Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Frederick Rozo v. Principal Life Insurance Co.
Principal Life Insurance Company (Principal) offers a product called the Principal Fixed Income Option (PFIO), a stable value contract, to employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. Plaintiff on behalf of himself and a class of plan participants who deposited money into the PFIO, sued Principal under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), claiming that it (1) breached its fiduciary duty of loyalty by setting a low-interest rate for participants and (2) engaged in a prohibited transaction by using the PFIO contract to make money for itself. The district court granted summary judgment to Principal after concluding that it was not a fiduciary. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that Principal was a fiduciary. On remand, the district court entered judgment in favor of Principal on both claims after a bench trial. Plaintiff challenges the court’s judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court that Principal and the participants share an interest because a guaranteed CCR that is too high threatens the long-term sustainability of the guarantees of the PFIO, which is detrimental to the interest of the participants. The question then becomes whether the court clearly erred by finding that Principal set the CCR in the participants’ interests. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by finding that the deducts were reasonable and set by Principal in the participants’ interest of paying a reasonable amount for the PFIO’s administration. Finally, the court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Principal on the prohibited transaction claim because it is exempted from liability for receiving reasonable compensation. View "Frederick Rozo v. Principal Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Philip Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc.
This class action arises out of claims by commercial truck drivers who assert that they were not paid proper amounts while working for Werner Enterprises, Inc., and Drivers Management, LLC, (collectively Defendants) as part of Defendants’ Student Driver Program. In a previous appeal, we considered Defendants’ challenge to a jury verdict in favor of Philip Petrone and others (collectively, Plaintiffs) on some of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the district court erred in amending the scheduling order to allow Plaintiffs to submit an expert report past the disclosure deadline without good cause. Because the expert evidence was integral to the jury’s verdict, the Eighth Circuit determined that this error was not harmless, and vacated the judgment. The case returned to the court after the district court, on remand, entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The court then vacated the judgment. The court explained that read in its entirety, the decision left the door open for the district court to consider how to proceed in light of the Circuit Court’s ruling that the district court should not have granted the motion to amend the scheduling order. The court explained that its mandate thus did not direct the district court to affirmatively find in Defendants’ favor, and their suggestion to the contrary is without merit. Finally, while the district court properly determined that Plaintiffs could not present evidence of damages through summary evidence pursuant to Rule 1006, it failed to conduct an analysis pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1) and failed to address Plaintiffs’ request for appointment of an expert pursuant to Rule 706. View "Philip Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Lisa Jones v. Anna St. John
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s approval of a settlement between Defendant Monsanto and Plaintiffs. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding the notice to the class was sufficient or in concluding that payment to class members of 50% of the average weighted retail price of the items they purchased fully compensated the class members. Plaintiffs filed suit pleading multiple claims arising out of the allegedly deceptive labeling of Roundup products manufactured by Monsanto. The parties agreed to a total Common Fund. They agreed that Monsanto would not object to Plaintiffs’ counsel seeking 25% of that amount as an attorney’s fee. Class members who filed claims were to receive 10% of the average retail price for the product(s) they bought, and any remaining funds after the costs of administration would be distributed cy pres. The parties executed a Second Corrected Class Action Settlement Agreement that made four changes to the initial agreement. Appellant, a party injured by Roundup, made three objections to the settlement, all of which she renewed on appeal. First, she argued that the district court should have (1) required the parties to take additional steps to identify additional class members and (2) increased the pro-rata portion of the Common Fund up to 100% of the weighted average retail price. The court held the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that notice to the class was sufficient in light of the comprehensive notice plan and the estimated results from the claims administrator.Further, the court wrote that cy pres distribution of residual funds pursuant to the settlement agreement neither constitutes speech by any individual class member nor infringes on their First Amendment rights. View "Lisa Jones v. Anna St. John" on Justia Law
Abraham Lizama v. Victoria’s Secret Stores, LLC
Victoria’s Secret Stores, LLC and Victoria’s Secret Direct, LLC (collectively “Victoria’s Secret”) appealed an order of the district court remanding the putative class action to state court. Victoria’s Secret removed the action to the federal district court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(d)(2). Plaintiff moved to remand the case to state court, arguing that Victoria’s Secret failed to show that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The Eighth Circuit accepted the appeal under 28 U.S.C. Section 1453(c)(1), and affirmed. The court explained that when a plaintiff contests the amount in controversy after removal, the party seeking to remove under the Class Action Fairness Act must establish the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence. Here, the parties debate whether the amount in controversy should be measured only from the plaintiffs’ perspective—i.e., the aggregate value of the claims to the class members—or whether a district court may determine the amount from either party’s point of view, and thus may consider the amount from the defendant’s perspective—i.e., the total potential cost to the defendant if the plaintiffs prevail. The company presented no data or other evidence to support a reasonable inference that the number of class members who would become repeat purchasers is likely to be sufficient to generate at least $1.7 million in disputed tax. Without a non-speculative basis to infer that the requested injunction would bring the amount in controversy between these parties over $5 million, the district court properly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction. View "Abraham Lizama v. Victoria's Secret Stores, LLC" on Justia Law
Ria Schumacher v. SC Data Center, Inc.
Plaintiff commenced a class-action lawsuit alleging that SC Data Center, Inc. (“SC Data”) committed three violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The parties reached a settlement agreement. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016), SC Data moved to dismiss the action. The plaintiff first alleged that SC Data took an adverse employment action based on her consumer report without first showing her the report. The court reasoned that the right to pre-action explanation to the employer is not unambiguously stated in the statute’s text. Next, the plaintiff asserts that SC Data obtained her consumer report without first obtaining an FCRA compliant disclosure form. The court found that plaintiff has not established that she suffered a concrete injury due to the improper disclosure. Finally, the plaintiff’s last claim asserts that she did not authorize SC Data to obtain a consumer report. She did authorize a company to conduct a criminal background search. The court found that plaintiff has not pleaded any facts demonstrating concrete harm—a prerequisite for Article III standing. As such, she lacks standing to pursue her failure-to-authorize claim. The court vacated the district court's orders. View "Ria Schumacher v. SC Data Center, Inc." on Justia Law
Song v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' putative class action, alleging that they were misled by claims made on packages of dog food manufactured and distributed by Champion. Because plaintiffs have not challenged the district court's determinations that they lacked standing to claim that Champion misrepresented that the dog food is BPA-free, the court did not reach the merits of their related arguments.In this case, plaintiffs were required to plausibly allege that because of defendant's affirmative misrepresentations or material omissions, their dog food packaging could deceive a reasonable consumer. The court concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' omission-based claims because none of Champion's packaging statements are deceptive or misleading, and thus none require corrective disclosures. The court rejected plaintiffs' argument that Champion was required to disclose further information because of its special knowledge of material facts to which plaintiffs did not have access. The court stated that this duty to disclose based on special knowledge arises only in limited circumstances, which are not present in this case. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiffs' breach of warranty and unjust enrichment claims are premised on the same allegations of deception that are insufficient to support the fraud claims, and thus they fail for the same reasons. View "Song v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Penrod v. K&N Engineering, Inc.
Plaintiffs, three individuals who purchased oil filters designed by K&N, seek to represent a nationwide class of all purchasers of three styles of K&N oil filters that they allege share a common defect, although most proposed class members had oil filters that never exhibited the alleged defect.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million and therefore lacked jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. The court concluded that the class members whose oil filters never failed have not sustained injury or damages and cannot assist plaintiffs in meeting the $5 million jurisdictional threshold. Therefore, without these losses to aggregate, plaintiffs do not not plausibly allege an amount in controversy in excess of $5 million. View "Penrod v. K&N Engineering, Inc." on Justia Law
Johannessohn v. Polaris Industries Inc.
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that Polaris failed to disclose heat defects and that this artificially inflated the price of their all-terrain vehicles. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification, concluding that there was no error in determining that individualized questions predominated, a class action was not a superior method for litigating, and the putative class included members who lacked standing.In this case, plaintiffs' nationwide class action complaint alleges violations of the the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act and thus rebuttal evidence is permitted; Polaris has evidence challenging how much each consumer-plaintiff relied on the alleged omissions; and this will require individualized findings on reliance and is likely to make for multiple mini-trials within the class action. The court also explained that, because the class has not been defined in such a way that anyone within it would have standing, the class cannot be certified. View "Johannessohn v. Polaris Industries Inc." on Justia Law
Kitchin v. Bridgeton Landfill, LLC
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to remand this removed action to state court under the local-controversy exception to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). In this case, plaintiff filed a class action complaint in Missouri sate court against defendants, alleging that defendants owned and/or operated the West Lake Landfill and were responsible for the contamination of plaintiffs' property, which plaintiffs claimed occurred due to defendants' allegedly improper acceptance and handling of radioactive waste at the landfill. Rock Road Industries was a citizen of Missouri at the time plaintiffs filed their complaint. After plaintiffs filed the complaint, Rock Road Industries merged with Bridgeton Landfill. Defendants removed to federal court, alleging federal-question jurisdiction existed under the Price-Anderson Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.After determining that it has jurisdiction over the appeal of the remand order under 28 U.S.C. 1291, the court concluded that CAFA's local-controversy exception does not require remand in this case because plaintiffs failed to show that the conduct of defendant Rock Road Industries - the only Missouri-citizen defendant and thus the only possible local defendant for purposes of the exception - formed a significant basis for the claims asserted in the complaint. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Kitchin v. Bridgeton Landfill, LLC" on Justia Law
Ahmad v. City of St. Louis
This case arose out of several days of street protests during the September 2017 riots that occurred following the acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer for the on-duty shooting of a black man. Plaintiffs are a protester who allegedly was maced, a person whose cell phone was seized and searched as he filmed arrests, and an observer who was allegedly exposed to chemical agents and arrested on September 17.The Amended Complaint alleged that the City (i) violated the First Amendment by retaliating against plaintiffs for engaging in protected expressive activity; (ii) violated the Fourth Amendment because its custom, practice, and failure to train and supervise caused unlawful seizures and the use of excessive force by police officers; and (iii) violated the Fourteenth Amendment when officers failed to warn before deploying chemical agents, failed to provide opportunities to disperse, and arbitrarily enforced two ordinances of the St. Louis Code. The City subsequently appealed the district court's order denying its motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction that included affirmative mandates pending a prompt trial on the merits of plaintiffs' claims for a permanent injunction, and the district court's order granting class certification.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the City's motion to dissolve the temporary injunction and remanded with directions to vacate and dissolve the injunction no later than October 31, 2021, if it has not been replaced with a final order either granting a permanent injunction or denying injunctive relief. The court explained that, given the rigorous 42 U.S.C. 1983 burdens of proof, the evidence at the preliminary injunction hearing relating to the events of September 2017, while relevant and sufficient to persuade the court to grant a preliminary injunction pendente lite, will not be sufficient to warrant permanent injunctive relief imposing the same levels of indefinite federal court control over the City's law enforcement responsibilities.The court vacated the class certification order without prejudice to plaintiffs renewing their request after a final order has been entered on their claim for permanent injunctive relief, at which point the district court can better assess whether a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) class is appropriate and necessary to afford proper equitable relief. The court explained that, given the individualized inquiries plaintiffs' disparate claims require, the massive class action certified neither promotes the efficiency and economy underlying class actions nor pays sufficient heed to the federalism and separation of powers principles in Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit precedent. View "Ahmad v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law