Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Matney, et al. v. Barrick Gold of North America, et al.
Appellants Cole Matney and Paul Watts (together, "Matney") participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan (the Plan). They brought a putative class action suit against Appellees, Barrick Gold of North America, Inc. (Barrick Gold), Barrick Gold’s Board of Directors (Board), and the Barrick U.S. Subsidiaries Benefits Committee (Committee)—for breach of fiduciary duty and failure to monitor fiduciaries under sections 409 and 502 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Matney alleged the Committee breached the fiduciary duty of prudence by offering high-cost funds and charging high fees. He claimed Barrick Gold and the Board were responsible for failing to monitor the Committee’s actions. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding the first amended complaint did not plausibly allege any breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. Finding no reversible error in this dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Matney, et al. v. Barrick Gold of North America, et al." on Justia Law
Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al.
Marvin and Mildred Bay (“the Bays”) challenged a court order dismissing their trespass claim against Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Anadarko Land Corporation (collectively, “Anadarko”). Anadarko, an oil and gas company, owned the mineral rights under the Bays’ farm. The Bays brought a putative class action along with other surface landowners against Anadarko, alleging that Anadarko’s mineral lessees had exceeded the scope of their mineral rights by drilling multiple vertical wells on the surface owners’ land when it was possible to drill fewer wells of the “directional” type. At the conclusion of the Bays’ presentation of evidence, the district court found that the Bays’ evidence failed as a matter of law to demonstrate that Anadarko’s activities amounted to a trespass and dismissed the case. Finding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal in "Bay I," finding that Colorado’s common law of trespass required the Bays to show that Anadarko’s lessees had “materially interfered” with the Bays’ farming operations. The appellate court questioned whether the record demonstrated that the Bays met this standard in their trial, but because Anadarko had not raised this specific issue, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted judgment as a matter of law to Anadarko on the material interference issue. Specifically, the court first held that it was bound by the Tenth Circuit's interpretation in Bay I of the material interference standard, then found that the Bays showed only that Anadarko’s conduct inconvenienced them—which was insufficient to satisfy the material interference standard. The Bays again appealed, arguing that the Tenth Circuit's discussion of the material interference standard in Bay I was dictum; thus, the district court incorrectly determined that it was bound to apply that standard. They further argued the material interference standard applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Colorado standard for trespass outlined in Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. v. Magness, 946 P.2d 913 (Colo. 1997), and that the evidence they presented in their trial established a prima facie case of material interference under Gerrity. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in its second dismissal and affirmed judgment. View "Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al." on Justia Law
Hogan, et al. v. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, et al.
Plaintiff Patrick Hogan brought a putative federal securities-fraud class action against poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Pilgrim’s former chief executive officer and president William Lovette, and Pilgrim’s then chief financial officer Fabio Sandri (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiff accused Defendants of violating § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10b–5, 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b–5. Plaintiff also accused Lovette and Sandri of violating § 20(a) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78t(a). Plaintiff appealed four decisions by the district court: (1) the grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss the first amended complaint (the FAC) for failure to adequately plead a claim; (2) the denial of Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider "Hogan I" (but granting leave to amend the complaint without setting a deadline); (3) the grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss the second amended complaint (the SAC) as barred by the applicable statute of repose; and (4) the denial of Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider "Hogan III." After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order in Hogan III, dismissed as moot Plaintiff’s challenges to the orders in Hogan I, Hogan II, and Hogan IV, and remanded for further proceedings at the district court. Because (1) the SAC did not raise new claims or add any defendants and (2) the district court did not enter a final order after Hogan I and Hogan II (so Defendants’ right to repose had not vested), the SAC was not barred by the statute of repose. Because the SAC superseded the FAC, the Court found the sufficiency of the FAC was a moot issue. And because the district court did not address the sufficiency of the SAC, the case was remanded for the district court to address this issue in the first instance. View "Hogan, et al. v. Pilgrim's Pride Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al.
Plaintiffs-landowners alleged Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's intracompany practice of leasing its mineral interests to its affiliated operating company, including its 30% royalty rate, had the intent and effect of reducing the value of Plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs claimed Anadarko thereby maintained and furthered its dominant position in the market for leasing oil and gas mineral interests in violation of the Sherman Act § 2 and Wyoming antitrust laws. Plaintiffs sought treble damages and attorneys’ fees under § 4 of the Clayton Act. The federal district court certified a class action, for liability purposes only, comprised of “[a]ll persons . . . having ownership of Class Minerals during the Class Period.” Anadarko appealed the district court’s class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court applied the correct legal standard in deciding whether the class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23, and it did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s class certification. View "Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al." on Justia Law
In re: Syngenta AG MIR162
Cases consolidated for review all centered on attorneys’ fees awarded following a historic class action settlement. Numerous plaintiffs from multiple different states sued Syngenta AG (“Syngenta”), an agricultural company. The suits against Syngenta were organized into complex, federal multi-district litigation (“MDL”) based in a court in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas (“Kansas district court”). Syngenta ultimately settled with the class action plaintiffs. The Kansas district court allocated approximately $503 million in attorneys’ fees and expense awards stemming from the settlement to the myriad firms participating in the class action. Appellants in this case—the various plaintiffs’ lawyers and law firms that took part in the MDL against Syngenta—challenged numerous orders published by the Kansas district court concerning the apportionment and allocation of that $503 million. Having concluded it possessed significant authority to craft the allocation of attorneys’ fees in the most reasonable manner, the Kansas district court had adopted a two-stage, “general approach” of an appointed special master to the allocation of the attorneys’ fee award. Appellees, also lawyers and law firms from Kansas, Minnesota, and Illinois, that acted as co-lead counsel (“CLCs” or “Leadership”) and by-and-large, spearheaded the litigation against Syngenta in the three main fora, opposed Appellants’ arguments, and they asked the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the Kansas district court’s fee- allocation orders. Finding no reversible error in the Kansas court's distribution of the fees, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "In re: Syngenta AG MIR162" on Justia Law
Indiana Public Retirement, et al. v. Pluralsight, et al.
Defendant Pluralsight was a software company offering a cloud-based technology skills platform. Defendant Aaron Skonnard was Pluralsight’s Chief Executive Officer; defendant James Budge was the Chief Financial Officer. Plaintiffs purchased Pluralsight stock between January 16, 2019, and July 31, 2019. Beginning on January 16, 2019, Skonnard and Budge allegedly made materially false and misleading statements about the size and productivity of Pluralsight’s sales force, which Plaintiffs claim artificially inflated Pluralsight’s stock price, including during a secondary public offering (“SPO”) in March 2019. Pluralsight announced disappointing second-quarter earnings on July 31, 2019. Defendants attributed the low earnings to a shortage of sales representatives earlier in the year—but this explanation contradicted representations Pluralsight made in the first quarter of 2019 about the size of its sales force. Lead Plaintiffs Indiana Public Retirement System (“INPRS”) and Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago (“CTPF”) brought claims on behalf of a putative class of Pluralsight stock holders under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), and the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) in federal district court in Utah. Defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), contending Plaintiffs failed to adequately allege: (1) any materially false or misleading statements or omissions; and (2) that Defendants acted with the requisite scienter. The district court found one statement (of eighteen alleged) was materially false or misleading but dismissed Plaintiffs’ Exchange Act claims because the complaint failed to allege a strong inference of scienter. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ Securities Act claims because none of the statements in Pluralsight’s SPO documents were materially false or misleading. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred in dismissing Plaintffs’ Exhcange Act claims. “Although the district court correctly determined that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged only one materially false or misleading statement, the district court’s scienter determination was erroneous.” The Court also concluded the district court relied on erroneous reasoning to dismiss the alleged violation of Item 303 of SEC Regulation S–K, so the case was remanded for further consideration. The judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Indiana Public Retirement, et al. v. Pluralsight, et al." on Justia Law
Sanofi-Aventis U.S. v. Mylan, et al.
Plaintiff Sanofi-Aventis U.S., LLC (“Sanofi”) sued Defendants Mylan, Inc. and Mylan Specialty, LP (collectively “Mylan”) under Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Sanofi, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, alleged Mylan, the distributor of EpiPen, monopolized the epinephrine auto-injector market effectively and illegally foreclosing Auvi-Q, Sanofi’s innovative epinephrine auto-injector, from the market. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court, holding no triable issue of exclusionary conduct, granted Mylan’s motion for summary judgment. After careful consideration, the Tenth Circuit agreed and affirmed the district court. View "Sanofi-Aventis U.S. v. Mylan, et al." on Justia Law
Kellogg, et al. v. Watts Guerra, et al.
This appeal stemmed from mass litigation between thousands of corn producers and an agricultural company (Syngenta). On one track, corn producers filed individual suits against Syngenta; on the second, other corn producers sued through class actions. The appellants were some of the corn producers who took the first track, filing individual actions. (the “Kellogg farmers.”) The Kellogg farmers alleged that their former attorneys had failed to disclose the benefits of participating as class members, resulting in excessive legal fees and exclusion from class proceedings. These allegations led the Kellogg farmers to sue the attorneys who had provided representation or otherwise assisted in these cases. The suit against the attorneys included claims of common-law fraud, violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practices Act (RICO) and Minnesota’s consumer-protection statutes, and breach of fiduciary duty. While this suit was pending in district court, Syngenta settled the class actions and thousands of individual suits, including those brought by the Kellogg farmers. The settlement led to the creation of two pools of payment by Syngenta: one pool for a newly created class consisting of all claimants, the other pool for those claimants’ attorneys. For this settlement, the district court allowed the Kellogg farmers to participate in the new class and to recover on an equal basis with all other claimants. The settlement eliminated any economic injury to the Kellogg farmers, so the district court dismissed the RICO and common-law fraud claims. The court not only dismissed these claims but also assessed monetary sanctions against the Kellogg farmers. The farmers appealed certain district court decisions, but finding that there was no reversible error or that it lacked jurisdiction to review certain decisions, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Kellogg, et al. v. Watts Guerra, et al." on Justia Law
Renfro, et al. v. Champion Petfoods USA, et al.
A group of pet owners brought a class action against Champion Petfoods USA, Inc., alleging representations on Champion’s packaging on its Acana and Orijen brands of dog food were false and misleading. Champion’s dog food packaging contained a number of claims about the product, advertising the food as “Biologically Appropriate,” “Trusted Everywhere,” using “Fresh and Regional Ingredients,” and containing “Ingredients We Love [From] People We Trust.” The district court dismissed the claims as either unactionable puffery or overly subjective and therefore not materially misleading to a reasonable consumer. To this, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, finding Plaintiffs’ claims failed to allege materially false or misleading statements on Champion’s packaging because the phrases failed to deceive or mislead reasonable consumers on any material fact. View "Renfro, et al. v. Champion Petfoods USA, et al." on Justia Law
Hood v. American Auto Care, et al.
Alexander Hood, a Colorado resident, appealed the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of his putative class-action claim against American Auto Care (AAC) in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. AAC, a Florida limited liability company whose sole office was in Florida, sold vehicle service contracts that provided vehicle owners with extended warranties after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Hood’s complaint alleged AAC violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and invaded Hood’s and the putative class members’ privacy by directing unwanted automated calls to their cell phones without consent. Although he was then residing in Colorado, the calls came from numbers with a Vermont area code. He had previously lived in Vermont, and his cell phone number had a Vermont area code. Hood was able to trace one such call to AAC. Although it determined that Hood had alleged sufficient facts to establish that AAC purposefully directs telemarketing at Colorado, the trial court held that the call to Hood’s Vermont phone number did not arise out of, or relate to, AAC’s calls to Colorado phone numbers. In light of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S. Ct. 1017 (2021), the Tenth Circuit determined the trial court's dismissal could not stand. "The argument regarding 'purposeful direction' ... is implicitly rejected by Ford, and the argument regarding 'arise out of or relate to' ... is explicitly rejected. ... We also determine that AAC has not shown a violation of traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." View "Hood v. American Auto Care, et al." on Justia Law