Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Plaintiffs, members of Global Fitness gyms, believed that Global misrepresented the terms of its gym memberships and sued as a class. The parties settled: Global agreed to pay $1.3 million to the class members, class counsel’s fees as ordered by the court, and the claims administrator’s fees and costs. The court approved the agreement over the objections of some class members and ordered its implementation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. In the meantime, Global had sold all of its gyms and funneled $10.4 million of the proceeds to its managers through “tax distributions.” The payments Global owed to the class were in escrow under the terms of the settlement agreement, which made no similar provision for class counsel and the claims administrator. Days before its payment obligation under the agreement came due, Global notified the court it could not meet its remaining obligations. The court held Global Fitness and its managers in civil contempt. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Global had no legal obligation to conserve funds to pay class counsel and the claims administrator while the appeals were pending. Its obligation to pay became definite and specific only once the appeals were exhausted. The court erred in considering any of Global’s conduct from before that date and by holding the managers jointly and severally liable. View "Gascho v. Global Fitness Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the 1980s, merchant marine plaintiffs filed asbestos-liability suits against ship-owner and manufacturer defendants in the Northern District of Ohio. That court ruled, in 1989, that it lacked personal jurisdiction over many of the defendants. Instead of dismissing those defendants, the court stated that if a defendant did not wish to be transferred, it could “waive the in personam jurisdiction problem” by filing an answer. Some did so. In 1990, the court ordered the transfer of some cases to scattered venues. Those transfers did not occur. Certain defendants sought to appeal the order, specifically stating that they did not waive jurisdiction. The court did not certify the interlocutory appeal. Eventually, the cases were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Certain defendants objected, arguing that they had been “strong-armed” into submitting to Ohio jurisdiction. The Pennsylvania court held that the N.D. of Ohio lacked personal jurisdiction over the relevant defendants and that those defendants had not waived or forfeited their personal jurisdiction defense. Thousands of parties were dismissed. Ten plaintiffs appealed the Pennsylvania’s decision as to 19 defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Pennsylvania district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that the ship-owner defendants had not waived their personal jurisdiction defense by filing answers in the N.D. of Ohio and had no authority to transfer the cases to jurisdictions that did have jurisdiction. View "Kalama v. Matson Navigation Co." on Justia Law

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The Class Action Fairness Act extends federal court jurisdiction to class actions on behalf of 100 or more people and in request of $5 million or more in damages if “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant,” 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2)(A), (d)(5), (d)(6). Roberts filed a class action on behalf of Tennessee citizens against Mars, a citizen of Tennessee and Delaware, alleging a conspiracy to employ a “prescription-authorization requirement” to sell pet food at above market prices in violation of the Tennessee Trade Practices Act. Mars removed the case to federal court, invoking its Delaware citizenship and claiming its Tennessee citizenship did not matter. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of plaintiffs’ motion for remand to state court. Because section 1332(d)(2)(A) refers to all of a defendant’s citizenships, not the alternative that suits it, Mars cannot rely on its state of incorporation (Delaware) and ignore its principal place of business (Tennessee) to create diversity under the Act. View "Roberts v. Mars Petcare US, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Besse, a pharmaceutical distributor, sent a one-page fax advertising the drug Prolia to 53,502 physicians. Only 40,343 of these faxes were successfully transmitted. Sandusky, a chiropractic clinic that employed one of the physicians, claims to have received this “junk fax,” and, three years later, filed a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court denied Sandusky’s motion for class certification. It held that Sandusky’s proposed class failed to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3) because two individualized issues—class member identity and consent—were central to the lawsuit and thus prevented “questions of law or fact common to class members [from] predominat[ing].” In the absence of fax logs, no classwide means existed by which to identify the 75% of individuals who received the Prolia fax; “each potential class member would have to submit an affidavit certifying receipt of the Prolia fax.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Besse presented actual evidence of consent to the district court, which required the need for individualized inquiries in order to distinguish between solicited and unsolicited Prolia faxes. The court stated that it was unaware of any court that ever mandated certification of a TCPA class where fax logs did not exist. View "Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. ASD Specialty Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law