Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Chassen v. Fid. Nat’l Fin. Inc.
Plaintiffs represent a putative class of New Jersey real estate purchasers and refinancers who were overcharged $70 to $350 in fees. Plaintiffs allege that settlement agents (Defendants) intentionally charged Plaintiffs more than the county clerk charged for recording deeds and mortgages and kept the difference. The class claims total over $50 million, exclusive of treble damages and interest. Defendants sought dismissal and raised affirmative defenses, but did not seek to enforce arbitration clauses present in their contracts with Plaintiffs. The case was litigated for 30 months with the focus primarily on class certification. Both sides conducted broad discovery and contested substantive motions. Plaintiffs have served 130 non-party subpoenas and spent over $50,000 on experts. In 2011, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted state laws that had previously prohibited a party from compelling bipolar (individual) arbitration in certain situations even when it was specifically agreed to by contract. Defendants demanded enforcement of the arbitration agreements in light of this change in the law, then moved to compel bipolar arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed in favor of Defendants. Futility can excuse the delayed invocation of the right to compel arbitration; any attempt to compel bipolar before the Supreme Court’s decision would have been futile. View "Chassen v. Fid. Nat'l Fin. Inc." on Justia Law
Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Stevens & Ricci Inc
Relying on an advertiser’s claim that its fax advertising program complied with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, Stevens & Ricci allowed the advertiser to fax thousands of advertisements to potential customers on its behalf. More than six years later, Hymed filed a class action TCPA lawsuit, which settled with a $2,000,000 judgment against Stevens & Ricci. While that suit was pending, Auto-Owners sought a declaratory judgment, claiming that the terms of the insurance policy it provided Stevens & Ricci did not obligate it to indemnify or defend Stevens & Ricci in the class action. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment, finding that the sending of unsolicited fax advertisements in violation of the TCPA did not fall within the terms of the insurance policy. The “Businessowners Insurance Policy” obligated Auto-Owners to “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’, ‘property damage’, ‘personal injury’ or ‘advertising injury’ to which this insurance applies.” The “advertising injury” deals only with the publication of private information, View "Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Stevens & Ricci Inc" on Justia Law
OFI Asset Mgmt. v. Cooper Tire & Rubber
After a failed merger between Cooper Tire and Apollo Tyres, OFI Asset Management, purporting to act for similarly situated investors, filed a class action against Cooper and its officers. OFI claims that, during merger negotiations, the defendants made material misrepresentations in statements to investors, in violation of federal securities laws, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78n(a), and 78t(a). The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case, rejecting arguments that that court improperly managed the presentation of arguments. The court upheld a finding that OFI failed to allege sufficient facts to support its claims. The court had ordered OFI to submit a letter “identifying and verbatim quoting” the five most compelling examples it could muster of false or fraudulent statements by Cooper, with three factual allegations demonstrating the falsity of each statement and three factual allegations supporting a finding of scienter as to the making of the statements. The court had subsequently determined that the statements identified as problematic by OFI were either not false or misleading, were “forward-looking” statements protected by the safe harbor established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, lacked a sufficient showing of scienter, or suffered from some combination of those infirmities. View "OFI Asset Mgmt. v. Cooper Tire & Rubber" on Justia Law
Harnish v. Widener Univ. Sch. of Law
Named plaintiffs, 2008-2011 graduates of the Widener School of Law, claim that Widener violated the New Jersey and Delaware Consumer Fraud Acts by intentionally publishing misleading statistics, reporting that in 2005-2011, 90-97% of graduates were employed. In reality, only 50-70% of Widener graduates secured full-time legal positions. The school included non-legal and part-time positions without reporting the breakdown. In 2011, Widener improved its reporting, but allegedly continued to gather unreliable information by crediting secondhand accounts of employment and avoiding responses from unemployed graduates. The plaintiffs claim that publishing misleading statistics enabled Widener to inflate tuition. The plaintiffs moved to certify a class of “persons who enrolled in Widener University School of Law and were charged full or part-time tuition within the statutory period.” The district court denied class certification, finding that the plaintiffs could not meet FRCP 23(b)(3)’s requirement that common questions “predominate” over individual questions because they had not shown that they could prove damages by common evidence. The court noted differences in class members’ employment outcomes and that New Jersey has rejected a “fraud-on-the-market” theory outside the securities fraud context. Plaintiffs could not meet Rule 23(a)(3)’s requirement that the named plaintiffs’ claims be “typical” of the claims of the proposed class; students who enrolled in 2012 and later, after Widener improved its reporting, might prefer not to have Widener’s reputation tarnished by the lawsuit. The Third Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs’ theory was insufficiently supported by class-wide evidence. View "Harnish v. Widener Univ. Sch. of Law" on Justia Law
Richardson v. Dir., Fed. Bureau of Prisons
Richardson was placed in Lewisburg Penitentiary's Special Management Unit (SMU) program, intended for inmates with histories of violence and individuals who “participated in or had leadership roles in geographical groups/gang related activity." In a purported class action, seeking damages and injunctive relief for “[a]ll persons who are currently or will be imprisoned in the SMU program at USP Lewisburg,” Richardson alleged that through a “pattern, practice or policy,” officials at USP Lewisburg frequently placed inmates with hostile cellmates, unnecessarily increasing the risk of violence and that if an inmate refused to accept a hostile cellmate, he would be placed in painful restraints. Richardson claims that he was subjected to this policy. The district court found Richardson’s class definition “untenable because it [wa]s not objectively, reasonably ascertainable.” Meanwhile, Richardson was transferred out of USP Lewisburg. The Third Circuit remanded, holding that Richardson’s class claims are not moot. When individual claims for relief are acutely susceptible to mootness, a would-be class representative may, in some circumstances, continue to seek certification after losing his personal stake in the case. Richardson may continue to seek class certification based on the Third Circuit’s intervening 2015 holding, in Shelton v. Bledsoe, that ascertainability is not required for Rule 23(b)(2) classes. View "Richardson v. Dir., Fed. Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law
In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig.
In 2011, former professional football players sued the NFL and Riddell, Inc., claiming that the NFL failed to take reasonable actions to protect them from the chronic risks of head injuries in football, and that Riddell, an equipment manufacturer, should be liable for the defective design of helmets. In 2012, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the cases in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which, in 2014, approved a class action settlement that covered over 20,000 retired players and released all concussion-related claims against the NFL. There were 202 opt-outs. Objectors argued that class certification was improper and that the settlement was unfair. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating: “This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players. It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.” View "In re: NFL Players Concussion Injury Litig." on Justia Law
Weitzner v. Sanofi Pasteur Inc
Weitzner, a Brooklyn, New York doctor, filed a putative class action against Sanofi and Vaxserve, alleging that they transmitted more than 10,000 facsimiles to members of the class without the prior express invitation or permission, violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. Before a motion for class certification was filed, defendants made offers of judgment under FRCP 682 to both Weitzner and his professional corporation: $1,500 for each facsimile advertisement sent to Plaintiff “understood to be eleven (11) facsimile transmissions.” Defendants also offered to pay costs and to stop sending any facsimile advertisements in violation of the TCPA. Plaintiffs did not respond to the offers. More than 14 days after defendants made their offers, defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, contending their unaccepted offers mooted the case. The Third Circuit affirmed denial of the motion to dismiss, stating that plaintiffs had not engaged in “undue delay” in failing to file their motion for class certification and a successful class certification motion would “‘relate . . . back to the filing of the class complaint.’” The Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, Campbell-Ewald Company v. Gomez, held that an unaccepted offer does not make such a case moot. View "Weitzner v. Sanofi Pasteur Inc" on Justia Law
Cunningham v. M&T Bank Corp.
Plaintiffs obtained residential mortgage loans from M&T to finance the purchase of their homes and, because the loans exceeded 80% of the value of the residences, agreed to pay for private mortgage insurance. As is customary, M&T selected the insurers who, in turn, reinsured the insurance policy with M&T Reinsurance, M&T’s captive reinsurer. Beginning in 2011, counsel sent letters to Plaintiffs advising that they were investigating claims concerning M&T’s captive mortgage reinsurance. Plaintiffs agreed to be part of a lawsuit against M&T and filed a putative class action complaint alleging violations of the anti-kickback and anti-fee-splitting provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2607, and unjust enrichment. After discovery, the court granted M&T summary judgment, finding the claims time-barred and that Plaintiffs could not equitably toll the limitations period because none of them had exercised reasonable diligence in investigating any potential claims under RESPA. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that the one-year statute of limitations runs “from the date of the occurrence of the violation,” View "Cunningham v. M&T Bank Corp." on Justia Law
Chesapeake Appalachia LLC v. Scout Petroleum, LLC
In 2008, Chesapeake, as “Lessee,” entered into oil and gas leases with northeastern Pennsylvania landowners. The Leases indicate that they were “prepared by” Chesapeake and include a provision, stating that, in the event of a disagreement between “Lessor” and “Lessee” concerning “this Lease,” performance “thereunder,” or damages caused by “Lessee’s” operations, “all such disputes” shall be resolved by arbitration “in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association.” In 2013, Scout purchased several leases and began receiving royalties from Chesapeake. In 2014, Scout filed an arbitration demand on behalf of itself and similarly situated lessors, alleging that Chesapeake paid insufficient royalties. Chesapeake objected to class arbitration and sought a declaratory judgment, arguing that “[it] did not agree to resolve disputes arising out of the leases at issue in ‘class arbitration,’ nor did Chesapeake agree to submit the question of class arbitrability ... to an arbitrator.” The district court and Third Circuit ruled in favor of Chesapeake, finding that the issue of arbitrability is a question for the court. Based on the language of the Leases, the nature and contents of the AAA rules, and existing case law, the Leases did not “clearly and unmistakably” delegate the question of class arbitrability to the arbitrators. View "Chesapeake Appalachia LLC v. Scout Petroleum, LLC" on Justia Law
Babcock v. Butler County
This putative class action was brought by Sandra Babcock, a corrections officer at the Butler County Prison in Butler, Pennsylvania. Babcock claimed that Butler County failed to properly compensate her and those similarly situated for overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). At issue in this appeal was whether a portion of time for the Butler County Prison corrections officers’ meal periods was compensable under the FLSA. The Third Circuit concluded there was no provision of the FLSA that directly addressed this issue. Two tests were suggested by other courts of appeal: one looked to whether the employee had been relieved from all duties during the mealtime; the other (more generally adopted) looked to the party to which the “predominant benefit” of the mealtime belongs. The District Court noted that the Third Circuit had not yet established a test to determine whether a meal period is compensable under the FLSA. After its review of this case, the Court adopted the “predominant benefit test” and affirmed the District Court. View "Babcock v. Butler County" on Justia Law