Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Miller v. Countrywide Fin. Corp.
Eleven plaintiffs who obtained home loans from Countrywide Bank, sought to challenge alleged racial disparities dating back to 2002 and resulting from Countrywide’s loan-pricing policy for home mortgages. The district court denied class certification, finding that the proposed class failed to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)’s commonality requirement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs challenged policies that grant broad discretion to local agents; they do not claim that a uniform policy or practice guides how local actors exercise their discretion, such that the corporate guidance caused or contributed to the alleged disparate impacts. To justify certification, class members must unite acts of discretion under a single policy or practice, or through a single mode of exercising discretion; the mere presence of a range within which acts of discretion take place will not suffice to establish commonality. View "Miller v. Countrywide Fin. Corp." on Justia Law
Shy v. Navistar Int’l Corp.
In 1992 Navistar attempted to reduce its costs for retired employee health and life insurance benefits. Navistar’s retirement benefit plan is a registered employee health benefit plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 and Navistar is both plan administrator and fiduciary. In 1993, the district court entered judgment in a class action challenging the change, adopting an agreement between the parties and retaining jurisdiction. The Agreement established the Retiree Health Benefit and Life Insurance Plan. The Plan established the Health Benefit Program Summary Plan Description, which contains a description of the health benefits and is furnished to all beneficiaries. The Agreement divides health benefits into two plans: Plan 2 for those eligible for Medicare and Plan 1 for those who are not eligible. A prescription drug benefit was provided under the Agreement, identical for both Plan 1 and Plan 2. When Navistar moved to substitute Medicare Part D into the Plan, class members claimed violation of the Agreement. The district court ordered Navistar to reinstate, retroactively, the prescription drug benefit that was in effect before Navistar made the unilateral substitution. The Sixth Circuit affirmed,View "Shy v. Navistar Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Serrano v. Cintas Corp.
Cintas’s SSRs drive trucks to deliver products and act as sales representatives, providing customer service, pitching sales, and collecting payments. Serrano, a female, unsuccessfully applied for a position as an SSR and filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC in 2000. In 2002, after investigating Serrano’s claims and expanding the investigation to include Cintas’s female hiring practices throughout Michigan, the EEOC issued a reasonable-cause determination and sent a proposed conciliation agreement to Cintas suggesting that relief be provided to Serrano, 111 other specified women, and an unspecified number of “other similarly situated females.” Cintas did not respond. In 2005, the EEOC notified Cintas that it was terminating conciliation efforts. In 2004, Serrano filed a Title VII class-action complaint, in which the EEOC intervened. In 2008, the district court denied nationwide class certification. By April 2010, all individual plaintiffs, save Serrano, had their cases resolved. In 2009 the EEOC filed an amended complaint, limiting its allegations to “a class of women in the State of Michigan” The district court granted Cintas’s judgment on 13 individual and “pattern or practice” claims, denying the EEOC’s discovery motions, and awarding costs and fees. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded View "Serrano v. Cintas Corp." on Justia Law
White v. Baptist Mem’l Health Care Corp.
White was an emergency department nurse for Baptist 2005-2007. She did not have a regularly scheduled meal break; breaks occurred as work allowed. White received a copy of Baptist’s employee handbook, which stated that an unpaid meal break would be automatically deducted from their pay checks and that if a meal break was missed or interrupted because of work, the employee would be compensated. Employees were to record time spent working during meal breaks in an “exception log.” White signed a document concerning the policy and recorded occasions where her meal break was interrupted. She claims that if her entire unit missed a break, she was compensated, but that if she individually missed breaks she was sometimes not compensated. She never told her supervisors or human resources that she was not. Eventually, White stopped using the exception log. White knew Baptist’s procedure to report and correct payroll errors, but did not utilize this procedure to correct the unreported interrupted meal break errors because she felt it would be “an uphill battle.” White filed suit, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201. The district court granted Baptist summary judgment and class decertification. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "White v. Baptist Mem'l Health Care Corp." on Justia Law
Amos v. PPG Indus., Inc.
While employed at PPG, plaintiffs were represented by three labor unions. In 2001 PPG modified health benefits for retirees, requiring that retirees pay a portion of the cost. The unions thought the modification was a breach of collective bargaining agreements and sued, requesting that the Pennsylvania district court order PPG to arbitrate the benefit dispute with the unions. The district court entered judgment for PPG, holding that the benefits had not vested. The Third Circuit affirmed. Meanwhile, in 2005, more than a year before the district court entered judgment, several individual retirees filed a putative class action in the Southern District of Ohio. Their core allegation was identical to that in the Pennsylvania action; they asserted claims under the Labor Management Relations Act and ERISA and sought monetary damages and an injunction ordering reinstatement of full coverage. The district court held that the Pennsylvania judgment collaterally estopped the plaintiffs from arguing the contrary in this case. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court in the Pennsylvania action neither certified a class nor employed any other “special procedures” to protect the retirees’ interests in that action, so the plaintiffs are not bound to that decision. View "Amos v. PPG Indus., Inc." on Justia Law
Ouwinga v. Benistar 419 Plan Servs., Inc.
Lesley and Fogg presented the Benistar 419 Plan to the Ouwingas, their accountant, and their attorney, providing a legal opinion that contributions were tax-deductible and that the Ouwingas could take money out tax-free. The Ouwingas made substantial contributions, which were used to purchase John Hancock life insurance policies. In 2003, Lesley and Fogg told the Ouwingas that the IRS had changed the rules; that the Ouwingas would need to contribute additional money; and that, while this might signal closing of the “loophole,” there was no concern about tax benefits already claimed. In 2006, the Ouwingas decided to transfer out of the Plans. John Hancock again advised that there would be no taxable consequences and that the Plan met IRS requirements for tax deductible treatment. The Ouwingas signed a purported liability release. In 2008, the IRS notified the Ouwingas that it was disallowing deductions, deeming the Plan an “abusive tax shelter.” The Ouwingas filed a class action against Benistar Defendants, John Hancock entities, lawyers, Lesley, and Fogg, alleging conspiracy to defraud (RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), (d)), negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and violations of consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, View "Ouwinga v. Benistar 419 Plan Servs., Inc." on Justia Law
Dudenhoefer v. Fifth Third Bancorp
Former Fifth Third employees participated in a defined contribution retirement plan with Fifth Third as trustee. Participants make voluntary contributions and direct the Plan to purchase investments for their individual accounts from preselected options. The options included Fifth Third Stock, two collective funds, or 17 mutual funds. Fifth Third makes matching contributions for eligible participants that are initially invested in the Fifth Third Stock Fund but may be moved later to other investment options. Significant Plan assets were invested in Fifth Third Stock. Plan fiduciaries incorporated by reference Fifth Third’s SEC filings into the Summary Plan Description. Plaintiffs allege that Fifth Third switched from being a conservative lender to a subprime lender, its loan portfolio became increasingly at-risk, and it either failed to disclose or provided misleading disclosures. The price of the stock declined 74 percent. The district court dismissed a complaint under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1001, based on a presumption that the decision to remain invested in employer securities was reasonable. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the complaint plausibly alleged a claim of breach of fiduciary duty and causal connection regarding failure to divest the Plan of Fifth Third Stock and remove that stock as an investment option. View "Dudenhoefer v. Fifth Third Bancorp" on Justia Law
Dyas v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Ins.
Policyholders claimed that their insurers incorrectly taxed their premiums as a result of the insurers’ failure to correctly identify the taxing jurisdiction in which the insured risks of each policyholder were located. Kentucky authorizes local governments to tax insurance premiums, Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. 91A.080, and to charge a “reasonable collection fee. Insurers pass the tax on to the insureds along with the collection fee. Plaintiffs’ claims were narrowed to illegal dealing in premiums, negligence, conversion, and a declaration of rights; they sought refunds and injunctive and declarative relief. After rejecting an argument that it lacked jurisdiction because Kentucky law allowed an administrative remedy, the district court bifurcated class certification discovery from merits-based discovery, then subdivided plaintiffs into 10 subclasses, one for each insurer, and severed the subclasses into separate actions. The district court found the class ascertainable and administratively feasible, the Rule 23(a) prerequisites (numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation) met, and the Rule 23(b)(3) requirements (that class litigation is superior and common questions predominate over individuals ones) satisfied. After settlements, only five appeals remained. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Dyas v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Ins." on Justia Law
Mell v. Anthem, Inc.
Plaintiffs sought to recover on behalf of themselves and similarly-situated employees and retirees of the City of Cincinnati the current value of the 870,021 shares of Anthem stock that the City received from Anthem’s demutualization. Plaintiffs asserted eight claims for breach of contract and four tort claims against Anthem and three breach of contract claims and four tort claims against the City. The district court certified the class: 2,536 people named as insureds, or former members of a group of insured persons, covered under a health care group policy from June 18 through November 2, 2001. The class included “Class A” members, who had an insurance policy with Anthem prior to its merger with Community in 1995 and “Class B” members who received a health insurance group policy after the merger. The court later dismissed. The Sixth Circuit, exercising jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), affirmed. Plaintiffs cannot recover any demutualization compensation; the City was the policyholder before the merger and maintained its policyholder rights post-merger through a grandfather clause, including any rights to demutualization proceeds. The 2001 demutualization process did not disrupt the City’s membership interests or confer any equity rights to Plaintiffs. View "Mell v. Anthem, Inc." on Justia Law
Taylor v. KeyCorp
Plaintiffs sued on behalf of a class of similarly-situated participants and beneficiaries of the Keycorp 401(k) Savings Plan, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1109, 1132, alleging that defendants breached their duties by failing to prudently manage the Plan’s investment in KeyCorp securities; that defendants failed to adequately inform participants about the true risk of investing in KeyCorp stock; that certain defendants breached fiduciary duties by failing to adequately monitor the management and administration of Plan assets; that certain defendants failed to avoid impermissible conflicts of interest; and that certain defendants are liable for the breaches of fiduciary duty committed by their co-fiduciaries. The district court dismissed one plaintiff because she had benefited from the alleged breaches of fiduciary duty, which allowed her to sell the majority of her holdings at an inflated price. The court denied a motion to allow another to intervene as named plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Taylor v. KeyCorp" on Justia Law