Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tax Law
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In 2015, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Guam taxpayers in their class action lawsuit against the territorial government. Guam had excessively withheld income taxes to support government spending. Some taxpayers got their refunds through an “expedited refund” process that devolved into arbitrariness and favoritism. The district court had certified a class of taxpayers who were entitled to but did not receive timely tax refunds.Duncan then filed a purported class action challenging the Virgin Islands' income tax collection practices. Duncan alleged that the Territory owed taxpayers at least $97,849,992.74 in refunds for the years 2007-2017, and that, for the years 2011-2017, the Territory failed to comply with the requirement in Virgin Islands Code title 33, section 1102(b), that the Territory set aside 10 percent of collected income taxes for paying refunds, leaving the required reserve underfunded by $150 million. The district court denied class certification, citing Duncan’s receipt of a refund check from the Territory during the pendency of her lawsuit; the check, while not the amount Duncan claims, called into question Duncan’s standing and made all of her claims atypical for the putative class. The Third Circuit vacated, rejecting the conclusion that the mid-litigation refund check deprived Duncan of standing and rendered all of her claims atypical. In evaluating whether Duncan was an adequate representative, the district court applied an incorrect legal standard. View "Duncan v. Governor of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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After a judicial foreclosure proceeding for delinquent property taxes, the county generally sells the land at a public auction and pays any proceeds above the delinquency amount to the owner upon demand. Ohio's 2008 land-bank transfer procedure for abandoned property permits counties to bring foreclosure proceedings in the County Board of Revision rather than in court and authorizes counties to transfer the land to landbanks rather than sell it at auctions, “free and clear of all impositions and any other liens.” The state forgives any tax delinquency; it makes no difference whether the tax delinquency exceeds the property’s fair market value. The Board of Revision must provide notice to landowners and the county must run a title search. Owners may transfer a case from the Board to a court. After the Board’s foreclosure decision, owners have 28 days to pay the delinquency and recover their land. They also may file an appeal in a court of general jurisdiction. Owners cannot obtain the excess equity in the property after the land bank receives it.After Tarrify’s vacant property was transferred to a landbank, Tarrify sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the transfers constituted takings without just compensation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of Tarrify’s motion to certify a class of Cuyahoga County landowners who purportedly suffered similar injuries. While the claimants share a common legal theory—that the targeted Ohio law does not permit them to capture equity in their properties after the county transfers them to a land bank—they do not have a cognizable common theory for measuring the value in each property at the time of transfer. View "Tarrify Properties, LLC v. Cuyahoga County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal challenging the circuit court's order denying Appellants' motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment for Appellees, holding that the circuit court's order was not a final order.Appellees filed a class-action complaint against Appellants, online travel companies (OTCs), alleging that the OTCs had failed to collect or collected and failed to remit the full amount of gross-receipts taxes imposed by government entities on hotel accommodations. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment for Appellees on the issue of liability. Appellants appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that where the circuit court stated that its order was preliminary and that it was retaining jurisdiction to determine the appropriate relief, and where the court did not enter an Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification, the order was not final. View "Hotels.com, L.P. v. Pine Bluff Advertising" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals in this class action, holding that the surcharge imposed by Maricopa County on car rental agencies to fund a stadium and other sports and tourism-related ventures violated neither the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution nor the anti-diversion provision of the Arizona Constitution.Plaintiff, which rented vehicles in Maricopa County and paid the car rental surcharges, sued the Arizona Department of Revenue seeking refunds and injunctive relief for all similarly situated car rental companies. The tax court certified the class and granted summary judgment for Plaintiff, concluding that the surcharge did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause but did violate the anti-diversion provision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the surcharge did not violate the anti-diversion provision. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the Arizona Constitution’s anti-diversion clause, which requires that revenues derived from taxes relating to the operation of motor vehicles must be allocated for public highways, does not apply to a tax relating to the operation of motor vehicles. View "Saban Rent-a-Car LLC v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Certain limited liability companies (LLCs) paid a levy under Revenue and Taxation Code section 17942, which was later determined by the court of appeal to be unconstitutional. After two separate actions seeking class treatment for the payment of refund claims were coordinated, the trial court rejected a jurisdictional argument from the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) that the LLCs had failed to adequately exhaust their administrative remedies as a class and could not proceed on a classwide basis. The court, however, went on to deny the motion for class certification on multiple other grounds, including lack of ascertainability, numerosity, predominance, and superiority. The court of appeal reversed. The court agreed with the trial court’s exhaustion determination but concluded that its class certification analysis was fundamentally flawed. The court deemed the matter “eminently suitable for treatment on a classwide basis.” There is no bar to certification of a class action for refund of unconstitutional taxes so long as all class members have filed their own individual claims and thereby exhausted their administrative remedies; no purpose would be served by erecting a jurisdictional barrier to class treatment of those claims on the formalistic ground that no class claim for refund was filed. View "Franchise Tax Board Limited Liability Corp. Tax Refund Cases" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action petition against J.C. Penney asserting that the internet retailer unlawfully charged Iowa sales tax on shipping and handling charges. J.C. Penney forwarded the tax to the Iowa Department of Revenue (IDOR) pursuant to the Iowa version of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Act (SSUTA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of J.C. Penney. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly granted J.C. Penney’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s statutory claims grounded in SSUTA, as the SSUTA does not create a private cause of action; (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims related to the alleged unlawful payment of taxes on the ground that the remedies under Iowa Code 423.45(3) and 423.47 are exclusive remedies barring other claims for relief for wrongful payment of taxes under SSUTA; and (3) Plaintiff was not entitled to recover on her claims alleging shipping and handling misrepresentations. View "Bass v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Michael Howard appealed the grant of summary judgment entered against him in the action he commenced on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated taxpayers in Cullman County against Cullman County and its Revenue Commissioner Barry Willingham, in his official capacity. Howard sought a refund of property taxes he and other taxpayers paid in 2013. Howard sought a judgment declaring that, pursuant to former section 40-7-42, the Commission's levy of property taxes for October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013, was invalid because it was done in May 2013 rather than at the Commission's first regular meeting in February 2013. He also sought the return of property taxes collected in 2013. The Supreme Court found that the trial court correctly concluded that the Commission's failure to follow the timing provision of former 40-7-42 did not invalidate its subsequent levy in 2013 of property taxes upon Howard and other property owners in Cullman County. Therefore, the Court affirmed summary judgment on all of Howard's claims in favor of Cullman County and the revenue commissioner. View "Howard v. Cullman County" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the IRS required tax preparers who were neither attorneys nor CPAs to pass a certification exam and obtain an identification number. H&R, a nation-wide tax service, passed anticipated costs to its customers by charging a “Compliance Fee.” H&R explained at its offices and on its website that the fee would cover only the costs to comply with the new laws. In 2011, the fee was $2; in 2012, the fee was $4. Perras sued on behalf of himself and a putative class. Perras alleged that the amount collected exceeded actual compliance costs. Perras sued under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. The district court compelled arbitration of the 2011 claims. Later, the court declined to certify the class, agreeing that the proposed class met the requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) of “numerosity, commonality, typicality, and fair and adequate representation,” but Rule 23(b)(3), requires that “the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.” The Eighth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Supreme Court of Missouri would likely conclude that the MMPA does not cover the out-of-state transactions. The law applicable to each class member would be the consumer-protection statute of that member’s state; questions of law common to the class members do not predominate over individual questions. View "Perras v. H&R Block" on Justia Law

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Berera worked at Mesa, a health care organization, as a nurse practitioner, 2011-2013. After Berera’s employment ended, she allegedly discovered that the wages on her W-2 did not reflect the wages that Mesa owed her. Berera sued in state court, asserting a class of current and former employees whom Mesa “forced to pay [Mesa’s] share of payroll taxes and other taxes and withholdings,” that this “forced payment resulted in the employees receiving less money than they earned,” and that Mesa paid employees “less than the wages and overtime compensation to which the employees were entitled.” The complaint contained no additional substantive allegations, but recited an unpaid wages claim under section 337.385 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes and claims of conversion and negligence under Kentucky law. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA), 26 U.S.C. 3101–3128, which imposes a 7.65% tax on wages to fund Social Security and Medicare, requires parties seeking a refund to file a claim with the IRS before bringing a federal tax refund suit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the purported state-law claims are truly FICA claims. View "Berera v. Mesa Med. Grp., PLLC" on Justia Law