Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Frank v. Target Corp.
Named plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Illinois, alleging that defendants made false claims about dietary supplements. The parties negotiated a settlement. Over the objection of class member Frank, the district court approved it. The Seventh Circuit reversed. In 2015, the parties submitted “the Pearson II settlement.” Three class members objected to the Pearson II settlement.Nunez had filed his own putative class action against the defendants in California. After the Seventh Circuit vacated the first Pearson settlement, Nunez wanted to represent a Pearson subclass. The Pearson parties refused to include Nunez’s counsel in their negotiations. Nunez objected to the Pearson II settlement. The district court approved it. All three objectors appealed, then dismissed their appeals. Frank moved for disgorgement of any payments made to objectors in exchange for those dismissals. Discovery showed that the objectors had received side payments in exchange for dismissing their appeals. The district court denied disgorgement.The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court had the equitable power to order the settling objectors to disgorge for the benefit of the class the proceeds of their private settlements. “Falsely flying the class’s colors, these three objectors extracted $130,000 in what economists would call rents from the litigation process simply by showing up and objecting" to the settlement.” Settling an objection that asserts the class’s rights in return for a private payment to the objector is inequitable and disgorgement is the most appropriate remedy. Those objectors are, in essence, “not paid for anything they owned.” View "Frank v. Target Corp." on Justia Law
Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California v. Allstate Corp.
In 2013, Allstate announced a new strategy in its auto insurance business: attracting more new customers by “softening” its underwriting standards. Allstate disclosed that new and potentially riskier customers might file more claims and that Allstate would monitor and adjust business practices accordingly. Two years later, Allstate’s stock price dropped by more than 10 percent, immediately after Allstate announced that the higher claims rates it had experienced for three quarters had been fueled at least in part by the company’s recent growth strategy and that the company was “tightening" its underwriting parameters. The plaintiffs claim that Allstate initially intentionally misled the market by falsely attributing the increases to other factors.The Seventh Circuit vacated the certification of a plaintiff class after reviewing recent Supreme Court decisions concerning the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance, which allows plaintiffs to avoid proving individual reliance upon fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions. The issues of materiality, loss causation, and transaction causation are left for the merits but the court must consider evidence on those issues in deciding class certification using the presumption, if the defense offers it to show the absence of transaction causation (price impact). The district court granted class certification after admitting, but without engaging with, defense evidence offered to defeat the presumption--an expert opinion that the alleged misrepresentations had no impact on the stock price. Class certification may be appropriate here, but the district court must decide at the class stage the price impact issue. The court directed modification of any class certification to limit the class to buyers of Allstate common stock rather than any other securities. View "Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California v. Allstate Corp." on Justia Law
Bryant v. Compass Group U.S.A., Inc.
Bryant's Illinois employer had a cafeteria, containing vending machines owned and operated by Compass. The machines did not accept cash; a user had to establish an account using her fingerprint. Fingerprints are “biometric identifiers” under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). In violation of BIPA, Compass never made publicly available a retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying the biometric identifiers and information it was collecting; never informed Bryant in writing that her biometric identifier was being collected or stored, of the specific purpose and length of term for which her fingerprint was being collected, stored, and used; nor obtained Bryant’s written release to collect, store, and use her fingerprint.Bryant brought a putative class action in state court; BIPA provides a private right of action to persons “aggrieved” by a violation. Compass removed the action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), on the basis of diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy exceeding $5 million. Bryant successfully moved to remand the action, claiming that the district court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction because she lacked the concrete injury-in-fact necessary for Article III standing. State law poses no such problem. The district court found that Compass’s alleged violations were bare procedural violations that caused no concrete harm to Bryant. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The failure to follow BIPA leads to an invasion of personal rights that is both concrete and particularized. View "Bryant v. Compass Group U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law
Stampley v. Altom Transport, Inc.
Stampley, the owner-operator of a tractor-trailer, provided hauling services for Altom. Altom agreed to pay Stampley 70% of the gross revenues that it collected for each load he hauled and to give Stampley a copy of the “rated freight bill” or a “computer-generated document with the same information” to prove that it had properly paid Stampley. The contract granted Stampley the right to examine any underlying documents used to create a computer-generated document and required him to bring any dispute regarding his pay within 30 days. Years after he hauled his last Altom load, Stampley filed a putative class action, alleging that Altom had shortchanged him and similarly situated drivers. The district court certified a class and held that Altom’s withholdings had violated the contract. Stampley had moved for summary judgment on the 30-day provision before the class received notice. The court subsequently denied Stampley’s motion for summary judgment, decertified the class, granted Altom summary judgment, and held that Stampley’s individual claims were barred.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Stampley an inadequate class representative and decertifying the class. The court found that the 30-day period began to run as soon as Stampley received any computer-generated document purporting to have the same information as the rated freight bill, necessarily including those that lacked the same information as the rated freight bill. View "Stampley v. Altom Transport, Inc." on Justia Law
Douglas v. Price
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
Orr v. Shicker
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
Bennett v. Dart
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
Mussat v. IQVIA, Inc.
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
Bigger v. Facebook, Inc.
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
Dancel v. Groupon, Inc.
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