Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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Plaintiffs Carlie Sherman, Anna Gozun, and Amanda Nash appealed a district court’s denial of class certification in a forced labor action against Trinity Teen Solutions (“Trinity”), a residential treatment center for adolescent girls, and its owners and operators (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiffs, now adults, were all sent to Trinity as minors by their parents. Trinity advertised itself as offering a wide range of therapies for troubled adolescent girls in a ranch environment and as taking a "tough love" approach, with its residents living in primitive conditions and working on the ranch as part of their treatment experience. Plaintiffs alleged that, during their residence at Trinity, they were forced to work long hours without pay under threat of serious harm. Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants, on behalf of themselves and a proposed class of former Trinity residents, bringing three forced labor claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and sought class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, proposing a putative class of “Plaintiffs, and all similarly situated persons who received treatment from [Trinity] and were subjected to the provision of ‘agricultural labor.’" The district court denied class certification, concluding Plaintiffs had failed to satisfy Rule 23’s commonality, typicality, and predominance requirements. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred by applying the incorrect legal standard to its analysis of Rule 23(a)’s commonality and typicality requirements and Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. Therefore, it vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Sherman, et al. v. Trinity Teen Solutions, et al." on Justia Law

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Randy Quint, John Linn, and Mark Molina (“Colorado Plaintiffs”) filed a class and collective action against Vail Resorts, Inc. alleging violations of federal and state labor laws (“Colorado Action”). Different plaintiffs filed similar lawsuits against a Vail subsidiary, which were pending in federal and state courts in California. After Vail gave notice that it had agreed to a nationwide settlement with some of the other plaintiffs, Colorado Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion asking the district court to enjoin Vail from consummating the settlement. The district court denied their motion, and Colorado Plaintiffs filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing the district court erred by: (1) applying the wrong standard in reviewing the report and recommendation ("R&R"); (2) holding the Anti-Injunction Act applied to an injunction against Vail rather than the state court; (3) declining to consider one exception to the Anti-Injunction Act; (4) holding a second exception to the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply; (5) failing to enforce the first-to-file rule; and (6) abstaining under the Colorado River doctrine. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Quint, et al. v. Vail Resorts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought two actions against KeyPoint Government Solutions: a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA) on behalf of KeyPoint employees nationwide, and a state-law putative class action on behalf of California employees. They alleged KeyPoint violated the FLSA through policies requiring employees to work uncompensated overtime and also violated certain provisions of California’s wage-and-hour laws. On appeal, KeyPoint argued: (1) the district court erred in denying KeyPoint’s motion to compel arbitration of California state-law claims by some California Plaintiffs; and (2) the district court erred in certifying under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 of the California employee class. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district court’s denial of KeyPoint’s motion to compel arbitration, vacated the court’s certification of the Rule 23 class, and remanded for further proceedings. "The district court did not distinguish Plaintiffs’ meal- and rest-break claims from Plaintiffs’ off-the-clock claims. It analyzed only KeyPoint’s allegedly unlawful policy and assumed that the policy could 'prohibit[] Plaintiffs from taking required meal and rest breaks.' This was insufficient. ... The court abused its discretion in failing to perform claim-specific analysis. We vacate the district court’s Rule 23 class certification so that the district court can properly consider predominance." View "Brayman, et al. v. Keypoint Government Solutions" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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