Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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Adam saw advertisements for free samples of beauty products, which implied that she need only pay for shipping and handling. Adam ordered two free samples and purchased another item. She was charged $9.94 for shipping and $14.99 for the purchased item. Soon thereafter, Adam was unexpectedly charged $92.94, which resulted in an overdraft of her checking account. A company representative told Adam that “she had agreed" to pay the full amount if she kept the "free samples" and that Adam would need to return the items before refunds could be issued. Adam, not trusting the company, refused to return the items, then called her bank, which temporarily reversed the charge but ultimately reinstated it. Adam contends that her bank was misled by the “false-front scheme” and that the charge would have been reversed but for the defendants’ misrepresentations.Adam filed a putative class-action suit, alleging violations of (or conspiracy to violate or aiding and abetting violation of): multiple California laws; the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. 1693–1693r; the RICO Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968; and consumer laws. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Adam has standing; she was not made whole by the refund offer; she has neither received a refund nor accepted any alternative. Defendants’ conduct could provide but-for causation for Adam’s financial harm and a restitution order would redress that harm. View "Adam v. Barone" on Justia Law

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Allen and Mullen are disabled and need wheelchairs to move about. They shopped at two different "Ollie's" bargain stores, where they encountered an obstacle course: pillars, clothing racks, and boxes blocked their way. They filed a putative class action against Ollie’s under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12182(a). The district court certified a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2): All persons with qualified mobility disabilities who have attempted, or will attempt, to access the interior of any store owned or operated by [Ollie’s] within the United States and have, or will have, experienced access barriers in interior paths of travel.The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. The district court abused its discretion by certifying an overly broad class based on inadequate evidence of numerosity and commonality. On remand, the district court must address the differing ADA standards and rules to determine whether common proof and common relief would be available for each distinct claim raised by the putative class. View "Allen v. Ollie's Bargain Outlet, Inc" on Justia Law

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The Universal Health Services Retirement Savings Plan is a defined contribution retirement plan. Qualified employees can participate and invest a portion of their paycheck in selected investment options, chosen and ratified by the UHS Retirement Plans Investment Committee, which is appointed and overseen by Universal. Named plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and all other Plan participants, sued Universal under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(2)3 and 1109, alleging that Universal breached its fiduciary duty by including the Fidelity Freedom Fund suite in the plan, charging excessive record-keeping and administrative fees, and employing a flawed process for selecting and monitoring the Plan’s investment options, resulting in the selection of expensive investment options instead of readily-available lower-cost alternatives. They also alleged certain Universal defendants breached their fiduciary duty by failing to monitor the Committee.The Third Circuit affirmed class certification, rejecting an argument that the class did not satisfy the typicality requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a), given that the class representatives did not invest in each of the Plan’s available investment options. Because the class representatives allege actions or a course of conduct by ERISA fiduciaries that affected multiple funds in the same way, their claims are typical of those of the class. View "Boley v. Universal Health Services Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased notary services at New Jersey UPS stores and, in class action complaints, alleged they were charged an amount that exceeded the $2.50 fee permitted by New Jersey law. Neither complaint alleged that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. During discovery, while an appeal from the denial of a motion to dismiss was pending, UPS produced a spreadsheet showing that the New Jersey UPS stores had more than one million notary transactions during the six-year class period, which established an amount in controversy that satisfied federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). UPS removed both complaints to federal court. The district court remanded, reasoning that UPS could have performed the required calculation when the spreadsheet was produced in December 2020, so the removal petitions filed months later were untimely. The court did not consider whether CAFA’s local controversy exception required remand.The Third Circuit vacated. The removal statute requires removal within 30 days of service of a pleading that demonstrates the existence of federal jurisdiction or within 30 days of the date on which a defendant receives an amended pleading, motion, order, or other paper that discloses federal jurisdiction. Here, the initial pleadings did not demonstrate the existence of federal jurisdiction. UPS never received any paper that disclosed jurisdiction, so removal was timely. The court remanded for consideration of the local controversy exception. View "McLaren v. The UPS Store Inc" on Justia Law

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About 100 Pennsylvania landowners filed a class-action complaint, alleging that EQT has been storing natural gas in six separate storage fields, thereby utilizing the landowners’ underground pore space without providing them compensation. Months later, all landowners except for Laudato voluntarily dismissed their claims without prejudice. Laudato later moved for class certification, seeking approval of a class of: All persons and/or entities that own and/or owned real property—and/or natural gas storage rights to real property—located within the certificated boundaries of one or more of the Gas Storage Fields for any period of time, not before Defendants’ inception of the respective gas. The district court, exercising federal-question jurisdiction over claims under the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. 717–17z, agreed to class certification but rejected Laudato’s proposed class definition, refusing to grant other downstream requests such as the appointment of a class representative, the appointment of class counsel, and certain issues’ certification. The court directed the parties to meet and confer “regarding the establishment of an appropriate class definition.”The Third Circuit granted a petition for review, holding that because the order clearly implicates Rule 23(f), it had jurisdiction and that interlocutory review was appropriate. View "Laudato v. EQT Corp." on Justia Law

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Current and former mortgage loan officers claim that Citizens Bank forced them—and more than a thousand of their colleagues—to work over 40 hours a week without paying them the overtime they were due under state and federal law. They filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207, and parallel state-law claims that they wished to pursue as a class action under FRCP 23. The district court scheduled a trial on the primary factual issue in the FLSA opt-in collective action but left unresolved whether it would certify a class for the state-law opt-out Rule 23 action.The Third Circuit stayed the trial. Citizens had a sufficient likelihood of success on its mandamus petition, and mandamus is the only relief available. By compelling the FLSA opt-in collective action trial before deciding Rule 23 class certification, the district court “created a predicament for others to unravel” and “clearly and indisputably erred.” Allowing the planned FLSA collective action trial would publicly preview the evidence common to the FLSA and state-law claims, giving potential Rule 23 class members an enormous informational advantage in any subsequent “do-over.” Citizens would suffer irreparable injury absent a stay; a stay will not substantially injure the plaintiffs. View "In re: Citizens Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certifies graduates of foreign medical schools who wish to be accepted to a U.S. medical residency program. In 1992, Igberase obtained certification. No residency program accepted him. In 1994, Igberase submitted another application, rearranging his name and using a different date of birth. The Commission learned of the deception and notified the Medical Licensing Examination Committee. Later, Igberase applied for certification under the name “Akoda” and was admitted to a residency program. He was dismissed when the program learned that "Akoda's" social security number belonged to Igberase. Igberase/Akoda argued that it was a case of mistaken identity with his cousin. The Commission did not recommend Akoda’s case to the credentialing committee. Igberase/Akoda was admitted to Howard’s residency program. and received a Maryland medical license. Law enforcement discovered his fraudulent documents. He pleaded guilty to misuse of a social security account number.Patients who received medical treatment from “Akoda” brought a purported class action against the Commission, claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court certified (FRCP 23(c)(4)) an “issue class” of all patients examined or treated by Igberase beginning with his enrollment at Howard. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court failed to determine whether the issues identified for class treatment fit within one of Rule 23(b)’s categories and failed to explicitly consider some of the “Gates” factors: The effect certification of the issue class will have on the resolution of remaining issues; what efficiencies would be gained by resolution of the certified issues; and whether certain elements of the claim are suitable for issue-class treatment. View "Russell v. Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against the School District, claiming that shortcomings in the District’s translation and interpretation services violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the District, based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. A “systemic exception” to IDEA’s administrative exhaustion requirement applies where plaintiffs “allege systemic legal deficiencies and, correspondingly, request system-wide relief" that cannot be addressed through the administrative process. The fact that a complaint is structured as a class action seeking injunctive relief, without more, does not excuse exhaustion; the systemic exception applies when plaintiffs challenge policies that threaten basic IDEA goals, not mere components of special education programs. Both named plaintiffs could bring the same IDEA claim from their complaint before a hearing officer who could then order that the District provide each parent with translated individualized education plans, more qualified or consistent interpretation services, or whatever process would ensure meaningful participation for that parent. Both the claim and the relief would be individualized, even if the relief could create spillover benefits for other parents. View "T.R. v. School District of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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Valeant develops and manufactures generic pharmaceuticals. Appellants purchased stock in Valeant after Valeant changed its business model to focus more on acquiring new drugs from other companies rather than developing its own. Valeant made promising representations about its financial performance based on its new business model. The price of Valeant stock skyrocketed nearly 350% in 2015. Before the district court addressed class certification in a putative class action on behalf of investors who purchased Valeant stock in 2015, alleging that the price was artificially inflated as a result of deceptive practices, the Appellants filed an “opt-out” complaint bringing the same claims in their individual capacities. The district court dismissed that complaint as untimely under the two-year limitations period.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal. Putative class members may recover as part of the class or seek individual recourse. Members may initially proceed as part of a class, but certification may be denied later or members may discover that their individual claims are more valuable than the class claims and decide to pursue an opt-out complaint even if certification is likely. In either case, members are generally allowed to initiate an individual action. When a class complaint is filed, the limitations period governing the individual claims of putative members is tolled to protect the rights of putative members while avoiding needless identical lawsuits. Nothing further, such as a certification denial, is required to benefit from tolling. View "Aly v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hamer underwent open-heart surgery using LivaNova’s 3T Heater-Cooler System. He developed an infection in the incision, which his physicians suspected stemmed from a non-tuberculosis mycobacterium (NTM). The hospital had experienced an outbreak of NTM infections in other patients who had undergone surgery using the 3T System. Hamer’s treatment team never isolated NTM from any of the swabs or cultures. Hamer, alleging that his treatment caused him lasting injuries, filed suit under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA) for failure to warn and inadequate design.Hamer’s case was transferred to Multidistrict Litigation case 2816, along with other cases alleging damages from the NTM infection caused by the 3T System. Case Management Order 15 (CMO 15) required plaintiffs to show “proof of NTM infection” through “positive bacterial culture results.” Hamer did not comply but opposed dismissal, claiming he had stated a prima facie claim under Louisiana law and sought remand.The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal. The court could have dismissed Hamer’s claims without prejudice, could have suggested remand, or could have dismissed Hamer’s claims with prejudice, if it found that Hamer had not stated a prima facie case under Louisiana law. .Under the LPLA, Hamer’s facts might state a prima facie case for defective design. Hamer’s allegations may diverge from those of other cases in MDL 2816 in which an NTM infection was verified but stating alternative theories of liability cannot justify foreclosing his claims. View "Hamer v. LivaNova Deutschland GMBH" on Justia Law