Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company
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
Kelly Bassett v. Credit Bureau Services, Inc.
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
Kamisha Stanton v. Cash Advance Centers, Inc
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
City of Creve Coeur v. DirecTV LLC
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
Michael Tucker v. General Motors LLC
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
Steven Goldsmith v. Lee Enterprises
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
Robert Leflar v. Target Corporation
Plaintiff bought a laptop with a manufacturer’s warranty from Target. He filed a class action on behalf of “all citizens of Arkansas who purchased one or more products from Target that cost over $15 and that were subject to a written warranty.” His theory was that Target violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s Pre-Sale Availability Rule by refusing to make the written warranties reasonably available, either by posting them in “close proximity to” products or placing signs nearby informing customers that they could access them upon request. Target filed a notice of removal based on the jurisdictional thresholds in the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. The district court the class action against Target Corporation to Arkansas state court. The Eighth Circuit vacated the remand order and return the case to the district court for further consideration. The court explained that the district court applied the wrong legal standard. The district court refused to acknowledge the possibility that Target’s sales figures for laptops, televisions and other accessories might have been enough to “plausibly allege” that the case is worth more than $5 million. The district court then compounded its error by focusing exclusively on the two declarations that accompanied Target’s notice of removal. The court wrote that the district court’s failure to consider Target’s lead compliance consultant’s declaration, Target’s central piece of evidence in opposing remand, “effectively denied” the company “the opportunity . . . to establish [its] claim of federal jurisdiction.” View "Robert Leflar v. Target Corporation" on Justia Law
City of Ashdown, Arkansas v. Netflix, Inc.
The Arkansas Video Service Act of 2013 (VSA) establishes a statewide franchising scheme for authorizing video service providers to provide services in political subdivisions within the state. Netflix and Hulu were already providing online video streaming services prior to the passage of the VSA; they have not applied for certificates of franchise authority. The City of Ashdown, Arkansas, filed a putative class action against Netflix and Hulu in 2020, seeking both a declaration that they must comply with the VSA and damages for their failure to pay the required fee. The district court granted Netflix and Hulu’s motions to dismiss, concluding, among other things, that the VSA does not give Ashdown a right of action to bring this suit. Ashdown appealed, arguing that the district court misinterpreted the VSA. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the fact that the VSA does not “prevent” a party from exercising a right does not, itself, confer a right. This provision is more logically read to preserve existing rights of action. The reference to “other laws” in the section title supports this conclusion. Further, the court wrote that the VSA does not establish such a “high duty of care” for video service providers, nor does it signal a strong public policy of protecting municipalities. Thus, the court concluded that recognizing a right of action would circumvent the intent of the VSA. View "City of Ashdown, Arkansas v. Netflix, Inc." on Justia Law
Christine Vitello v. Natrol, LLC
Plaintiff saw Cognium, a “nutraceutical” manufactured by Natrol, on sale. Cognium, according to Natrol’s advertising, improves memory and concentration. Its packaging stated that Cognium is “powered by Cera-Q, a natural protein from silkworm cocoons,” and can improve “Memory Recall Efficiency” by 90% when taken twice daily for four weeks. The box claimed that “nine clinical studies in adults, seniors and children showed statistically significant improvements in memory and cognition in 4 weeks or less when taken as directed.” Plaintiff filed a putative class action complaint against Natrol, seeking damages for herself and establishment of a National Class and Missouri Consumer Subclass. Plaintiff alleged that, prior to her purchases of Cognium, two of the nine clinical studies noted on its packaging had been retracted, including one for “data fabrication and falsification.” With Plaintiff’s individual claims dismissed, the court determined the sole named plaintiff could not represent the purported class and dismissed the entire action. On appeal, Plaintiff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissing her MMPA and unjust enrichment claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here Plaintiff purchased a product that expressly stated on the label it was “not intended to” do what she stated she purchased it for, serve as a substitute treatment for her prescription medication. Thus, for Plaintiff the actual value of the Cognium she purchased, and the value of Cognium without Natrol’s alleged marketing misrepresentations was “zero.” The benefit of the bargain rule does not apply in this situation, so Plaintiff cannot prove that she suffered ascertainable loss “as a result of” Natrol’s unlawful practice. View "Christine Vitello v. Natrol, LLC" on Justia Law
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