Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
by
Minnesota sued a litany of fossil fuel producers1 (together, the Energy Companies) in state court for common law fraud and violations of Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes. In doing so, it joined the growing list of states and municipalities trying to hold fossil fuel producers responsible for alleged misrepresentations about the effects fossil fuels have had on the environment. The Energy Companies removed to federal court. The district court granted Minnesota’s motion to remand, and the Energy Companies appealed.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Congress has not acted to displace the state-law claims, and federal common law does not supply a substitute cause of action, the state-law claims are not completely preempted. The court reasoned that because the “necessarily raised” element is not satisfied, the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule does not apply to Minnesota’s claims. Further, the court wrote that the connection between the Energy Companies’ marketing activities and their OCS operations is even more attenuated. Thus, neither requirement is met, there is no federal jurisdiction under Section 1349. View "State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff opposed a new collective-bargaining agreement that passed by a 119-vote margin. Plaintiff sued the union for breach of its duty of fair representation and a violation of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. At their core, these claims are about whether the union hoodwinked members into ratifying the new collective-bargaining agreement by concealing what would happen to the 30-and-out benefit. The district court dismissed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act claim, denied Plaintiff’s motion for class certification, and granted summary judgment to the union on the fair-representation claim. On appeal, Plaintiff alleged that the union concealed key information, but only nine members said it would have made a difference.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to provide other evidence that the outcome of the vote would have changed. The court reasoned that the ratification vote was overwhelmingly in favor: 228 to 109, a 119-vote margin. Plaintiff offers only nine members who would have voted “no” if they had known about the elimination of the 30-and-out benefit. Even assuming each would have voted the way he thinks, the agreement still would have passed by a wide margin. The court wrote that no reasonable jury could conclude that the union’s alleged bad-faith conduct was the but-for cause of the union’s ratification of the collective-bargaining agreement. View "Matthew Nagel v. United Food and Com. Workers" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Homolka, Homolka P.A., Watts Guerra, and Watts, alleging he is owed (1) $10,000 per month as leasing payments from October 2015, the first month he stopped receiving payments, until the September 2017 settlement; (2) a promised $50,000 truck reimbursement; and (3) a $3.4 million bonus. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for Plaintiff, finding that Homolka breached the oral contract, acting as an agent of Homolka P.A. and Watts Guerra. The jury awarded $175,000 in compensatory damages with no prejudgment interest. The district court denied Watts Guerra’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. Watts Guerra and Plaintiff cross-appealed these rulings.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that it agreed with the district court that the jury reasonably found Watts Guerra liable on an ostensible agency theory for Homolka’s breaches of the contract underlying the jury’s award of $175,000 in compensatory damages. The court reasoned that in considering these issues, “we start with the assumption jurors fulfilled their obligation to decide the case correctly,” and “we defer second to the trial court, which has a far better sense of what the jury likely was thinking and also whether there is any injustice in allowing the verdict to stand.” Applying these deferential standards, the court wrote that it has no difficulty concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The jury verdict awarding $175,000 compensatory damages was neither inadequate nor the product of an inappropriate compromise. View "Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP" on Justia Law

by
Lindenwood Female College (Lindenwood) asserted class action claims against its casualty insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), alleging a wrongful denial of coverage for COVID-19 business interruption at its Missouri and Illinois properties. The district court granted Zurich’s motion to dismiss, finding no plausible allegation of coverage.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Lindenwood’s argument fails to identify an ambiguity. The court explained that in its view, no lay person—no reasonable insured—could look at the policy as a whole and fail to appreciate that the state-specific endorsements are intended to apply in the respective states. The references to Louisiana and other states are not mere titles; they serve to establish the structure of the policy as a whole. And it would simply make no sense to define a contamination exclusion with express reference to viral contamination in the main body of the policy only to wholly eliminate that same exclusion nationwide in a later endorsement that references an individual state. View "Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs are three skiers who purchased an Ikon Pass for the 2019–20 ski season. Each pass provided purchasers with unlimited ski access at participating Ikon resorts in North America. Along with their Ikon Pass, Plaintiffs purchased an optional Ski Pass Preserver insurance policy from Arch. After Plaintiffs purchased their passes, state and local governments issued orders, colloquially called “stay-at-home orders,” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In response to these orders, ski resorts throughout North America closed with approximately one-third of the ski season remaining. Plaintiffs sought reimbursement for the loss of their ski pass benefits under the policy based on the Season Pass Interruption coverage. Arch denied their claims. The company took the position that the stay-at-home orders were not quarantines under the policy, later posting a “blanket denial” for such claims on its website. Plaintiffs filed one master consolidated class action complaint on behalf of themselves and a nationwide putative class of individuals who purchased the Ski Pass Preserver policy for the 2019–20 ski season. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege a covered loss because the term “quarantined,” as used in the policy, did not encompass stay-at-home orders that merely limited travel and activities.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the ordinary person at the time the Ski Pass Preserver policy was purchased would have understood “quarantined” to mean the compulsory isolation of the insured. Reading the policy as a whole, this is the only reasonable construction, and the court agreed with the district court that the policy language is unambiguous. View "Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff sued Credit Bureau Services, Inc. and C.J. Tighe (collectively, the “collectors”) for unfair debt-collection practices. The district court granted judgment as a matter of law to Plaintiff and the plaintiff class. The collectors appealed, alleging amongst various issues, (i) Plaintiff does not have Article III standing, (ii) the district court erred in allowing her to introduce an issue at trial without notice, (iii) the district court erred in determining that the NCPA requires a judgment before collecting prejudgment interest, (iv) the district court abused its discretion in finding Plaintiff an adequate class representative, and (v) the district court abused its discretion in certifying the FDCPA class.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment. The court held that Plaintiff did not suffer a concrete injury in fact as a result of the alleged statutory violations, thus, she lacks Article III standing. The court explained that Plaintiff contends that she suffered an injury in fact when the collectors demanded interest on her debts without a judgment. However, the court reasoned that Plaintiff only received the letter and never paid any part of the interest or principal. Without suffering a tangible harm, Plaintiff must point to an injury that “has a ‘close relationship’ to a harm ‘traditionally’ recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts.” Here, Plaintiff has not shown any harm that bears a “close relationship” to the type of injury that results from reliance on a misrepresentation or wrongful interference with property rights. View "Kelly Bassett v. Credit Bureau Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff brought a putative class action against Cash Advance Centers, Inc., alleging a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. Section 227. Counsel purporting to represent Cash Advance Centers, Inc., moved to compel arbitration based on arbitration provisions contained in loan agreements between Plaintiff and non-party Advance America, Cash Advance Centers of Missouri, Inc. The district court denied the motion to compel. Counsel also moved to substitute Advance America, Cash Advance Centers of Missouri, Inc., for Cash Advance Centers, Inc., as the party defendant, but the district court denied that motion as well.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained only parties to a lawsuit may appeal an adverse judgment. Because Advance America, Cash Advance Centers of Missouri, Inc., is not a party to the lawsuit, its notice of appeal is insufficient to confer jurisdiction on the Court. The non-party Advance America, Cash Advance Centers of Missouri, Inc., made no appearance in connection with the motion, and the court’s order addressed only a motion advanced by the party Defendant. The notice of appeal also names Cash Advance Centers, Inc., the party Defendant, as an appellant. But while attorneys purporting to represent Cash Advance Centers, Inc., filed a notice of appeal, counsel acknowledged at oral argument that she represented only non-party Advance America, Cash Advance Centers of Missouri, Inc., and not Cash Advance Centers, Inc. View "Kamisha Stanton v. Cash Advance Centers, Inc" on Justia Law

by
DirecTV and Dish Network (“Defendants”) provide video services in part through the Internet. The City of Creve Coeur filed this class action in Missouri state court on behalf of local government authorities, seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendants are liable under the Video Services Providers Act (“VSPA”) and implementing local ordinances, plus injunctive relief, an accounting of unpaid fees, and damages. Defendants removed the action based on diversity jurisdiction and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). After the state court entered an interlocutory order declaring that VSPA payments are fees, rather than taxes, DirecTV filed a second notice of removal, arguing this order established the required federal jurisdiction. The district court granted Creve Coeur’s motion to remand.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on different grounds. The court explained that the district court’s remand order plainly stated that the remand was based on comity principles as articulated in Levin, not on “state-tax based comity concerns.” Comity as a basis to remand was raised and fully argued in the first remand proceeding. Federal courts have long precluded two bites at this apple. Second, the Supreme Court in Levin emphatically stated that the century-old comity doctrine is not limited to the state-tax-interference concerns that later led Congress to enact the TIA. Third, the state court’s December 2020 Order addressed, preliminarily, only the VSPA fee-or-tax issue under state law. It did not address the broader considerations comity addresses. The state court order in no way overruled or undermined the basis for the district court’s first remand order. Therefore, DirecTV failed to establish the essential basis for a second removal. View "City of Creve Coeur v. DirecTV LLC" on Justia Law

by
General Motors (“GM”) installed Generation IV 5.3 Liter V8 Vortec 5300 LC9 engines (“Gen IV engine”) in seven different GMC and Chevrolet trucks and SUVs in model years 2010 to 2014 (the “affected vehicles”). In 2016, representatives from various States filed a putative class action alleging that the affected vehicles contain a defect that causes excess oil consumption and other engine damage (the “oil consumption defect”). Plaintiffs appealed only the dismissal of their Missouri Merchandising Practice Act (MMPA) claim, stating that “the sole issue presented on appeal is whether the district court improperly applied the concept of puffery to  their deceptive omissions claims under the MMPA.”   The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the MMPA claims. The court concluded that advertising “puffery” does not affect an MMPA claim based on omission of a material fact, at least in this case, and the court agreed that Plaintiffs’ Class Action Complaint alleges sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state an omissions claim to relief that is plausible on its face. View "Michael Tucker v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a home-delivery subscriber to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch daily newspaper (the “Post-Dispatch”), filed a putative class action for damages against the owner and publisher of the Post-Dispatch in state court alleging that Defendants “double-billed” him for “overlapping days.” Defendants removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, alleging that Plaintiff is seeking aggregate class-wide damages for the applicable five-year statute of limitations period that exceed $5,000,000. Plaintiff filed a First Amended Class Action Complaint alleging six claims for relief under Missouri law. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing all claims.   On appeal, Plaintiff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissing his breach of contract and MMPA claims because there are genuine issues of material fact “whether overlaps cost subscribers money” and whether Defendants’ billing practices violate the MMPA because “overlaps are incorrect and wrong.”   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it might be evidence that Defendants made minor billing errors in Plaintiff’s individual subscriber account, but that claim was not pleaded. The district court did not err in granting Defendants summary judgment dismissing the claims Plaintiff asserted despite his belated raising of this unpleaded contract claim. Further, the court explained that Plaintiff failed to controvert Defendants’ evidence showing that DISCUS properly deducts from a subscriber’s payment-in-advance the applicable rate charged as each newspaper is delivered. Thus, because Plaintiff cannot establish the ascertainable loss element of an MMPA claim, the court held that it need not address his additional argument that the Post-Dispatch’s billing practices are unfair or unethical. View "Steven Goldsmith v. Lee Enterprises" on Justia Law