internet conspiracy to sell illegal prescription drugs, in violation of the laws of the United States and Virginia. At issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in dismissing the complaint against four foreign banks for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court concluded that Rule 4(k)(2) did not justify the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the banks because exercising jurisdiction over them would not, in the circumstances here, be consistent with the United States Constitution and laws. Subjecting the banks to the coercive power of the court in the United States, in the absence of minimum contacts, would constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's orders dismissing the complaint against the banks. View "Unspam Technologies v. Chernuk" on Justia Law
Schnabel et al. v. Trilegiant Corp. et al.
Plaintiffs brought suit against defendants on behalf of themselves and similarly situated plaintiffs, alleging, inter alia, that defendants engaged in unlawful, unfair, and deceptive practices through unauthorized enrollment practices known as "post transaction marketing" and "data pass." At issue was whether plaintiffs were bound to arbitrate their dispute with defendants as a consequence of an arbitration provision that defendants asserted was part of a contract between the parties. The court concluded that despite some limited availability of the arbitration provision to plaintiffs, they were not bound to arbitrate this dispute. In regards to the email at issue, under the contract law of Connecticut or California - either of which could apply to this dispute - the email did not provide sufficient notice to plaintiffs of the arbitration provision, and plaintiffs therefore could not have assented to it solely as a result of their failure to cancel their enrollment in defendants' service. In regards to the hyperlink at issue, the court concluded that defendants forfeited the argument that plaintiffs were on notice of the arbitration provision through the hyperlink by failing to raise it in the district court. View "Schnabel et al. v. Trilegiant Corp. et al." on Justia Law
Nachshin, et al. v. AOL, LLC
This case involved a proposed class action settlement between AOL and plaintiffs where the parties agreed that AOL would make a series of charitable donations. At issue was whether the district court abused its discretion in approving the proposed class action settlement, including a proposed cy pres settlement distribution. The court held that the cy pres distributions here did not comport with the court's cy pres standards. While the donations were made on behalf of a nationwide plaintiff class, they were distributed to geographically isolated and substantively unrelated charities. The court concluded that the district court judge did not have to recuse herself pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 455(a) or (b)(4), 5(iii). The court declined to address the issue of whether the class notice was sufficient. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. View "Nachshin, et al. v. AOL, LLC" on Justia Law