Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Mitchell v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.
The term "Actual Cash Value" is ambiguous with respect to the withholding of labor depreciation in Mississippi homeowners insurance policies that provide no further definition of ACV. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of State Farm's motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's breach of contract claim. The court found that, in the context of a Mississippi homeowners policy that refers to "Actual Cash Value" without further definition, both interpretations are reasonable. Therefore, the court held that the contract was ambiguous and the court applied Mississippi's interpretive canons, which provides that an ambiguous insurance contract is interpreted against the insurance company. The court reversed the district court's denial of State Farm's motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's tort claims. The court explained that, because the law on this question of interpreting "Actual Cash Value" in Mississippi was unsettled, State Farm had an arguable basis to depreciate labor costs. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying a class of Mississippi State Farm policyholders similarly situated to plaintiff, who received "Actual Cash Value" payments in which labor was depreciated and whose contracts similarly did not define "Actual Cash Value." View "Mitchell v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Cruson v. Jackson National Life Insurance, Co.
Plaintiff and other Texas residents filed a putative class action against a life insurance company that sells annuities, alleging that the company overcharged them by miscalculating early-withdrawal fees in breach of the annuities contracts. The Fifth Circuit vacated the class certification order and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the company did not waive its personal jurisdiction as to any non-Texas class members. The court also held that the district court erred in its predominance analysis by failing to assess how state-law variations may impact adjudication of the breach question and also by failing to consider the individualized evidence relevant to the company's affirmative defenses of waiver and ratification. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs failed to offer a damages model adequate to support class treatment, an issue they virtually conceded at oral argument. View "Cruson v. Jackson National Life Insurance, Co." on Justia Law
Flecha v. Medicredit, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative class action alleging that Medicredit's collection letter made a false threat of legal action against her, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's class certification order, holding that the putative class failed to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23's commonality, typicality, and predominance requirements. In this case, plaintiff failed to carry her burden to affirmatively demonstrate that her claim that Medicredit threatened to take legal action against class members was capable of classwide resolution. Furthermore, the putative class presented substantial questions of Article III standing. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Flecha v. Medicredit, Inc." on Justia Law
Weatherly v. Pershing, LLC
Florida law does not recognize putative class actions in Fla. Stat. 95.051's exclusive list of tolling exceptions. In these consolidated cases arising from the Stanford Ponzi scheme, investors alleged that Pershing breached its fiduciary duty and committed indirect fraud under Florida law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that investors' claims were time-barred. The court held that the Florida Legislature has laid out an exclusive list of tolling exceptions, and class actions are not on the list. Furthermore, the federal policy of tolling for putative class members could not override the governing statute. Therefore, investors' claims were time-barred by Florida's statute of limitations and the court did not reach the merits of those claims. View "Weatherly v. Pershing, LLC" on Justia Law
BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100094497
BP sought discretionary review of an Appeal Panel's calculation of lost profits owed to appellee under the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Class Action Settlement Agreement. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of the request, holding that the Appeal Panels were split and this Appeal Panel misapplied the distinction between fixed and variable costs under the Business Economic Loss Formula. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion in failing to correct the significant error. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "BP Exploration & Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100094497" on Justia Law
Lester v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
Mobil Oil removed the underlying suits as a mass action under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). On interlocutory appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Plaintiffs Bottley and Lester's respective motions to remand. The Fifth Circuit held that Mobil Oil was permitted to remove both plaintiffs' cases to federal court as a mass action under CAFA. In this case, the Bottley consolidation motion proposed a joint trial of 100 or more plaintiffs' claims, a mass action under CAFA. The court held that CAFA applied to Bottley and Lester even though Lester commenced prior to CAFA's effective date. Finally, the district court was permitted to order consolidation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) sua sponte. View "Lester v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
Aron v. Crestwood Midstream Partners
This appeal arose out of the district court's approval of a zero-dollar class action settlement and award of attorneys' fees in a consolidated lawsuit stemming from a merger between Midstream and Equity. The Fifth Circuit dismissed a class member's objection to the settlement based on lack of appellate jurisdiction. In this case, the class member was a nonparty, non-intervenor, who waived his right to appeal by filing an untimely, procedurally deficient objection. Furthermore, he failed to qualify for an exception pursuant to Devlin v. Scardelletti, 536 U.S. 1, 3–4, 6–7 (2002). View "Aron v. Crestwood Midstream Partners" on Justia Law