Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
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
Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, Missouri. Plaintiff alleged Walmart engaged in misleading and deceptive marketing practices by selling cough suppressants with dextromethorphan hydrobromide (“DXM”) and a “non-drowsy” label. Walmart removed the case to the Eastern District of Missouri, and Plaintiff moved to have the case remanded to state court. The district court remanded, finding Walmart had not met the Class Action Fairness Act’s jurisdictional requirement of showing the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that Walmart has shown the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The court concluded that Walmart’s declaration was sufficient to support a finding that sales exceeded $5 million. The total amount of sales can be a measure of the amount in controversy. The court explained that the declaration was sufficient, particularly when it is very plausible that a company the size of Walmart would have sold more than $5 million in cough suppressants in the state of Missouri over a period of five years. View "Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
Kinder v. Capistrano Beach Care Center
Plaintiff was a resident at a residential skilled nursing facility when she sustained injuries in a fall. She sued the facility, Capistrano Beach Care Center, LLC dba Capistrano Beach Care Center (CBCC), and its operator, Cambridge Healthcare Services, LLC (collectively, Defendants). Defendants petitioned to compel arbitration, claiming Plaintiff was bound by arbitration agreements purportedly signed on her behalf by her adult children. The trial court denied the petition, concluding defendants had failed to prove Plaintiff’s adult children had actual or ostensible authority to execute the arbitration agreements on Plaintiff’s behalf. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that CBCC did not meet its initial burden to make a prima facie showing that Plaintiff agreed to arbitrate by submitting arbitration agreements signed by Plaintiff’s adult children. CBCC presented no evidence that the children had actual or ostensible authority to execute the arbitration agreement on Plaintiff’s behalf beyond their own representations in the agreements. The court wrote that a defendant cannot meet its burden to prove the signatory acted as the agent of a plaintiff by relying on representations of the purported agent alone. View "Kinder v. Capistrano Beach Care Center" on Justia Law
DRICKEY JACKSON V. AMZN
Plaintiff sought to represent a class of individuals, known as Amazon Flex drivers, claiming damages and injunctive relief for alleged privacy violations by Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”). Plaintiff contended that Amazon monitored and wiretapped the drivers’ conversations when they communicated during off hours in closed Facebook groups. The district court denied Amazon’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the dispute did not fall within the scope of the applicable arbitration clause in a 2016 Terms of Service Agreement (“2016 TOS”). Amazon appealed, arguing that the district court should have applied the broader arbitration clause in a 2019 Terms of Service Agreement (“2019 TOS”) and that even if the arbitration clause in the 2016 TOS applied, this dispute fell within its scope. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Amazon’s motion to compel arbitration. Under California law and principles of contract law, the burden is on Amazon, as the party seeking arbitration, to show that it provided notice of a new TOS and that there was mutual assent to the contractual agreement to arbitrate. The panel held that there was no evidence that the email allegedly sent to drivers adequately notified drivers of the update. The district court, therefore, correctly held that the arbitration provision in the 2016 TOS still governed the parties’ relationship. The panel concluded that because Amazon’s alleged misconduct existed independently of the contract and therefore fell outside the scope of the arbitration provision in the 2016 TOS, the district court correctly denied Amazon’s motion to compel arbitration. View "DRICKEY JACKSON V. AMZN" on Justia Law
David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al
This is an appeal from a district court order approving a class-action settlement that purports to provide injunctive relief and up to $8 million in monetary relief to a class of individuals (the “Class”) who purchased one or more “brain performance supplements” manufactured and sold by Defendants Reckitt Benckiser LLC and RB Health (US) LLC (together, “RB”) under the brand name “Neuriva.” Five Plaintiffs (together, the “Named Plaintiffs”) who had previously purchased Neuriva brought a putative class action, alleging that RB used false and misleading statements to give consumers the impression that Neuriva and its “active ingredients” had been clinically tested and proven to improve brain function. The parties promptly agreed to a global settlement (the “Settlement” or “Settlement Agreement”) that sought to resolve the claims of all Plaintiffs and absent Class members. The current appeal involves one unnamed Class member, an attorney and frequent class-action objector, who objected in district court and subsequently appealed the district court’s approval order. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that the Named Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims for injunctive relief. The court explained that Plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief must establish that they are likely to suffer an injury that is “actual or imminent,” not “conjectural or hypothetical.” But none of the Named Plaintiffs allege that they plan to purchase any of the Neuriva Products again. The district court, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to award injunctive relief to the Named Plaintiffs or absent Class members, and its approval of the Settlement Agreement was an abuse of discretion. View "David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al" on Justia Law
Judith Shears v. Ethicon, Inc.
Along with her husband, Plaintiff initiated a civil action against Ethicon, Inc. — the manufacturer and seller of the TVT mesh — and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson. Plaintiffs pursued numerous claims for relief, including a strict product liability claim alleging a design defect in the TVT, as well as a claim for negligent design thereof. Plaintiff’s husband joined in the lawsuit by suing for loss of consortium. Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the Southern District of West Virginia as part of a multidistrict litigation captioned (the “MDL”). The Fourth Circuit availing itself of the privilege afforded by the State of West Virginia through the Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act requested that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia exercise its discretion to resolve the following certified question of law:Whether Section 411 of the West Virginia Pattern Jury Instructions for Civil Cases, entitled “Design Defect — Necessity of an Alternative, Feasible Design,” correctly specifies Plaintiff’s burden of proof for a strict liability design defect claim pursued under West Virginia law. More specifically, whether a plaintiff alleging a West Virginia strict liability design defect claim is required to prove the existence of an alternative, feasible product design — existing at the time of the subject product’s manufacture — in order to establish that the product was not reasonably safe for its intended use. And if so, whether the alternative, feasible product design must eliminate the risk of the harm suffered by the plaintiff or whether a reduction of that risk is sufficient. View "Judith Shears v. Ethicon, Inc." 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
Mazzei v. The Money Store
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) authorizes relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding based on, among other things, “fraud on the court.” Years after an adverse judgment and unsuccessful appeals in Mazzei v. The Money Store, 829 F.3d 260 (2d Cir. 2016) (“Mazzei I”), Plaintiff sought such relief in district court. He did so after a deposition in a separate, unrelated lawsuit cast doubt on the truthfulness of certain representations that Defendants’ counsel made to the court in Mazzei I. Defendants moved under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the fraud on the court claim, which the district court granted. Plaintiff then moved for reconsideration, which was denied. Plaintiff then appealed these orders. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that Plaintiff failed plausibly to plead a fraud on the court claim. The district court correctly reasoned that the conduct of which he complained had not impaired the court’s ability to fully and fairly adjudicate his case because the fraud alleged could have been redressed in Mazzei I. View "Mazzei v. The Money Store" 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