Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Norem v. Lincoln Benefit Life Co.
In 1994, Norem purchased a “Flexible Premium Variable Life Insurance Policy” from Lincoln Benefit. With variable life insurance, part of the premium is allocated to the insurer’s investment funds, called subaccounts. Policyholders may move their investments within the subaccounts and the death benefit, which is guaranteed not to fall below a certain amount. With variable universal life, the policyholder may easily invest and alter insurance coverage. The policy is comprised of the policy value, which represents the investment component, and its net amount at risk, which represents the insurance component. Norem purchased his policy because he wanted both life insurance and an investment vehicle for the proceeds from the sale of his ownership of a medical business. The policy has a “cost of insurance” (COI) charge deducted monthly from the policy. The policy explains how the COI rate is calculated. Norem filed a putative class action on behalf of himself and other similarly situated policyholders, claiming that Lincoln Benefit breached the terms of its policies in its method of calculating the COI rate.Before deciding on class certification, the district court granted summary judgment to Lincoln Benefit, concluding that its calculation of COI rates did not breach the contract. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Norem v. Lincoln Benefit Life Co." on Justia Law
Union Countyv. Merscorp, Inc.
MERSCORP operates an online membership organization that records, trades, and forecloses loans on behalf of many lenders. Banks can register their mortgages on the system and assign the mortgages to MERSCORP, which then records them in the counties in which the mortgaged properties are located. MERSCORP has no financial interest in the mortgages. The underlying debts can be repeatedly assigned without transfers being recorded in a public‐records office, facilitating successive interbank sales of mortgages, often to create mortgage‐backed securities. Union County, Illinois filed a class action suit on behalf of all Illinois counties against MERSCORP and banks that do business with MERSCORP, claiming that MERSCORP is violating a statute that requires every Illinois mortgage be recorded; 765 ILCS 5/28 provides that deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and other instruments relating to or affecting the title to real estate “shall be recorded in the county in which such real estate is situated.” The district court dismissed, holding that Illinois law does not require that mortgages be recorded, without deciding whether to certify it as a class action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining to certify the issue to the Illinois Supreme Court. View "Union Countyv. Merscorp, Inc." on Justia Law
Schilke v. Am. Sec. Ins. Co.
In a proposed class action, Schilke alleged that Wachovia, her lender and holder of a mortgage on her home, fraudulently placed insurance on her property when her homeowner’s policy lapsed. Wachovia secured the replacement coverage from ASI and charged her for it, as specifically permitted by her loan agreement. The premium was more than twice what she had paid for her own policy and included a commission to Wachovia’s insurance-agency affiliate, also as permitted under the loan agreement. Schilke calls the commission a “kickback” and asserted statutory and common-law claims, most sounding in fraud or contract. The district court dismissed based on federal preemption and the filed-rate doctrine. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The loan agreement and related disclosures and notices conclusively show that there was no deception at work. Wachovia fully disclosed that lender-placed insurance could be significantly more expensive than her own policy and could include a fee or other compensation to the bank and its insurance-agency affiliate. Maintaining property insurance was Schilke’s contractual obligation and she failed to fulfill it. . View "Schilke v. Am. Sec. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
DeKeyser v. Thyssenkrupp Waupaca, Inc.
Waupaca manufactures iron castings and provides its foundry employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), including hard hats, safety glasses, ear protection, steel-toed footwear, and a fire-retardant uniform. Waupaca requires these employees to wear PPE while working; failure to comply can result in discipline. Waupaca provides locker rooms with showers. Typically, foundry workers finish their shift, clock out and proceed to locker rooms, where they remove their PPE, shower, and change into street clothes. Because of hazards associated with chemicals and dust to which some workers are exposed, Waupaca recommends that employees shower and remove their PPE on-site. Not all employees do so. Employees, representing a class of more than 400 (an opt-in class, 29 .S.C. 216(b)) alleged that Waupaca violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, by not paying for time spent showering and changing clothes at work. The district court granted Waupaca summary judgment, ruling that those activities were not compensable under the FLSA because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had not mandated that foundry workers shower and change clothes on-site. The Seventh Circuit reversed, reasoning that OSHA’s decision not to promulgate a rule requiring such activities does not bar a party from presenting evidence as to compensability under the FLSA and that factual disputes otherwise precluded summary judgment.View "DeKeyser v. Thyssenkrupp Waupaca, Inc." on Justia Law
Addison Automatics, Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co.
Addison filed a class action, alleging that Domino had sent thousands of “junk faxes” in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, and had committed the tort of conversion. Domino’s insurers refused to defend. Domino negotiated a settlement to protect its own interests; Addison and Domino agreed that the state court should certify a class and enter a judgment of $18 million. Addison agreed that the class would not recover any money from Domino, but that Domino would assign to Addison, as class representative and for the class, whatever claims Domino might have against its insurers. The state court approved the settlement. Addison sought a state court declaratory judgment holding Hartford liable for the judgment. Hartford removed the case to federal court. Addison dismissed the case voluntarily and filed another state court suit, naming Addison as the only plaintiff. Hartford again removed the case under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1453. The district court granted remand, finding that the suit did not fit the CAFA definition. Hartford argued that under the assignment in the underlying settlement, Addison had standing only as a class representative. The Seventh Circuit agreed, reversed, and remanded to state court. View "Addison Automatics, Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Truck Ins. Exch. v. CE Design Ltd.
CE is a small Chicago-area engineering firm that has filed at least 150 class action suits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In this case, CE sued Cy’s Crab House on behalf of a class of junk-fax recipients. Truck is the liability carrier for the Cy’s Crab House restaurants and provided a defense under a reservation of rights. The case was certified as a class action, and went to trial. In the middle of trial, without notifying the insurer, Cy’s settled with the class, for policy limits. State-court coverage litigation ensued. The district court approved the final settlement and entered final judgment. Less than a month later, the Seventh Circuit issued a decision casting doubt on the conduct of class counsel. In light of that decision, Truck moved to intervene to reopen the judgment, challenge the settlement, and seek class decertification based on misconduct by class counsel. Instead of filing a conditional appeal, Truck asked the district court for a 14-day extension of the time to appeal. Ultimately the court denied intervention as untimely. Truck Insurance filed a notice purporting to appeal both the order denying intervention and the final judgment. The Seventh Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to review the order denying intervention, but could not grant any meaningful relief because it lacked jurisdiction to review the final judgment. View "Truck Ins. Exch. v. CE Design Ltd." on Justia Law
Hughes v. Kore of IN Enters., Inc.
The defendants, affiliated companies, owned ATMs in Indianapolis bars that were popular with college students. Plaintiffs filed a purported class action, based on violation of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. 1693b(d)(3). At the time, the Act required a sticker notice on the ATM and an onscreen notification during transactions. Defendants provided onscreen notice but not, according to the complaint, a sticker. The Act has been amended to remove the sticker notice requirement. The district court decertified the class. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the district judge did not provide adequate explanation. While the compensatory function of the class action has no significance in this case, the damages sought by the class, and, more importantly, the attorney’s fee that the court will award if the class prevails, will likely make the suit a wake‐up call and have a deterrent effect on future violations of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. View "Hughes v. Kore of IN Enters., Inc." on Justia Law
Walker v. Trailer Transit, Inc.
Representing a class of truck owner-operators, Walker sued Trailer Transit, a broker of trucking services, for breach of contract in Indiana state court. Trailer Transit removed the suit to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), section 1332(d)(2). Walker argued that notice of removal was untimely because it was filed more than 30 days after Trailer Transit “first ascertained” that the class’s theory of damages could result in recovery of more than $5 million. The district court denied a motion to remand. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The earliest possible trigger for removal was Walker’s response to Trailer Transit’s requests for admission seeking clarification of the theory of damages. Even that response did not affirmatively specify a damages figure under the class’s new theory, so the removal clock never actually started to run View "Walker v. Trailer Transit, Inc." on Justia Law
Butlerl v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Buyers of Sears washing machines complained of a defect that causes mold, others complained of a control unit defect that stops the machine inopportunely. The district court denied certification of the class complaining about mold and granted certification of the class complaining about the control unit defect. The Seventh Circuit reversed with respect to the mold claims. The Supreme Court remanded for reconsideration in light of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013). The Seventh Circuit reinstated its prior order, stating that there was a single, central, common issue of liability: whether the washing machine was defective. Complications that arise from the design changes and from separate state warranty laws can be handled by creation of subclasses. View "Butlerl v. Sears, Roebuck & Co." on Justia Law
Liles v. Motorola Solutions, Inc.
A class of Motorola investors claimed that, during 2006, the firm made false statements to disguise its inability to deliver a competitive mobile phone that could employ 3G protocols. When the problem became public, the price of Motorola’s stock declined. The parties settled for $200 million. None of the class members contends that the amount is inadequate. Two objected to approval of counsel’s proposal that it receive 27.5 percent of the fund. One objector protested almost a month after the deadline and failed to file a claim to his share of the recovery. The Seventh Circuit dismissed his appeal, stating that he lacks any interest in the amount of fees, since he would not receive a penny from the fund even if counsel’s share were reduced to zero. The other objector claimed that fee schedules should be set at the outset, preferably by an auction in which law firms compete to represent the class. Noting the problems inherent in such a system, the court held that the district judge did not abuse her discretion in approving the award. View "Liles v. Motorola Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law