Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
by
The dating app Tinder offered reduced pricing for those under 29. Kim, in her thirties, paid more for her monthly subscription than those in their twenties. Kim filed suit, citing California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and its unfair competition statute. The parties reached a settlement, before class certification, that applied to a putative class, including all California-based Tinder users who were at least 29 years old when they subscribed. Tinder agreed to eliminate age-based pricing in California for new subscribers. Class members with Tinder accounts would automatically receive 50 “Super Likes” for which Tinder would ordinarily have charged $50. Class members who submitted a valid claim form would also receive their choice of $25 in cash, 25 Super Likes, or a one-month free subscription.Class members, whose attorneys represent the lead plaintiff in a competing age discrimination class action against Tinder in California state court, objected to the proposed settlement. The district court certified the class, granted final approval of the proposed settlement, and awarded Kim a $5,000 incentive payment and awarded $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees. The Ninth Circuit reversed. While the district court correctly recited the fairness factors under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e)(2), it materially underrated the strength of the plaintiff’s claims, substantially overstated the settlement’s worth, and failed to take the required hard look at indicia of collusion, including a request for attorneys’ fees that dwarfed the anticipated monetary payout to the class. View "Allison v. Tinder, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The district court certified two nationwide classes in an action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Moser, a resident of California, sued the successor of HII, alleging that HII was responsible for unwanted sales calls that violated the TCPA. HII was incorporated in Delaware and represented that its principal place of business was Florida. The district court had specific personal jurisdiction over Moser’s own claims against HII but HII argued that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the claims of non-California plaintiffs under the Supreme Court’s 2017 “Bristol-Myers” decision. The district court concluded that HII had waived its personal jurisdiction defense by not raising it at the motion to dismiss stage.The Ninth Circuit vacated, first holding that it had jurisdiction under Rule 23(f) to review the personal jurisdiction and waiver issues. Agreeing with the Fifth and D.C. Circuits, the court held that HII had not waived its personal jurisdiction objection to class certification by failing to assert the defense at the Rule 12 motion to dismiss stage. At the motion to dismiss stage, lack of personal jurisdiction over unnamed, non-resident putative class members was not an ”available” Rule 12(b) defense. View "Moser v. Benfytt, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit granted in part a petition for a writ of mandamus and ordered the district court to vacate its order appointing an individual as lead plaintiff in a consolidated securities fraud action against Nikola and related defendants. In the underlying action, plaintiffs alleged that they suffered losses from buying Nikola securities after a non-party report described apparent false statements made by the founder and contained in company advertising materials. Petitioners Mersho, Chau, and Karczynski moved to be lead plaintiff as a group under the name Nikola Investor Group II (Group II).In a securities fraud class action, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) requires the district court to identify the presumptive lead plaintiff, who is the movant with the largest financial interest and who has made a prima facie showing of adequacy and typicality. Once the presumption is established, competing movants can rebut the presumption by showing that the presumptive lead plaintiff will not fairly or adequately represent the class.The panel granted the petition to the extent it seeks to vacate the district court's order appointing Plaintiff Baio as lead plaintiff. The panel concluded that four of the five Bauman factors weigh in favor of mandamus relief and thus a writ of mandamus is appropriate. In regards to the third Bauman factor, the panel explained that the district court clearly erred by finding that the presumption had been rebutted. In this case, the district court failed to point to evidence supporting its decision, instead relying on the absence of proof by Group II regarding a prelitigation relationship and its misgivings. Therefore, the district court did not comport with the burden-shifting process Congress established in the PSLRA. The panel also concluded that the first, second, and fifth Bauman factors weigh in favor of granting the writ. However, the panel declined to instruct the district court to appoint Group II as lead plaintiff, remanding for the district court to redetermine the issue. View "Mersho v. United States District Court for the District of Arizona" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's approval of a class action settlement in an appeal brought by a class member objector in a class action alleging that ConAgra used a misleading "100% Natural" label on Wesson Oil.The panel held that, under the newly revised Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e)(2) standard, courts must scrutinize settlement agreements — including post-class certification settlements — for potentially unfair collusion in the distribution of funds between the class and their counsel. The panel explained that courts should apply the heightened scrutiny Bluetooth factors even for post-class certification settlements. In this case, the class action settlement had all the hallmarks of a potentially collusive settlement giving short shrift to the class. The panel stated that the class action settlement raises a squadron of red flags billowing in the wind and begging for further review. The panel also concluded that the district court erred by failing to approximate the value of the injunction. Furthermore, the Erie doctrine does not preclude the application of Rule 23(e)(2). Finally, the panel concluded that the district court did not err by determining that the objector failed to rebut the conclusion that the settlement satisfied Rule 23(e)(2). The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Briseño v. Henderson" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order certifying three classes in a multi-district antitrust case alleging a price-fixing conspiracy by StarKist and Tri-Union, producers of packaged tuna. Producers challenged the district court's determination that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3)'s "predominance" requirement was satisfied by expert statistical evidence finding classwide impact based on averaging assumptions and pooled transaction data.Although the panel has not previously addressed the proper burden of proof at the class certification stage, the panel held that a district court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff has established predominance under Rule 23(b)(3). The panel ultimately concluded that this form of statistical or "representative" evidence can be used to establish predominance, but the district court abused its discretion by not resolving the factual disputes necessary to decide the requirement before certifying these classes. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's order certifying the classes and remanded for the district court to determine the number of uninjured parties in the proposed class based on the dueling statistical evidence. View "Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Inc. v. Bumble Bee Foods" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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