Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

by
The National Labor Relations Board sought enforcement of its Order finding that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from pursuing class-action litigation or collective arbitration of work-related claims and by forbidding an AEI technician from discussing a proposed compensation change with his coworkers and by firing that technician for discussing the proposed change and complaining to management about it. AEI employees sign an agreement that “Disputes … relating to your employment” must, at the election of the employee or the company, be resolved “exclusively through binding arbitration” and that “you and AEI also agree that a claim may not be arbitrated as a class action, also called ‘representative’ or ‘collective’ actions, and that a claim may not otherwise be consolidated or joined with the claims of others.” AEI’s employee handbook prohibits “[u]nauthorized disclosure of business secrets or confidential business or customer information, including any compensation or employee salary information.” The Sixth Circuit enforced the order. An arbitration provision requiring employees covered by the Act individually to arbitrate all employment-related claims is not enforceable. The evidence was adequate to support the ALJ’s factual findings and conclusion that DeCommer was fired for engaging in protected, concerted activity View "National Labor Relations Board v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After the city began using the Flint River as its water source in 2014, residents complained that the water was discolored and foul-smelling. There were reports of skin rashes, hair loss, and vomiting after drinking and bathing in the water. Many children were found to have high levels of lead in their blood stream. In 2016, plaintiffs filed this putative class action in Michigan state court, claiming negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment. The defendants include several entities related to the city's expert water consultants. A defendant removed the case to district court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), asserting that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, the putative class comprised at least 100 members, and there was the minimal diversity of citizenship required by CAFA. The district court remanded, citing the local controversy exception, under which a district court must decline to exercise CAFA jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the exception did not apply because other class actions had been filed in the previous three years, asserting the same or similar factual allegations against the defendants. View "Davenport v. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc." on Justia Law

by
While implementing changes required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Michigan experienced a systemic computer problem that erroneously assigned thousands of non-citizens, who may have been eligible for comprehensive Medicaid coverage, to Emergency Services Only (ESO) Medicaid. Plaintiffs, two eligible noncitizen residents of Michigan who were erroneously assigned ESO coverage, filed a class action complaint against the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, alleging violations of the Medicaid statute and the Due Process Clause. The district court found that actions taken by the state since the complaint was filed had resolved all systemic errors, so that plaintiffs’ claims were moot. The Sixth Circuit reversed the summary judgment, noting that not one of the individuals identified as a named plaintiff or potential named plaintiff was granted relief on the basis of a systemic fix and that that it is not “absolutely clear the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.” Material questions of fact remain regarding claims that the state failed to provide comprehensive Medicaid coverage and a reasonable opportunity to verify immigration status, precluding summary judgment. View "Unan v. Lyon" on Justia Law

by
Fleet Owners Fund is a multi-employer “welfare benefit plan” under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and a “group health plan” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 26 U.S.C. 5000A. Superior Dairy contracted with Fleet for employee medical insurance; the Participation Agreement incorporated by reference a 2002 Agreement. In a purported class action, Superior and its employee alleged that, before entering into the Agreement, it received assurances from Fleet Owners and plan trustees, that the plan would comply in all respects with federal law, including ERISA and the ACA. Plaintiffs claim that, notwithstanding the ACA’s statutory requirement that all group health plans eliminate per-participant and per-beneficiary pecuniary caps for both annual and lifetime benefits, the plan maintains such restrictions and that Superior purchased supplemental health insurance benefits to fully cover its employees. Fleet argued that the plan is exempt from such requirements as a “grandfathered” plan. The district court dismissed the seven-count complaint. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring claims under ERISA and ACA, having failed to allege concrete injury, and did not allege specific false statements. View "Soehnlen v. Fleet Owners Insurance Fund" on Justia Law

by
Abraham operated B2B, a fax advertising company. Abraham has testified that she believed it was legal to send fax advertising to companies that had an established business relationship with the sender and mistakenly thought the companies on her list met that standard. B2B faxed an advertisement for Top Flite—a Michigan mortgage company—to more than 4,000 fax numbers, using that list. Recipients alleged that the fax was unsolicited and that they did not have an established business relationship with Top Flite and filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court denied class certification, making “no determinations” as to the requirements in Rule 23(a), but focusing on Rule 23(b)(3)'s requirement of predominance. The court expressed concern that individual class members might have consented to receiving the challenged faxes, and that determining whether they had consented would require investigation of each person or business. Top Flite then offered to allow an injunction and judgment of $1,550. Under Rule 68(b), the offers lapsed. Top Flite successfully moved to dismiss, arguing that because the court had denied class certification and plaintiffs had failed to accept offers of judgment that encompassed all of the individual relief sought, the complaints were moot. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Speculation alone regarding individualized consent was insufficient to defeat plaintiffs’ showing of predominance under Rule 23(b)(3) and the unaccepted settlement offer was a nullity. View "Bridging Communities, Inc. v. Top Flite Financial, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2010, plaintiffs, former employees of establishments that operate in “Fourth Street Live,” a Louisville entertainment district, sued, alleging violations of the Kentucky Wage and Hour Act, KRS 337.385, based on policies regarding off-the-clock work and mandatory tip-pooling. In 2012, the district court granted class certification under Rules 23(a) and 23(b). In 2013, the defendants unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, citing the Supreme Court’s 2013 "Comcast" decision. In 2014, the parties reached a financial settlement. It took almost another year to reach an agreement regarding non-monetary terms. In March 2015, the parties filed a joint status report declaring that they had reached a settlement agreement and anticipated filing formal settlement documents in April. The defendants then became aware of a February 2015 Kentucky Court of Appeals holding that KRS 337.385 could not support class-action claims. Defendants unsuccessfully moved to stay approval of the settlement. The court granted preliminary approval of the settlement. The Sixth Circuit denied an appeal as untimely because the defendants had not challenged an appealable class-certification order under Rule 23(f). Defendants filed another unsuccessful decertification motion with the district court. The court granted final approval of the settlement as “a binding contract under Kentucky law.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A post-settlement change in the law does not alter the binding nature of the parties’ agreement. View "Whitlock v. FSL Management, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2013, Flint, Michigan, decided to switch its primary drinking water provider from the Detroit Water Department to the new Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). KWA was not yet operational, so Flint needed an interim water source and chose the Flint River, which it had previously used for back-up service. According to several reports, the river was highly sensitive and required anti-corrosive treatment to prevent heavy metals from leaching into the water. The city contracted with Lockwood, a Texas-based corporation, for design engineering services in rehabilitating Flint’s Water Treatment Plant. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved Lockwood’s plans, which did not include necessary upgrades for anti-corrosive treatment. Flint began supplying residents with Flint River drinking water. Within days, residents complained of foul smelling and tasting water. Within weeks, some residents’ hair began to fall out; their skin developed rashes. Within a year, there were positive tests for E. coli, a spike in deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, and reports of dangerously high blood lead levels in children. Residents sued, alleging professional negligence. Lockwood removed the action to federal court, citing diversity jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2)). Plaintiffs argued that the mandatory “local controversy” exception to jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4)(A) applied. The district court remanded, noting that more than two-thirds of the putative class members were likely Michigan citizens. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that injuries were limited to the area of the water system and the significant involvement of Lockwood’s Michigan-based affiliate. View "Mason v. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, P.C." on Justia Law

by
Conway filed a putative class action suit against PRA under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and survived a motion to dismiss. PRA offered Conway judgment in his favor. Conway declined. PRA again moved to dismiss, arguing that, as PRA had offered Conway all the relief he sought, there was no longer a live controversy. Heeding then-governing Sixth Circuit precedent, the district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and found the issue of class certification moot. The Sixth Circuit vacated, citing the intervening Supreme Court holding in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez (2016) that an unaccepted offer of judgment generally does not moot a case, even if the offer would fully satisfy the plaintiff’s demands. The court rejected PRA’s attempt to distinguish Campbell-Ewald because the court simultaneously entered a final judgment against Conway granting him all the relief he wanted. The district court erred in entering that judgment. Campbell-Ewald revived the Article III controversy between Conway and PRA that Sixth Circuit precedent wrongly extinguished. That a judgment that should never have been entered does not extinguish a plaintiff’s stake in the litigation; an appeal remains alive if the effects of a court’s order can be undone. The court declined to address class certification. View "Conway v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Cole, a Memphis police officer, was arrested after leaving a Beale Street nightclub. He filed a class action, alleging that Memphis’s routine practice of sweeping Beale Street at 3 a.m. on weekend nights violated his constitutional right to intrastate travel. The jury found that the city implemented its street-sweeping policy without consideration of whether conditions in the area posed an existing, imminent, or immediate threat to public safety. Based on those findings, the court found the policy unconstitutional under strict scrutiny, entered an injunction, and ordered other equitable relief. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court erred in subjecting the Sweep to strict scrutiny and in certifying a class when the precise members of the class were not ascertainable. The primary purpose of the Sweep was to impede travel; it resulted in the broad denial of access to a popular, two-block area of a public roadway and sidewalk. The Sweep was more than an incidental inconvenience. Under either strict or intermediate scrutiny, the city bore the burden of justifying the Sweep to its stated goal of public safety. The jury found that the timing and execution of the Sweep was arbitrary. The precise identity of each class member need not be ascertained for Rule 23(b)(2) class certification, in a case seeking only injunctive and declaratory relief. View "Cole v. City of Memphis" on Justia Law

by
The Michigan office of Alix, an international company, administers payroll and benefits for U.S. employees and is directly involved in U.S. hiring. In 2013, Alix hired Brewington, a Texas resident, for its Dallas Corporate Services team. The employment agreement provides that it “will be construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Michigan” and states, “any dispute arising out of or in connection with any aspect of this Agreement and/or any termination of employment . . ., shall be exclusively subject to binding arbitration under the . . . American Arbitration Association . . . decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding as to both parties.” In 2014, Brewington was terminated. He filed a demand for arbitration, asserting claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, on behalf of himself and a purported nationwide class of current, former, and potential Alix employees. The Michigan district court ruled that Brewington was precluded from pursuing arbitration claims on behalf of any purported class. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that court’s refusal to dismiss, finding that Brewington had sufficient contacts with Michigan to establish personal jurisdiction, and upheld summary judgment in favor of Alix. An agreement must expressly include the possibility of classwide arbitration to indicate that the parties agreed to it. This clause is silent on the issue and is limited to claims concerning “this Agreement,” as opposed to other agreements. It refers to “both parties.” View "AlixPartners, LLP v. Brewington" on Justia Law