Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Castillo v. Bank of America, NA
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to certify a class in a dispute regarding the proper method of calculating overtime wages under California law. Plaintiff sought to represent a class of more than 5,000 hourly-paid, non-managerial call center workers in California for numerous wage and hour violations allegedly committed by BOA.The panel held that plaintiff has established commonality; plaintiff has established the typicality of her claim; but plaintiff has not established predominance, which was essential to her class action claim. In this case, the challenged BOA policy either did not apply or did not cause an injury to many employees. View "Castillo v. Bank of America, NA" on Justia Law
Harris v. KM Industrial, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand the class action to state court because defendant based the claimed amount in controversy on unreasonable assumptions. Plaintiff filed a class action against his former employer, KMI, alleging that KMI violated several provisions of the California Labor Code.The panel held that KMI failed to sufficiently demonstrate that it met the Class Action Fairness Act's requirement that the amount in controversy exceed $5 million. The panel explained that, once plaintiff contested the reasonableness of KMI's assumptions, KMI had the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that its assumptions were reasonable. The court concluded that KMI did not carry its burden because it relied on assumptions regarding the Meal Period and Rest Period subclasses that were unreasonable. In this case, KMI failed to provide any evidence to support its assumption that all 442 Hourly Employee Class members were the same as the members of the Meal Period Sub-Class or the Rest Period Sub-Class or that they all worked shifts long enough to qualify for meal or rest periods. Finally, a remand to the district court for further factfinding is not required. View "Harris v. KM Industrial, Inc." on Justia Law
Chambers v. Whirlpool Corp.
In a class action lawsuit regarding faulty Whirlpool dishwashers, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's approval of a class settlement, but vacated and remanded the $14.8 million attorney's fees award. The panel held that the Class Action Fairness Act's (CAFA) attorney's fee provisions apply to all federal class actions; the district court improperly used a lodestar-only method to calculate attorney's fees for the coupon portion of the settlement where that methodology potentially inflates the amount of attorney's fees in proportion to the results achieved for the class because the coupons may end up providing minimal benefit to the class; the district court erred in awarding a 1.68 lodestar multiplier; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the settlement.On remand, the panel instructed the district court to apply a percentage-of-redemption value methodology for the coupon portion of a settlement, and use a lodestar method for the non-coupon part of the relief. In the alternative, the panel stated that the district court may use a lodestar-only methodology, but only if it does not consider the coupon relief or takes into account its redemption value. View "Chambers v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law
Davidson v. O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiff's motion for class certification in an action challenging the written rest-break policy of O'Reilly Auto. Plaintiff raised procedural and substantive arguments on appeal.The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting and enforcing a deadline for moving to certify the class; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion for class certification while at the same time granting her an additional month to develop evidence and submit a supplemental brief; and plaintiff was unable to establish that there were questions of law or fact common to the class where she failed to offer any evidence that the written policy was applied to employees. Finally, plaintiff waived her right to appeal the dismissal of her wage-statement claim. View "Davidson v. O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law
Floyd v. American Honda Motor, Co.
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action raising warranty claims arising out of crashes or injuries caused by the alleged "rollaway effect" of certain Honda Civic vehicles. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA) and state law for express and implied warranty against Honda.The Ninth Circuit held that the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) may not be used to evade or override the MMWA's specific numerosity requirement. In this case, plaintiffs name only three individuals, but argue that, by satisfying CAFA requirements, they are relieved of the MMWA's obligation to name at least one hundred plaintiffs. The panel rejected plaintiffs' argument and affirmed the district court's dismissal of the MMWA claim. The panel vacated the district court's dismissal of the state law claims, holding that the district court erred in not considering whether plaintiffs' state law claims met the diversity requirements of CAFA even if the MMWA claim failed. Therefore, the district court improperly dismissed the state law claims based only on lack of supplemental jurisdiction. View "Floyd v. American Honda Motor, Co." on Justia Law
Jabbari v. Wells Fargo & Co.
It is generally not legal error for a district court to hold that a settlement class satisfies predominance, particularly for a class asserting a unifying federal claim, without first performing a choice-of-law analysis.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that the class satisfied Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3)'s predominance requirement under the precedent set by the panel's recent en banc decision in In re Hyundai & Kia Fuel Economy Litigation, 926 F.3d 539 (9th Cir. 2019). The class action complaint alleged that Wells Fargo pressured their employees to meet arbitrary and unrealistic sales quotas unrelated to true consumer demand which resulted in Wells Fargo's systematic exploitation of its customers for profit. Applying Hyundai, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that common questions predominate. The panel explained that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) claim unified the class because plaintiffs could show that the FCRA's elements were proven by a common course of conduct, and the existence of potential state-law claims did not outweigh the FCRA claim's importance. View "Jabbari v. Wells Fargo & Co." on Justia Law
Greene v. Harley-Davidson, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting plaintiff's motion to remand to state court because it effectively required Harley-Davison to provide evidence that the proffered punitive damages amount is probable or likely. The question presented on appeal is if the defendant relies on potential punitive damages to meet the amount-in-controversy requirement for removal under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), what is the defendant’s burden in establishing that amount?The panel held that the defendant must show that the punitive damages amount is reasonably possible. In this case, Harley-Davidson met its burden of showing that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million under CAFA by establishing that the proffered punitive/compensatory damages ratio is reasonably possible. View "Greene v. Harley-Davidson, Inc." on Justia Law
Canela v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
Plaintiff filed a class action in state court alleging that Costco violated California Labor Code 1198 by failing to provide her and other employees suitable seating. After Costco removed the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a) and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), the district court ultimately granted summary judgment to plaintiff.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment with instructions to remand to state court, holding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction at the time the action was removed to federal court. The panel first held that the district court lacked diversity jurisdiction under section 1332(a). The panel explained that, because plaintiff's pro-rata share of civil penalties, including attorney's fees, totaled $6,600 at the time of removal, and the claims of other member service employees may not be aggregated under Urbino v. Orkin Services of California, Inc., 726 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2013), the $75,000 jurisdictional threshold was not met. The panel also held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA because plaintiff's stand-alone Private Attorney General Act lawsuit was not, and could not have been, filed under a state rule similar to a Rule 23 class action. Therefore, the district court erred by not remanding the case to state court. View "Canela v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law
Brady v. AutoZone Stores, Inc.
When a class representative voluntarily settles only his individual claims without indicating any financial stake in the unresolved class claims, the class claims are rendered moot.The Ninth Circuit dismissed as moot plaintiff's appeal from the district court's judgment in a putative class action after voluntary settlement of individual claims. The panel could not assume that plaintiff maintains a financial stake in the outcome of this case merely because of a potential enhancement award. In this case, while plaintiff expressly did not resolve the class claims, he did not retain a financial stake in them. The panel concluded that, absent proof that plaintiff is legally obligated to pay the advanced legal costs unless the class is certified, those costs do not provide him a financial stake in the outcome of the class claims. View "Brady v. AutoZone Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Indirect Purchaser Class v. Panasonic Corp.
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees and litigation expenses to class counsel, following approval of two rounds of settlements in consumer class action litigation. The litigation stemmed from claims of civil antitrust violations based on price-fixing within the optical disk drive industry.The panel held that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. In a separately filed memorandum disposition, the panel affirmed the district court's approval of the first- and second-round settlements.Here, the panel vacated the awards of fees and litigation expenses, holding that when class counsel secures appointment as interim lead counsel by proposing a fee structure in a competitive bidding process, that bid becomes the starting point for determining a reasonable fee. The district court may adjust fees upward or downward depending on circumstances not contemplated at the time of the bid, but the district court must provide an adequate explanation for any variance. In this case, class counsel argues that an upward departure from its bid was warranted in part because it did not anticipate the need to litigate a second class certification motion or interlocutory appeals. Without more, the panel held that these factors are insufficient to justify a variance of the magnitude approved in the first- and second-round fee awards. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a more complete explanation of the district court's reasoning. View "Indirect Purchaser Class v. Panasonic Corp." on Justia Law