Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
by
The $8.5 million proposed settlement of a class action that claimed that Western Union violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited text messages, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). defined the class as: “All Persons in the United States who received one or more unsolicited text messages sent by or on behalf of Western Union.” Price, thinking she was a class member because she had received two text messages from Western, objected, arguing that the settlement inadequately compensated the class; class counsel’s fee request was too high; the plaintiff’s incentive award was too high; the class definition was imprecise; and the list of class members had errors. Western’s records confirmed that Price had enrolled in its loyalty program, checking a disclaimer box consenting to receive text messages. The judge certified the class, ruled that Price was not a member, approved the settlement, and reduced class counsel’s fees. Price did not appeal her exclusion from the class and did not seek to intervene but sought attorney’s fees and an incentive award. Her motion was denied because Price had cited “no authority for the highly questionable proposition that a non‐class member can recover fees and an incentive award under Rule 23.” The Seventh Circuit dismissed her appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Price is not a party and lacks standing to appeal. View "Douglas v. Price" on Justia Law

by
The plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), have been diagnosed with hepatitis C. They filed suit against IDOC, Wexford (which provides inmate health services) and doctors more than 10 years ago after fruitless efforts to receive treatment for their disease while incarcerated. Their 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint alleges that the diagnostic and treatment protocols for IDOC inmates with hepatitis C violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of class certification and vacated a preliminary injunction. After discussing numerosity and commonality of facts and issues, the court noted that the district court failed to name a class representative or explain its omission, leaving no way to assess the adequacy of representation. On the assumption that the court would have accepted the proposed representatives, the record does not reveal whether they would be adequate. The lack of a named representative also makes it impossible to find typicality--that the “claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.” The individual plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the preliminary injunction, so it was error to grant injunctive relief. View "Orr v. Shicker" on Justia Law

by
Bennett was assigned to Cook County Jail Division 10, which houses detainees who need canes, crutches, or walkers. He filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12131–34, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.794, alleging that Division 10 lacks grab bars and other necessary fixtures. Bennett claims that he fell and was injured. He unsuccessfully sought to represent a class. The court reasoned that the appropriate accommodation of any detainee’s situation depends on personal characteristics, so common questions do not predominate under FRCP 23(b)(3). Bennett proposed an alternative class to avoid person-specific questions, contending that Division 10, which was constructed in 1992, violates 28 C.F.R. 42.522(b)'s requirement that as of “1988 … construction[] or alteration of buildings” must comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards. The Standards require accessible toilets to have grab bars nearby and accessible showers to have mounted seats. The district court rejected this proposal, reasoning that to determine whether the Structural Standards control, thereby mooting the reasonable accommodation inquiry, would require a ruling on the merits, which would “run[] afoul of the rule against one-way intervention.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. The "view that a class cannot be certified unless the plaintiff has already prevailed on the central legal issue is a formula for one-way intervention rather than a means to avoid it." Bennett proposes a class that will win if the Standards apply and were violated, to detainees’ detriment and otherwise will lose. View "Bennett v. Dart" on Justia Law

by
Mussat, an Illinois professional services corporation, received unsolicited faxes from IQVIA, a Delaware corporation with its headquarters in Pennsylvania. These faxes failed to include the required opt-out notice. Mussat brought a putative class action in Illinois under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, on behalf of itself and all persons in the country who had received similar junk faxes from IQVIA in the four previous years. The district court granted IQVIA's motion to strike the class definition, reasoning that under the Supreme Court’s 2017 “Bristol-Myers” holding, not just the named plaintiff, but also the unnamed class members, each had to show minimum contacts between the defendant and the forum state. Because IQVIA is not subject to general jurisdiction in Illinois, the court turned to specific jurisdiction and found that it had no jurisdiction over the claims of parties who were harmed outside of Illinois. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Bristol-Myers does not apply to the case of a nationwide class action filed in federal court under a federal statute. Bristol-Myers did not reach the question of whether, in a Rule 23 class action, each unnamed class member must separately establish specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant. In such an action the lead plaintiffs earn the right to represent the interests of absent class members by satisfying Rule 23(a) and Rule 23(b) criteria. Absent class members are not full parties to the case for many purposes. View "Mussat v. IQVIA, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Facebook employee Bigger sued Facebook alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, overtime-pay requirements, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated employees. The district court authorized notice of the action to be sent to the entire group of employees. Facebook argued the authorization was improper because many of the proposed recipients had entered arbitration agreements precluding them from joining the action. The Seventh Circuit remanded, stating that, in authorizing notice, the court must avoid even the appearance of endorsing the action’s merits. A court may not authorize notice to individuals whom the court has been shown entered mutual arbitration agreements waiving their right to join the action and must give the defendant an opportunity to make that showing. When a defendant opposing the issuance of notice alleges that proposed recipients entered such arbitration agreements, the court must determine whether a plaintiff contests the defendant’s assertions about the existence of valid arbitration agreements. If no plaintiff contests those assertions, then the court may not authorize notice to the employees whom the defendant alleges entered valid arbitration agreements. If a plaintiff contests the defendant’s assertions, then— before authorizing notice to the alleged “arbitration employees”—the court must permit the parties to submit additional evidence on the agreements’ existence and validity. View "Bigger v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Dancel sued, alleging Groupon had used her photograph to promote a restaurant voucher. Groupon had collected the photograph from Dancel’s public Instagram account based on data linking it to the restaurant’s location. She sought damages under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (IRPA) on behalf of a class of Illinois residents whose Instagram photographs have appeared on a Groupon offer. The parties litigated in state court until Dancel moved to certify a class of “[a]ll persons who maintained an Instagram Account and whose photograph ... was ... acquired and used on a groupon.com webpage for an Illinois business.” The class was not defined by its members’ residency. Groupon filed a notice of removal under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1453. The district court denied remand and denied class certification. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification. IRPA requires more with respect to the plaintiff’s identity than an Instagram username It demands that an attribute, even a name, serve to identify the individual whose identity is being appropriated. This individualized evidentiary burden prevents identity from being a predominating common question under Rule 23(b)(3). View "Dancel v. Groupon, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Dancel sued Groupon, an online seller of discount vouchers, alleging Groupon had used her photograph to promote a restaurant voucher. Groupon had collected the photograph from Dancel’s public Instagram account based on data linking it to the restaurant’s location. She sought damages under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act on behalf of a class of Illinois residents whose Instagram photographs have appeared on a Groupon offer. The parties litigated in state court until Dancel moved to certify a class of “[a]ll persons who maintained an Instagram Account and whose photograph ... was ... acquired and used on a groupon.com webpage for an Illinois business.” The class was not defined by its members’ residency. In response, Groupon filed a notice of removal. The Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1453, permits removal of a proposed class action to federal court if there is minimal diversity, meaning any member of the plaintiff class is a citizen of a state different from any defendant. Groupon, a citizen of Illinois and Delaware, did not identify any class member or his citizenship. Dancel argued that Groupon had waived its right to remove. The district court rejected Dancel’s waiver argument and denied remand but did not address minimal diversity or direct Groupon to cure its allegations. The parties then litigated class certification, which the court denied on predominance grounds. On appeal, Dancel revisited the removal issue. The Seventh Circuit ordered a limited remand for the district court to address limited diversity and secure its jurisdiction. View "Dancel v. Groupon, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The district court certified a class of about 250 African-American financial advisers who alleged that the Bank treated them less favorably than equivalent advisers of other races. A settlement agreement included a payment of $19.5 million for the benefit of class members who do not opt-out, plus changes in the Bank’s operations and a fund to cover the costs of those changes. The order certifying the class cited Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) with respect to the operational changes and Rule 23(b)(3) with respect to the proposed payments. Members are entitled to opt-out of Rule 23(b)(3) classes and pursue their claims individually but they cannot opt-out of Rule 23(b)(2) classes because relief is indivisible. The notice to class members explained this and that anyone who opted out of the (b)(3) relief would still receive the benefit of the (b)(2) changes while retaining a right to sue individually. The 11 opt-outs asked the court to create a subclass for them. The judge declined: 11 is too few to be a subclass and the 11 voluntarily opted out. The judge did not consider the opt-out's objections to the (b)(2) relief; in order to object, a member had to remain in the class for all purposes. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. The objectors were not aggrieved by the decisions they appealed. Their positions would not change if the district judge had made certain findings, if the allocation of settlement funds were different, or if the language in the notice were different. View "Braxton v. Senegal" on Justia Law

by
Cash Depot underpaid employees for their overtime work. Fast filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 203 (FLSA), on behalf of himself and other Depot employees. Depot hired an accountant to investigate. The accountant tallied Depot’s cumulative underpayments at less than $22,000. Depot issued checks to all underpaid current and former employees covered by the suit and issued checks to Fast for his underpaid wages, for liquidated damages under the FLSA, and for Fast’s disclosed attorney fees to that point. Fast and his attorney never cashed their checks. The district court denied a motion to dismiss because Fast contested whether Depot correctly calculated the amount it owed but granted partial summary judgment for Depot, “to the extent that [it] correctly calculated” what it owed Fast. Eventually, Fast conceded that Depot correctly paid the missing wages and urged that only a dispute over additional attorney fees remained. After Fast’s demand for additional attorney fees went unanswered, he filed a motion for attorney fees. The court determined that because Fast was not a prevailing party for the purposes of the FLSA, he was not entitled to attorney fees, and granted Depot summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Fast never received a favorable judgment. View "Fast v. Cash Depot, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The plaintiffs, used car dealerships, were solicited by the defendant to enter into a “Demand Promissory Note and Security Agreement.” The defendant would issue a line of credit for the plaintiffs to access in purchasing used vehicles at automobile auctions. The plaintiffs claim defendant did not pay the auction house at the time that possession was delivered put paid only after it received the title to the vehicles purchased, which could take several weeks, but charged interest from the date of the initial purchase. The plaintiffs filed suit and sought class certification to sue on behalf of all other dealers who were subject to the same Agreement. The district court granted Rule 23(b)(3) class certification as to the breach of contract and substantive RICO claims. Weeks later, defendant filed a Motion to Reconsider, arguing that the plaintiffs had asserted in summary judgment briefing that the Agreements are ambiguous and that under such a theory courts must resort to extrinsic evidence on a plaintiff-by-plaintiff basis to determine intent. The court rescinded class certification. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Neither the categorization of the contract as ambiguous nor the prospect of extrinsic evidence necessarily imperils class status. The Agreement at issue is a standard form contract; there was no claim that its language has different meanings for different signatories. View "Red Barn Motors, Inc. v. NextGear Capital, Inc." on Justia Law