Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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A class action claimed that BMW knowingly manufactured and sold vehicles equipped with defective engines and included 20 causes of action, including alleged breach of warranty under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301 (a federal fee-shifting statute), breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, violations of state consumer fraud and deceptive trade practice statutes, and unjust enrichment. The parties reached a settlement to reimburse class members for expenses incurred and provide them with extended warranties. The district court concluded the settlement was worth at least $27 million. BMW stipulated that it would not object to Settlement Class Counsel’s application for an award of attorneys’ fees of up to $1,500,000 in the aggregate. The parties agreed that Counsel could apply for an award of attorneys’ fees not to exceed $3,700,000 in the aggregate. Class counsel sought $3.7 million.Applying the lodestar approach (multiplication of the hours counsel reasonably billed by a reasonable hourly rate) the district court adopted Class Counsel’s requested lodestar amount of $1,934,000, then applied a requested multiplier of 1.9 to reach a total fee award of $3.7 million. The Third Circuit vacated. The lodestar was based on an insufficient record. The charts provided by Counsel do not establish whether certain hours are duplicative or whether the total hours billed were reasonable for the work performed. View "Gelis v. BMW of North America LLC" on Justia Law

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Clemens, then an employee, provided ExecuPharm with sensitive information, including her address, social security number, bank, and financial account numbers, insurance, and tax information, passport, and information relating to her family. Clemens’s employment agreement provided that ExecuPharm would “take appropriate measures to protect the confidentiality and security” of this information. After Clemens left ExecuPharm, a hacking group (CLOP) accessed ExecuPharm’s servers, stealing sensitive information pertaining to current and former employees, including Clemens. CLOP posted the data on the Dark Web, making available for download 123,000 data files pertaining to ExecuPharm, including sensitive employee information. ExecuPharm notified current and former employees of the breach and encouraged precautionary measures. Clemens reviewed her financial records and credit reports for unauthorized activity; placed fraud alerts on her credit reports; transferred her bank account; enrolled in ExecuPharm’s complimentary one-year credit monitoring services; and purchased three-bureau additional credit monitoring services for herself and her family for $39.99 per month.Clemens's suit under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), was dismissed for lack of Article III standing. The court concluded that Clemens’s risk of future harm was not imminent, but “speculative.” Any money Clemens spent to mitigate the speculative risk was insufficient to confer standing; even if ExecuPharm breached the employment agreement, it would not automatically give Clemens standing to assert her breach of contract claim. The Third Circuit vacated. Clemens’s injury was sufficiently imminent to constitute an injury-in-fact for purposes of standing. View "Clemens v. Execupharm Inc" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Guam taxpayers in their class action lawsuit against the territorial government. Guam had excessively withheld income taxes to support government spending. Some taxpayers got their refunds through an “expedited refund” process that devolved into arbitrariness and favoritism. The district court had certified a class of taxpayers who were entitled to but did not receive timely tax refunds.Duncan then filed a purported class action challenging the Virgin Islands' income tax collection practices. Duncan alleged that the Territory owed taxpayers at least $97,849,992.74 in refunds for the years 2007-2017, and that, for the years 2011-2017, the Territory failed to comply with the requirement in Virgin Islands Code title 33, section 1102(b), that the Territory set aside 10 percent of collected income taxes for paying refunds, leaving the required reserve underfunded by $150 million. The district court denied class certification, citing Duncan’s receipt of a refund check from the Territory during the pendency of her lawsuit; the check, while not the amount Duncan claims, called into question Duncan’s standing and made all of her claims atypical for the putative class. The Third Circuit vacated, rejecting the conclusion that the mid-litigation refund check deprived Duncan of standing and rendered all of her claims atypical. In evaluating whether Duncan was an adequate representative, the district court applied an incorrect legal standard. View "Duncan v. Governor of the Virgin Islands" on Justia Law

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The consumers had rental applications denied based on inaccurate consumer reports generated by a consumer reporting agency, RealPage, which would not correct the reports unless the consumers obtained proof of the error from its sources. The identity of RealPage’s sources was not included in the disclosures to the consumers, despite their requests for their files. The consumers sued under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, to disclose on request “[a]ll information in the consumer’s file at the time of the request” and “[t]he sources of th[at] information,” seeking damages and attorneys’ fees for themselves and on behalf of a purported class and subclass.The district court denied their Rule 23(b)(3) motion for class certification, citing the Rule’s predominance and superiority requirements and finding that their proposed class and subclass were not ascertainable. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court based its predominance analysis on a misinterpretation of Section 1681g(a), erroneously concluding that individualized proof would be needed to distinguish requests for “reports” from those for “files.” The court also misapplied ascertainability precedents. The consumers have standing, having made the requisite showing of the omission of information to which they claim entitlement, “adverse effects” that flow from the omission, and the requisite nexus to the protected “concrete interest.” View "Kelly v. RealPage Inc" on Justia Law

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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