Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Appellee worked at a Xerox Business Services, LLC (“XBS”) call center and was compensated according to a proprietary system of differential pay rates known as Achievement Based Compensation (“ABC”). Section 4 of the 2002 Dispute Resolution Plan ("DRP") required XBS and its agents to submit “all disputes” to binding arbitration for final and exclusive resolution. Appellee never signed the 2002 DRP. XBS issued an updated DRP (“2012 DRP”). XBS filed a motion to compel individual arbitration by 2,927 class members who had signed the 2002 DRP. The district court found that XBS had waived its right to compel arbitration.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying XBS's motion to compel. The panel noted that following Morgan v. Sundance, 142 S. Ct. 1708 (2022), the Ninth Circuit’s test for waiver of the right to compel arbitration consists of two elements: (1) knowledge of an existing right to compel arbitration; and (2) intentional acts inconsistent with that existing right. XBS challenged both prongs of the test. The panel held that XBS was correct that the district court could not compel nonparties to the case to arbitrate until after a class had been certified and the notice and opt-out period were complete. However, XBS failed to appreciate that waiver was a unilateral concept. The panel held that further undercutting XBS’s position was its own actions throughout the course of the litigation, in which XBS raised the 2012 DRP as to putative class members before the class had been certified and before it had the ability to move to enforce that agreement against them. View "TIFFANY HILL V. XEROX BUSINESS SERVICES, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The case at issue began in 1994 when Plaintiffs sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Governor (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging widespread violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act (collectively “ADA”). The district court concluded that California prisons were failing to provide legally required accommodations, and this court affirmed. In these appeals, Defendants challenged two orders in which the district court found ongoing violations of disabled prisoners’ rights at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) and at five additional prisons (“Five Prisons”) resulting from Defendants’ failure to investigate adequately and discipline staff misconduct. The district court entered injunctions requiring Defendants to adopt additional remedial measures at the six prisons.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed one district court order, and affirmed in part and vacated in part a second district court order. The panel first rejected Defendants’ threshold contention that the district court did not have authority to issue either of the orders because the orders addressed misconduct that was “categorically distinct” from the allegations of wrongdoing in the Complaint. The panel determined that the new allegations in the motions at issue here were closely related to those in the operative Complaint and alleged misconduct of the same sort—that Defendants failed to accommodate class members’ disabilities, in direct contravention of the ADA. The panel affirmed the particular provisions of each order that address the prisons’ investigatory and disciplinary failures. The panel concluded that the district court abused its discretion by ordering Defendants to reform their pepper-spray policies at the Five Prisons and vacated that portion of the order. View "JOHN ARMSTRONG, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law

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USERRA Section 4316(b)(1) requires employers to provide employees who take military leave with the same non-seniority rights and benefits as their colleagues who take comparable non-military leaves. Plaintiff, a commercial airline pilot and military reservist, filed a class action brought under USERRA. Plaintiff alleged that because Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air Industries (collectively, the “Airlines”) provide paid leave for non-military leaves, including jury duty, bereavement, and sick leave, the Airlines are also required to pay pilots during short-term military leaves. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment to the Airlines and concluding as a matter of law that military leave is not comparable to any other form of leave offered by the Airlines.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable jury could find military leave comparable to non-military leave. In reaching this conclusion, the district court erred by comparing all military leaves, rather than just the short-term military leaves at issue here, with the comparator non-military leaves. The district court also erred by disregarding factual disputes about each of the three factors in the comparability analysis: duration, purpose, and control. The panel held that because factual disputes existed, comparability was an issue for the jury.   The panel, therefore, reversed and remanded. It instructed that on remand, the district court should consider in the first instance the issue of whether “pay during leave” was a standalone benefit that the airlines provided under their collective bargaining agreements to any employee on leave. View "CASEY CLARKSON V. ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs submitted health plan coverage requests, which United Behavioral Health (“UBH”) denied. Plaintiffs brought claims under ERISA for breach of fiduciary duty and improper denial of benefits. The parties stipulated to a sample class, from which they submitted a sample of health insurance plans. Plaintiffs alleged that the plans provided coverage for treatment consistent with generally accepted standards of case (“GASC”) or were governed by state laws specifying certain criteria for making coverage or medical necessity determinations. Plaintiffs alleged that UBH’s Level of Care Guidelines and Coverage Determination Guidelines for making these determinations were more restrictive than GASC and were also more restrictive than state-mandated criteria. The district court certified three classes, conducted a bench trial, and entered judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor. The district court issued declaratory and injunctive relief, directed the implementation of court-determined claims processing guidelines, ordered “reprocessing” of all class members’ claims in accordance with the new guidelines, and appointed a special master to oversee compliance for ten years.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The panel held that Plaintiffs had Article III standing to bring their breach of fiduciary duty and improper denial of benefits claims. And the district court did not err in certifying three classes to pursue the fiduciary duty claim. However, because Plaintiffs expressly declined to make any showing, or seek a determination of, their entitlement to benefits, permitting Plaintiffs to proceed with their denial of benefits claim under the guise of a “reprocessing” remedy on a class-wide basis violated the Rules Enabling Act. View "DAVID WIT, ET AL V. UNITED BEHAVIORAL HEALTH" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased a set of tires from Walmart.com, which included a Terms of Use with an arbitration provision. Plaintiff had the tires shipped to and installed at a Walmart Auto Center, and while waiting for the tires to be installed, he purchased the lifetime balancing and rotation Service Agreement. Plaintiff received tire services once in 2019 but was later denied service on several occasions in 2020 at multiple Walmart Auto Centers. Plaintiff brought a putative class action alleging breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Walmart sought to compel individual arbitration of its dispute with Plaintiff pursuant to the arbitration provisions of the Terms of Use. The district court found that the plain meaning of the Terms of Use precluded the applicability of the arbitration provision to in-store purchases.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Walmart Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration and agreed with the district court that Plaintiff contested the existence, not the scope, of an arbitration agreement that would encompass this dispute. As the party seeking to compel arbitration, Walmart bore the burden of proving the existence of an agreement to arbitrate by a preponderance of the evidence. The panel held that substantial evidence supported that the two contracts between Plaintiff and Walmart were separate, independent agreements. The two contracts—though they involved the same parties and the same tires—were separate and not interrelated. Therefore, the arbitration agreement in the first did not encompass disputes arising from the second. View "KEVIN JOHNSON V. WALMART INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who represents both a Washington and a national class, was incarcerated three times in the Kitsap County Jail. In each instance, the jail confiscated his cash at booking and returned it to him in the form of a prepaid debit card issued and serviced, respectively, by defendants Cache Valley Bank and Rapid Investments, Inc. (collectively, “Rapid”). Plaintiff was not provided an option to receive his money in any other form. Plaintiff claimed that Rapid’s debit cards carried fees that violated the EFTA and Washington state law. Rapid sought arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision in a cardholder agreement.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration. The panel wrote that Plaintiff’s retention of the release card, prior to use, cannot constitute assent to the agreement. The panel next considered whether Plaintiff’s subsequent use of the card to withdraw funds, while remaining silent, constituted assent. The panel held that because the money Plaintiff withdrew was his own, because the card he was issued came pre-activated and there was no other way to obtain immediate use of his own funds, and because Rapid structured its fees to begin deducting after three days regardless of use, Plaintiff’s decision to withdraw his own money cannot reasonably be understood to manifest assent to the contract. View "JEFFREY REICHERT, ET AL V. RAPID INVESTMENTS, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a class of children, appearing through their guardians ad litem, filed a lawsuit against Google LLC and others, alleging that Google used persistent identifiers to collect data and track their online behavior surreptitiously and without their consent in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). They pled only state law claims arising under the constitutional, statutory, and common law of California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Tennessee, but also allege Google’s activities violate COPPA. The district court held that the “core allegations” in the third amended complaint were squarely covered, and preempted, by COPPA.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal on preemption grounds. The panel considered the question of whether COPPA preempts state law claims based on underlying conduct that also violates COPPA’s regulations. The Supreme Court has identified three different types of preemption—express, conflict, and field. First, express preemption is a question of statutory construction. The panel concluded that COPPA’s preemption clause does not bar state-law causes of action that are parallel to, or proscribe, the same conduct forbidden by, COPPA. Accordingly, express preemption does not apply to the plaintiff class’s claims. Second, even if express preemption is not applicable, preemptive intent may be inferred through conflict preemption principles. The panel held that although express and conflict preemption are analytically distinct inquiries, they effectively collapse into one when the preemption clause uses the term “inconsistent.” For the same reasons that the panel concluded there was no express preemption, the panel concluded that conflict preemption did not bar Plaintiffs’ claims. View "CARA JONES, ET AL V. GOOGLE LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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The case arose from the district court’s dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s class-action claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), against Meta Platforms, Inc. (Meta), formerly known as Facebook, Inc. Enacted in 1991, the TCPA generally bans calls made to a telephone if the call is generated by an “automatic telephone dialing system” (commonly referred to as an “autodialer”). Plaintiff argued that Meta violated the TCPA by sending unsolicited “Birthday Announcement” text messages to consumers’ cell phones. He alleged that these Birthday Announcements were sent by Meta through an autodialer that used an RSNG to store and dial the telephone numbers of the consumers being texted. The question on appeal was whether a TCPA-defined autodialer must use an RSNG to generate the telephone numbers that are dialed.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal with prejudice. The panel held that Meta did not violate the TCPA because it did not use a TCPA-defined autodialer that randomly or sequentially generated the telephone numbers in question. View "COLIN BRICKMAN V. META PLATFORMS, INC." on Justia Law

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with CoreCivic to incarcerate detained immigrants in 24 facilities across 11 states. Plaintiffs, detained solely due to their immigration status and neither charged with, nor convicted of, any crime, alleged that the overseers of their private detention facilities forced them to perform labor against their will and without adequate compensation in violation of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“California TVPA”), various provisions of the California Labor Code, and other state laws.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order denying a petition for panel rehearing and, on behalf of the court, a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an opinion (a) amending and superceding the panel’s original opinion and (b) affirming the district court’s order certifying three classes. The panel held that the district court properly exercised its discretion in certifying a California Labor Law Class, a California Forced Labor Class, and a National Forced Labor Class. The panel held that, as to the California Forced Labor Class, Plaintiffs submitted sufficient proof of a classwide policy of forced labor to establish commonality. The panel agreed with the district court that narrowing the California Forced Labor Class based on the California TVPA’s statute of limitations was not required at the class certification stage. Further, the panel held that, as to the National Forced Labor Class, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Plaintiffs presented significant proof of a classwide policy of forced labor and that common questions predominated over individual ones. View "SYLVESTER OWINO, ET AL V. CORECIVIC, INC." on Justia Law

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The district court certified a class of approximately 22.4 million members and approved a settlement that provided both monetary and injunctive relief. The district court held that Class Action Fairness Act’s (CAFA) attorney fee restrictions did not apply. Plaintiffs had requested $8.125 million in fees—25% of the face value of the settlement fund and a 4.4 multiplier on their lodestar of $1,961,905. The district court, applying the percentage-of-fund method, granted fees but reduced the award to $5,689,440, which was approximately 17.5% of the face value of the fund and 2.9 times the lodestar. Three objectors appealed the fee award.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment awarding attorneys’ fees. The panel held that the settlement was not a coupon settlement, and, therefore, not subject to the restrictions on the award of attorneys’ fees to class counsel imposed by CAFA. The panel applied the three factors identified in Online DVD-Rental Antitrust Litig., 779 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2015), to determine whether a particular instance of class relief was a coupon.   The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in calculating class counsel’s fee award. The district court did not err in awarding fees for hours spent pursuing unsuccessful settlements. The second, and final, settlement merely amended the first, so the hours spent negotiating the first settlement were not redundant or unnecessary. The district court did not otherwise abuse its discretion in making the fee award View "BYRON MCKNIGHT, ET AL V. UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law