Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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Defendants manufacture and distribute FDA-approved prescription eye drop medications for treating conditions such as glaucoma. Bottles are pre-packaged with a fixed volume of medication; labeling does not indicate how many doses or days of treatment a patient can extract from the bottle. The dimensions of the bottle’s dropper tip dictate the size of the drop dispensed. Scientific research indicates that a normal adult’s inferior fornix – the area between the eye and the lower eyelid – has a capacity of approximately 7-10 microliters (µLs) of fluid. If a drop exceeding that capacity is placed into an eye, excess medication is expelled, providing no pharmaceutical benefit to the patient. Expelled medication also may flow into a patient’s tear ducts and move into his bloodstream, increasing the risk of certain harmful side effects. These studies conclude that eye drops should be 5-15 µLs. Defendants’ products emit drops that are considerably larger so that at least half of every drop goes to waste. The Third Circuit reversed dismissal of a putative class action (Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332) under state consumer protection statutes. The consumers’ allegations of injury were sufficient to confer standing. Plaintiffs claim economic interests in the money they spent on medication that was impossible for them to use; their concrete and particularized injury claims fit comfortably in categories of “legally protected interests” readily recognized by federal courts. View "Cottrell v. Alcon Laboratories" on Justia Law

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The “Sunoco Rewards Program,” which Sunoco advertised, offered customers who buy gas at Sunoco locations using a Citibank-issued credit card a five-cent per gallon discount either at the pump or on their monthly billing statements. The “Terms and Conditions of Offer” sheet, indicating that Citibank is the issuer of the Card, stated that by applying for the card, the applicant authorized Citibank to “share with Sunoco® and its affiliates experiential and transactional information regarding your activity with us.” Sunoco was not a corporate affiliate of and had no ownership interest in Citibank and vice versa. White obtained a Sunoco Rewards Card from Citibank in 2013. He made fuel purchases with the card at various Sunoco-branded gas station locations. White filed a purported class action against Sunoco, not Citibank, alleging that “[c]ontrary to its clear and express representations, Sunoco does not apply a 5¢/gallon discount on all fuel purchases made by cardholders at every Sunoco location. Sunoco omits this material information to induce customers to sign-up for the Sunoco. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Sunoco’s motion to compel arbitration. Sunoco, a non-signatory to the credit card agreement and not mentioned in the agreement, cannot compel White to arbitrate. View "White v. Sunoco Inc" on Justia Law

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Direct purchasers of Wellbutrin XL, a drug for treating depression, sued, alleging that GSK violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by entering into an unlawful conspiracy with Biovail, GSK’s partner in the development of Wellbutrin XL, to delay the launch of generic versions of the drug. Indirect-purchasers asserted similar theories under state law. The purchasers claim that GSK delayed the launch of generic versions by supporting baseless patent infringement suits and a baseless FDA Citizen Petition aimed at generic drug companies and by entering into an unlawful reverse payment settlement agreement with potential competitors. The district court granted GSK summary judgment, finding insufficient evidence that GSK’s patent litigation was a sham or that the settlement delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. The court granted GSK’s Daubert motion to exclude the testimony of the purchasers’ economic expert; decertified the indirect-purchaser class for lack of ascertainability; dismissed the indirect-purchaser claims brought under the laws of states that were not the home of a named class representative; and denied Aetna’s motion to intervene. The Third Circuit affirmed. After considering the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, FTC v. Actavis, the court concluded that the purchasers failed to establish a genuine dispute of fact either as to whether GSK engaged in sham litigation or whether GSK’s actions delayed the launch of generic Wellbutrin XL. View "In re: Wellbutrin XL Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Creditsmarts operates an internet-based business that helps independent car dealers connect customers with lenders. BMW offers direct automotive financing to customers through “up2drive.” In 2012, BMW and Creditsmarts entered into agreements, under which BMW would offer up2drive loans to borrowers at participating dealerships through Creditsmarts. Creditsmarts subsequently used the services of a fax broadcaster to fax about 21,000 advertisements to dealerships. The advertisements identified BMW and stated, “UpToDrive is looking for your BUSINESS!!” A list of recipients was generated from Creditsmarts’s customer database. Neither Creditsmarts nor Westfax retained lists of recipients. Plaintiff received a fax and alleges that it had no preexisting business relationship with Creditsmarts or BMW and that the fax was unsolicited. Plaintiff brought suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, asserting claims under FRCP 23 on behalf of a class defined as: All auto dealerships that were included in the Creditsmarts database on or before December 27, 2012, with fax numbers … who were sent” BMW faxes on specific dates. The Creditsmarts database was not preserved as of December 2012 but was preserved as of February 2014. The Third Circuit vacated the denial of class certification. Precedent does not categorically preclude affidavits from potential class members, combined with the Creditsmarts database, from satisfying the ascertainability standard. Because the database was not produced during discovery, plaintiff was denied the opportunity to demonstrate whether a reliable, administratively feasible method of ascertaining the class exists View "City Select Auto Sales Inc v. BMW Bank of North America Inc" on Justia Law

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Defendants created a publicly searchable “Inmate Lookup Tool” into which they uploaded information about thousands of people who had been held or incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility since 1938. Taha filed suit, alleging that the County and Correctional Facility had publicly disseminated information on the internet in violation of the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 9102, about his expunged 1998 arrest and incarceration. The district court granted Taha partial summary judgment on liability before certifying a punitive damages class of individuals about whom incarceration information had been disseminated online. The court then found that the only remaining question of fact was whether defendants had acted willfully in disseminating the information. After the court certified the class, the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed the class certification order, rejecting an argument that the district court erred in granting Taha partial summary judgment on liability before ruling on class certification. The court upheld conclusions that punitive damages can be imposed in a case in which the plaintiff does not recover compensatory damages, that punitive damages can be imposed on government agencies, and that the predominance requirement under FRCP 23(b)(3) was met so that a class could be certified. View "Taha v. County of Bucks" on Justia Law

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Genova manufactures vinyl pipes and rain gutters. It operated a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Former employees of that plant filed a putative class action, seeking medical monitoring for their alleged exposure to toxic substances. Genova ceased operations at its Hazleton facility in 2012, more than two years before the suit was filed. Plaintiffs claimed to have discovered previously unavailable Material Safety and Data Sheets (MSDSs), revealing that, while working for Genova, they were exposed to carcinogens and other toxic chemicals linked to various diseases or conditions and that Genova violated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazard Communication Standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200, by failing to inform them about the chemicals to which they were exposed and by failing to provide the requisite protective equipment. No members of the putative class have suffered an injury or illness linked to the substances used at Genova’s plant. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as barred by the two-year limitations period. Reasonable minds would not differ in finding that the plaintiffs did not exercise the reasonable diligence required for the discovery rule to toll the statute of limitations. Information concerning the dangers of the chemicals to which they were exposed was widely available for decades before they filed their complaint. View "Blanyar v. Genova Products Inc" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the approval of a settlement of an FRCP 23(b)(3) class action arising out of hexavalent chromium contamination in Jersey City, New Jersey. The class action was brought on behalf of property owners in several neighborhoods whose homes were allegedly contaminated by by-products disposed of at chromium chemical manufacturing plants, owned and operated by the predecessors of Honeywell and PPG. Plaintiffs asserted common law tort claims and civil conspiracy claims for depreciation of their property values due to the alleged contamination, but not claims for harm other than economic loss to property value, such as personal injury or medical monitoring claims. The district court certified a settlement-only class as to the claims against Honeywell and approved a $10,017,000 settlement fund, which included an award of costs and attorneys’ fees for plaintiffs’ counsel. Overruling an objection by a member of the Honeywell settlement class, the Third Circuit concluded that the class certification requirements of FRCP 23(a) and (b)(3) are satisfied, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the settlement under FRCP 23(e) and the award of attorneys’ fees under FRCP 23(h). The court remanded for reconsideration of the award of costs under Rule 23(h). View "Halley v. Honeywell International Inc" on Justia Law