Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Plaintiff sued his former employer for allegedly underpaying him for overtime hours. Plaintiff worked in Florida, but he sued Waste Pro USA, Inc., and its subsidiary, Waste Pro of Florida, Inc., as one of several named plaintiffs in a purported collective action in the District of South Carolina. That court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Waste Pro USA and Waste Pro of Florida for lack of personal jurisdiction, and it denied as moot his motion to sever his claims and transfer them to a district court in Florida. Instead of appealing or seeking other relief in the South Carolina court, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Southern District of Florida, alleging the same claims. The Florida district court granted summary judgment in favor of Waste Pro USA and Waste Pro of Florida because it determined that Plaintiff’s complaint was untimely.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff had “alternate ways of preserving his cause of action short of invoking the doctrine of equitable tolling.” He could have filed a motion for reconsideration of or for relief from the dismissal order and argued that transfer was in the interest of justice. He also could have appealed the dismissal. “The right to appeal generally is regarded as an adequate legal remedy [that] forecloses equitable relief.” The court wrote that a diligent plaintiff would have filed a protective action or pursued a legal remedy in the South Carolina proceeding. Further, to the extent Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if equitable tolling does not apply in this case, that is the consequence of his own failure to pursue his remedies at law. Equity will not intervene in such circumstances. View "Anthony Wright v. Waste Pro USA Inc, et al." on Justia Law

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) stopped providing “Rapid Delivery”1 to Amazon Prime (“Prime”) subscribers. Because Prime subscribers were not notified of the suspension and continued to pay full price for their memberships, Plaintiff and others brought a putative class action against Amazon alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”), and unjust enrichment. The district court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim with prejudice because it found that Amazon did not have a duty to provide unqualified Rapid Delivery to Prime subscribers.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that it is allowed to use its “experience and common sense” to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic even though it was not included as a factual allegation in the First Amended Complaint. The court dispensed with this argument because Amazon’s prioritization of essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic obviously did not harm the public interest. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs specifically incorporated the terms of their contract with Amazon as part of their unjust enrichment count. So, while Plaintiffs may plead breach of contract and unjust enrichment in the alternative, they have not done so. Instead, Plaintiffs pleaded a contractual relationship as part of their unjust enrichment claim, and that contractual relationship defeats their unjust enrichment claim under Washington law. View "Andrez Marquez, et al v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Greater Birmingham Ministries (“GBM”), an Alabamian non-profit organization dedicated to aiding low-income individuals, and several Alabamian felons (collectively “Appellants”) appealed the district court’s summary judgment denying their Equal Protection Clause challenge to Amendment 579 of the Alabama state constitution, their Ex Post Facto Clause, challenge to Amendment 579’s disenfranchisement provisions, and their National Voting Registration Act of 1993 (“NVRA”), challenge to the format of Alabama’s mail voting registration form.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that (1) Amendment 579 successfully dissipated any taint from the racially discriminatory motives behind the 1901 Alabama constitution; (2) Amendment 579 does not impose punishment for purposes of the Ex Post Facto Clause; and (3) Alabama’s mail voting registration form complies with the NVRA. The court wrote that it rejects Appellants’ invitation to review the extent the Alabama legislature debated the “moral turpitude” language of Amendment 579. Further, the court explained that Section 20508(b)(2)(A) is a notice statute enacted for the convenience of voting registrants. Alabama’s mail-in voting form has provided sufficient notice by informing registrants that persons convicted of disqualifying felonies are not eligible to vote and providing an easily accessible link whereby voters convicted of felonies can determine their voter eligibility. Accordingly, Alabama has complied with the requirements of Section 20508(b)(2)(A). View "Treva Thompson, et al. v. Secretary of State for the State of Alabama, et al." on Justia Law

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This is an appeal from a district court order approving a class-action settlement that purports to provide injunctive relief and up to $8 million in monetary relief to a class of individuals (the “Class”) who purchased one or more “brain performance supplements” manufactured and sold by Defendants Reckitt Benckiser LLC and RB Health (US) LLC (together, “RB”) under the brand name “Neuriva.” Five Plaintiffs (together, the “Named Plaintiffs”) who had previously purchased Neuriva brought a putative class action, alleging that RB used false and misleading statements to give consumers the impression that Neuriva and its “active ingredients” had been clinically tested and proven to improve brain function. The parties promptly agreed to a global settlement (the “Settlement” or “Settlement Agreement”) that sought to resolve the claims of all Plaintiffs and absent Class members. The current appeal involves one unnamed Class member, an attorney and frequent class-action objector, who objected in district court and subsequently appealed the district court’s approval order.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that the Named Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims for injunctive relief. The court explained that Plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief must establish that they are likely to suffer an injury that is “actual or imminent,” not “conjectural or hypothetical.” But none of the Named Plaintiffs allege that they plan to purchase any of the Neuriva Products again. The district court, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to award injunctive relief to the Named Plaintiffs or absent Class members, and its approval of the Settlement Agreement was an abuse of discretion. View "David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that toxic chemicals used during the carpet manufacturing process have been allowed to seep into the rivers that supply drinking water to communities near Dalton, including Rome, Georgia and the rest of Floyd County. On behalf of himself and a proposed class of water subscribers and ratepayers, he sued Dalton Utilities, a municipal corporation that operates Dalton’s wastewater treatment system, for violating the Clean Water Act and for creating a public nuisance. His lawsuit claims that Dalton Utilities has caused the City of Rome’s domestic water supply to be contaminated with dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals.   The question before the Eleventh Circuit was whether Dalton Utilities is entitled to municipal immunity from Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement (injunctive relief) claim. The Eleventh Circuit denied Plaintiff’s motion to dismiss Dalton Utilities’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction. However, the court affirmed district court’s order denying Dalton Utilities’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement claim on municipal immunity grounds. The court explained that at oral argument counsel for Dalton Utilities conceded that if Phillips is still good law, Plaintiff has properly alleged a Phillips kind of nuisance claim for personal injury. The court agreed and held that municipal immunity does not shield Dalton Utilities from Plaintiff’s nuisance abatement claim. View "Jarrod Johnson v. Water, Light, and Sinking Fund Commission of City of Dalton" on Justia Law

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For almost a decade, Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (“Chiquita”) funded a violent, paramilitary terrorist group operating in Colombia. After class certification in Cardona was denied in 2019, the Plaintiffs here filed this Complaint in federal district court in New Jersey, raising state and Colombian law claims. The case was eventually transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) to the Southern District of Florida. That court dismissed the Colombian law claims as time-barred, despite the Plaintiffs’ contention that they should have a right to equitable tolling under the rule announced by the Supreme Court in American Pipe.   The Plaintiffs challenge that determination, and they also say that the district court abused its discretion in denying their request to amend the Complaint to (1) support their claim for minority tolling, and (2) add claims under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that although there is a square conflict between Colombian law and federal law in this diversity action, under Erie, Colombia’s law prevails over the rule announced in American Pipe. However, the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the Plaintiffs’ Complaint with prejudice without having allowed the Plaintiffs the opportunity to amend to support their minority tolling argument, although the district court correctly denied the Plaintiffs’ application to amend their Complaint to include Alien Tort Statute claims. View "Jane Doe 8 v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs here—proposed class representatives of former employees of various Burger King franchisees—plausibly alleged that Burger King and its franchisees engaged in “concerted action” in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The district court, though, dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint on the basis that Burger King and its franchisees constituted. A single economic enterprise and were not capable of the concerted action that a Section 1 violation requires.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that the complaint plausibly alleged concerted action. The court explained that the No-Hire Agreement removes that ability and also prohibits the hiring of any Burger King employee for six months after they have left another Burger King restaurant. In this way, the No-Hire Agreement “deprive[s] the marketplace of independent centers of decisionmaking [about hiring], and therefore of actual or potential competition.” For this reason, the court wrote, that the Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the No-Hire Agreement qualifies under Section 1 of the Sherman Act as “concerted activity,” and the Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that aspect of a Sherman Act Section 1 violation. View "Jarvis Arrington, et al v. Burger King Worldwide, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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The Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit lost money when a short seller’s report concluded that Axogen, Inc., had overstated the market for its products, resulting in a precipitous decline in Axogen’s stock price. Specifically, Axogen said that its human nerve repair products had potential because “each year” 1.4 million people in the United States suffer nerve damage, leading to over 700,000 nerve repair procedures. The Retirement System filed this lawsuit against Axogen and related entities, which presents the following question: Were Axogen’s public statements forward-looking? If so, as the district court held, the statements are eligible for a safe harbor from liability.   The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the challenged statements are forward-looking and affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court explained that the Retirement System again does not argue that it meets the statutory “actual knowledge” standard. Instead, it contends that the Supreme Court’s decision in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 575 U.S. 175 (2015) relieves it of that burden. The Retirement System’s argument misunderstands the safe-harbor statute and Omnicare. The “actual knowledge” standard is a non-negotiable part of the statute. The safe-harbor provision expressly requires a plaintiff to prove that a forward-looking statement was made with “actual knowledge that the statement was false or misleading.” Omnicare, on the other hand, addressed whether an opinion may be an actionable misstatement of fact under 15 U.S.C. Section 77k(a). Thus, the Retirement System’s failure to plausibly allege—or even attempt to argue on appeal—Axogen’s actual knowledge dooms its ’33 Securities Act claims. View "Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit v. Axogen, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against GoDaddy.com, LLC (“GoDaddy”) in district court alleging that GoDaddy had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”) when it allegedly called and texted Plaintiff solely to market its services and products through a prohibited automatic telephone dialing system. Her case was consolidated with two other cases.  Plaintiff and the plaintiffs in the two other related cases purported to bring a class action on behalf of similarly situated individuals. After negotiating with GoDaddy, the three plaintiffs submitted a proposed class settlement agreement to the District Court.   The District Court determined that “even though some of the included class members would not have a viable claim in the Eleventh Circuit, they do have a viable claim in their respective Circuit [because of a circuit split]. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s approval of class certification and settlement. The court held that the class definition does not meet Article III standing requirements. The court explained that it has not received briefing on whether a single cellphone call is sufficient to meet the concrete injury requirement for Article III standing and TransUnion has clarified that courts must look to history to find a common-law analogue for statutory harms. Thus, the court concluded its best course is to vacate the class certification and settlement and remand in order to give the parties an opportunity to redefine the class with the benefit of TransUnion and its common-law analogue analysis. View "Susan Drazen v. Godaddy.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his counsel, Anderson + Wanca (“Wanca”), appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for Wanca to receive a portion of the attorneys’ fees resulting from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. Section 227. Wanca, while not appointed as class counsel in this case, began the chain of litigation that resulted in the settlement below and so contends that it provided a substantial and independent benefit to the class justifying a portion of the attorneys’ fees.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that while the court did find that Wanca has shown it provided one substantial and independent benefit to the class, Wanca’s prioritization of its interests over the class’s interests throughout the litigation forecloses the equitable relief Wanca seeks.   The court explained that non-class counsel is generally entitled to a portion of a common fund recovered in a class action as attorneys’ fees under Rule 23(h) if non-class counsel confers a substantial and independent benefit to the class that aids in the recovery or improvement of the common fund.  Here, the mere fact that Wanca devoted substantial time and effort to litigating this class action does not entitle Wanca to attorneys’ fees. Simply put, most of the 671.95 hours Wanca spent litigating Arkin I and II did not aid in the recovery or improvement of the common fund obtained under the Pressman Settlement in Arkin III. View "Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al." on Justia Law