Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The case involves a class action lawsuit filed by plaintiff Harold Malmquist against the City of Folsom (City). The plaintiff alleged that the City failed to maintain proper corrosion control measures at its water treatment plant, causing the pH level of its water to rise and become corrosive. This, in turn, led to pinhole leaks in copper pipes receiving the water, damaging persons and property. The plaintiff sought class certification, defining the class as all individuals and entities who have owned or leased real property in the City, plumbed with copper piping receiving water from the City’s plant since February 23, 2015.The trial court denied the plaintiff's motion for class certification. The court found that the plaintiff had not shown that common issues predominated over individual ones. The court reasoned that the existence, cause, and extent of damage to copper piping required individual proof. The court also overruled the plaintiff's objections to the City's expert witness, concluding that the expert was qualified and his opinion was founded on reliable information.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Third Appellate District affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying class certification. The court agreed with the trial court's conclusion that individual issues predominated over common ones. The court also found no error in the trial court's decision to overrule the plaintiff's objections to the City's expert witness. The court concluded that the expert was qualified and his opinion was founded on reliable information. View "Malmquist v. City of Folsom" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Lisa Stone, a tenant who signed a lease agreement that required her to provide maintenance services for which she alleges she was not compensated, in violation of Minnesota law. She initiated a class-action lawsuit against Invitation Homes, Inc., the parent company of her landlord, and THR Property Management, L.P., the manager of the leased property. Stone later amended her complaint to include various subsidiaries of Invitation Homes as defendants. Some of these subsidiaries argued that Stone lacked standing to sue them as she had not alleged that they had caused any injuries.The district court denied the subsidiaries' motion to dismiss. The subsidiaries appealed this decision to the court of appeals, which reversed the district court's decision and dismissed Stone's claims against the subsidiaries. The court of appeals reasoned that Stone lacked standing to bring her claims under the theory for standing found by the district court, and the juridical-link doctrine was improperly raised by Stone for the first time on appeal and did not apply in this case.Stone appealed to the Supreme Court of Minnesota, arguing that she has standing against the subsidiaries under the juridical-link doctrine. This doctrine posits that in a class action in which a named plaintiff has not alleged an injury caused by all defendants, a class may be certified when all defendants are linked by a conspiracy or concerted scheme that harmed the class. However, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, stating that Stone had forfeited the ability to have the merits of standing under the juridical-link doctrine determined on appeal as she failed to assert standing based on the juridical-link doctrine in the district court. View "Stone, vs. Invitation Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Maryland has ruled that the term "rent" under Real Property § 8-401, as applied to residential leases, refers to the fixed, periodic payments a tenant is required to make for use or occupancy of a rented premises. This definition excludes additional charges such as late fees, attorney’s fees, and court costs. The court also ruled that any provision in a residential lease that allows a landlord to allocate payments of "rent" to other obligations, thereby subjecting a tenant to eviction proceedings based on failure to pay "rent", violates Real Property § 8-208(d)(2). Further, penalties for late payment of rent, capped at 5% of the monthly amount of rent due, are inclusive of any costs of collection other than court-awarded costs. Finally, the court ruled that the Circuit Court erred in declining to review the merits of the tenants’ second renewed motion for class certification. The case has been remanded for further proceedings in line with these holdings. View "Westminster Management v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Missouri issued an opinion involving a dispute between Tyler Technologies, Inc., and several individual and corporate property owners. The property owners had filed a class-action petition alleging that Tyler Technologies negligently carried out its contractual obligations to assist Jackson County with the 2023 real property assessment. The property owners claimed that Tyler Technologies' failures resulted in some class members not receiving timely notice of increased assessments and others having their property assessments increase by more than 15 percent without a physical inspection.Tyler Technologies filed a motion to dismiss the allegations, arguing that the property owners failed to allege facts showing that Tyler Technologies owed them a duty of care. The circuit court overruled the motion to dismiss, prompting Tyler Technologies to file a petition for a writ of prohibition, which the Supreme Court of Missouri issued as a preliminary writ.After a review, the Supreme Court of Missouri determined that the property owners did not provide sufficient evidence to show that Tyler Technologies owed them a duty of care. The court noted that the duties the property owners described were statutory obligations of the county assessor, not private, third-party contractors like Tyler Technologies. The court also invoked the rule of privity, which generally states that a party to a contract does not owe a duty to a plaintiff who was not a party to the contract. In the court's view, disregarding this rule would expose Tyler Technologies to excessive and unlimited liability and potentially discourage contractors from entering into service contracts due to the fear of obligations and liabilities they would not voluntarily assume.Therefore, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that Tyler Technologies was entitled to dismissal of the disputed counts of the property owners' petition. The court made its preliminary writ of prohibition permanent, barring further action from the circuit court other than dismissing the contested counts with prejudice. View "State ex rel. Tyler Technologies, Inc. v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are three Texas residents whose assets escheated to the State under Texas’s Unclaimed Property Act. Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the Texas Comptroller and a director in the Comptroller’s office, alleging that the State is abusing the Unclaimed Property Act to seize purportedly abandoned property without providing proper notice. The district court dismissed most of Plaintiffs’ claims. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot invoke Ex parte Young because they lack standing to seek prospective relief and have not alleged an ongoing violation of federal law.   The Fifth Circuit agreed with Defendants and reversed the district court’s denial of Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and remanded with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ remaining claims for prospective relief without prejudice. The court explained that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts indicating that Texas’s alleged abuse of the UPA is ongoing or will continue in the future. As there is no ongoing violation of federal law sufficiently pleaded in the complaint, Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the Ex parte Young requirements, and their claims for prospective relief are barred by sovereign immunity. View "James v. Hegar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the final approval of the settlement in the underlying class action against the State, holding that Petitioner had no right to compensation.In 1920, the federal government pledged land to native Hawaiian beneficiaries, and while Hawai'i held the homestead land in trust it breached its fiduciary duties. In the underlying class action, trust beneficiaries successfully sued the State for breach of its trustee responsibilities, and the State settled. The Supreme Court accepted a petition for a writ of mandamus, an appeal challenging final approval of the case's settlement, and held (1) because Petitioner was born beyond the statutory period to receive a payout from the settlement he had no right to compensation; and (2) because this decision ended Petitioner's appeal, the appeal before the intermediate court of appeals was moot. View "Rivera v. Honorable Cataldo" on Justia Law

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Marvin and Mildred Bay (“the Bays”) challenged a court order dismissing their trespass claim against Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Anadarko Land Corporation (collectively, “Anadarko”). Anadarko, an oil and gas company, owned the mineral rights under the Bays’ farm. The Bays brought a putative class action along with other surface landowners against Anadarko, alleging that Anadarko’s mineral lessees had exceeded the scope of their mineral rights by drilling multiple vertical wells on the surface owners’ land when it was possible to drill fewer wells of the “directional” type. At the conclusion of the Bays’ presentation of evidence, the district court found that the Bays’ evidence failed as a matter of law to demonstrate that Anadarko’s activities amounted to a trespass and dismissed the case. Finding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal in "Bay I," finding that Colorado’s common law of trespass required the Bays to show that Anadarko’s lessees had “materially interfered” with the Bays’ farming operations. The appellate court questioned whether the record demonstrated that the Bays met this standard in their trial, but because Anadarko had not raised this specific issue, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted judgment as a matter of law to Anadarko on the material interference issue. Specifically, the court first held that it was bound by the Tenth Circuit's interpretation in Bay I of the material interference standard, then found that the Bays showed only that Anadarko’s conduct inconvenienced them—which was insufficient to satisfy the material interference standard. The Bays again appealed, arguing that the Tenth Circuit's discussion of the material interference standard in Bay I was dictum; thus, the district court incorrectly determined that it was bound to apply that standard. They further argued the material interference standard applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Colorado standard for trespass outlined in Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. v. Magness, 946 P.2d 913 (Colo. 1997), and that the evidence they presented in their trial established a prima facie case of material interference under Gerrity. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in its second dismissal and affirmed judgment. View "Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-landowners alleged Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's intracompany practice of leasing its mineral interests to its affiliated operating company, including its 30% royalty rate, had the intent and effect of reducing the value of Plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs claimed Anadarko thereby maintained and furthered its dominant position in the market for leasing oil and gas mineral interests in violation of the Sherman Act § 2 and Wyoming antitrust laws. Plaintiffs sought treble damages and attorneys’ fees under § 4 of the Clayton Act. The federal district court certified a class action, for liability purposes only, comprised of “[a]ll persons . . . having ownership of Class Minerals during the Class Period.” Anadarko appealed the district court’s class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court applied the correct legal standard in deciding whether the class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23, and it did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s class certification. View "Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered two questions of law certified by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Hawai'i concerning a putative class action alleging wrongful foreclosure.Specifically, the Court answered (1) an action alleging a wrongful nonjudicial foreclosure of land court property that seeks only damages against the foreclosing lender is not barred by the entry of a transfer certificate of title to a buyer at a foreclosure sale; and (2) the pendency of a putative class action tolls the time during which a class member may commence an individual action, and the time for commencing an individual action is tolled until a clear denial of class certification. View "Yanagi v. Bank of America" on Justia Law

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Field Asset Services, Inc. (“FAS”) is in the business of pre-foreclosure property preservation for the residential mortgage industry. Plaintiff was the sole proprietor of BB Home Services, which contracted with FAS as a vendor. Plaintiff alleged that FAS willfully misclassified him and members of the putative class as independent contractors rather than employees, resulting in FAS’s failure to pay overtime compensation and to indemnify them for their business expenses. FAS first argued that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the class, despite the predominance of individualized questions over common ones.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order denying a petition for panel rehearing, denying on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc, and amending the opinion filed on July 5, 2022; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s order certifying a class of 156 individuals who personally performed work for FAS, reversing the partial summary judgment in favor of the class, vacating the interim award of more than five million dollars in attorneys’ fees, and remanding for further proceedings.   The panel held that here, the class failed the requirement because complex, individualized inquiries would be needed to establish that class members worked overtime or that claimed expenses were reimbursable. The panel concluded that class certification was improper. The panel noted that FAS’s joint employment argument would likely succeed was an actual employee of a vendor suing FAS, claiming that FAS was an employer. The panel further held that the interim award of attorneys' fees must be vacated because the class certification and summary judgment orders were issued in error. View "FRED BOWERMAN, ET AL V. FIELD ASSET SERVICES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law