Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
DRASC, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc.
A class of owners accused Navistar of selling trucks with defective engines. The suit was settled for $135 million. The district court gave its preliminary approval. A court-approved Rule 23(e) notice was sent by first-class mail to all class members describing the settlement terms and the option to litigate independently. The notice's opt-out instructions included a link to a website with the full details and a phone number. The court held a fairness hearing then entered a final judgment implementing the settlement. Class member Drasc had sued Navistar in Ohio concerning the truck engines. The federal court declined to enjoin parallel state court suits, so the Ohio case proceeded while the federal action was pending. After the court approved the settlement, Navistar notified Drasc that its suit is barred by the release in the settlement. Drasc argued that it never received notice of the settlement and that its effort to continue litigating in Ohio should be deemed a “reasonable indication” of a desire to opt-out. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Drasc’s arguments, noting findings that two first-class letters were sent to Drasc at its business addresses; Drasc had not provided an email address for notice; Drasc’s Ohio lawyers had actual notice of the settlement and must have known about the need to opt-out. Drasc had actual knowledge of the need to opt-out and could not show excusable neglect that would justify an extension of the opt-out deadline. View "DRASC, Inc. v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law
Cho v. BlackBerry Ltd.
Plaintiffs Cho and Ulug, individual named plaintiffs in a putative securities class action, appeal the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings and dismissal of their claims against defendants. Plaintiffs argue that they should be permitted to rely on the successful appeal by the lead plaintiffs in this case, and that the district court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings and dismissing their claims.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and concluded that Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure Rule 3 requires that individual named plaintiffs in a class actions – who, unlike absent class members, have chosen to litigate their claims personally – indicate individually their intent to appeal; Cho and Ulug's failure to appeal the district court's first dismissal of their claims rendered that decision final as to them, and the district court properly dismissed their attempt to renew their claims after the lead plaintiffs successfully appealed; Cho and Ulug's claims against the newly added defendant are barred by res judicata; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying reconsideration. View "Cho v. BlackBerry Ltd." on Justia Law
Jianmin Jin v. Shanghai Original, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative class action on behalf of himself and similarly-situated employees of Joe's Shanghai restaurant, alleging violations of the New York Labor Law (NYLL). The district court certified the class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3) of all nonmanagerial employees at the Flushing, Queens location of Joe's Shanghai on the NYLL claims. However, five days before the trial was scheduled to start, the district court sua sponte decertified the class, determining that class counsel was no longer adequately representing the class. The district court held a bench trial on plaintiff's individual claims and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff against three of the defendants.As a preliminary issue, the Second Circuit concluded that, although plaintiff prevailed on the merits of his claims, this appeal is not moot because he maintains standing as to the class certification issue. On the merits, the court concluded that because class counsel's conduct made clear that counsel was no longer adequately representing the class, the district court acted within its discretion in decertifying the class. In this case, the record is replete with counsel's shortcomings before the class was decertified. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Jianmin Jin v. Shanghai Original, Inc." on Justia Law
Howard v. Cook County Sheriff’s Office
Women who work at the Cook County Jail or the adjoining courthouse filed a class-action suit against their employers for failing to prevent male inmates from sexually harassing them. The district court certified a class comprising all non‐supervisory female employees who work with male inmates at the jail or courthouse, of whom there are about 2,000.On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class under Rule 23. The court’s primary error was using the peripheral and overbroad concept of “ambient harassment” (i.e., indirect or secondhand harassment) to certify a class of employees who have endured a wide range of direct and indirect harassment. Even without this error, the class cannot stand because it comprises class members with materially different working environments whose claims require separate, individualized analyses. Hostile work environment claims are fact-intensive. They turn on the frequency, severity, character, and effect of the harassment. Here, these are “worker‐specific” inquiries because they depend on a class member’s unique experience—which correlates to where she works. Some class members will have had comparable experiences but the plaintiffs have not proven that for the entire class. View "Howard v. Cook County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law
C.J. Mahan Construction Co. v. Betzner
The Supreme Court affirmed the order the circuit court certifying a class action against Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Defendants, alleging, on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, that their water systems were contaminated with sewage due to Defendants' negligence. Plaintiffs moved for class certification. The circuit court certified the class as to their negligence and breach of contract claims. On appeal, Defendants argued that the circuit court erred in finding that class was ascertainable and that common issues predominated and erred in certifying the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in certifying the class. View "C.J. Mahan Construction Co. v. Betzner" on Justia Law
Southern Furniture Leasing v. YRC
Southern Furniture Leasing, Inc. filed a putative class action against a group of less-than-truckload (“LTL”) freight carriers, all predecessors to or current subsidiaries of YRC, Inc. Southern Furniture alleged YRC “carried out a widespread and systematic practice of overcharging its customers by intentionally using inflated shipment weights when determining shipment prices.” YRC asked the Tenth Circuit to affirm on the alternate ground that Southern Furniture failed to allege Article III standing. The district court rejected YRC’s standing argument, and the Tenth Circuit agreed with its analysis. The district court granted YRC’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Southern Furniture had only 180 days to contest the alleged overcharges under 49 U.S.C. 13710(a)(3)(B). To this, the Tenth Circuit concurred and affirmed. View "Southern Furniture Leasing v. YRC" on Justia Law
Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic
Appellants Area 55, LLC, and SAB Holdings, LLC appealed a trial court order granting the special motion to strike their first amended complaint for malicious prosecution and the related judgment of dismissal in favor of Respondents Nicholas & Tomasevic, LLP (N&T), Craig Nicholas, and Alex Tomasevic. Appellants included the successors to Vinturi, Inc. (Vinturi), which developed and sold the “ ‘Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator’ for wine-lovers who want to enhance their experience of drinking wine.” Vinturi started selling the Vinturi Aerator in 2006. As sold to the public, the box contained the Vinturi body with a decorative black silicone band, a rubber stand, and a filter screen -- parts all made in China, transported to the United States, and assembled in the United States. From 2006 until 2010, Vinturi sold its aerator in the United States with the statement “ ‘VINTURI IS MANUFACTURED IN THE USA’ ” printed on the bottom panel of the box. Attorney Nicholas filed various consumer fraud claims, challenging Appellants claim the aerator was made in the U.S. when the components were made in China. Appellants were successful in getting two class action cases dismissed. In 2018, Appellants filed the present case for malicious prosecution, resulting in the grant of Respondents' "SLAPP" motion on appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in ruling that Appellants could not establish the prior action was not terminated on its merits. "Thus, for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute, the court erred in ruling that Appellants did not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of their malicious prosecution claim." In addition, in its de novo review, the Court exercised discretion to reach the additional issues raised by the parties in the motion and opposition: Appellants made a sufficient prima facie showing of the remaining elements of their claim, and Respondents did not defeat Appellants’ claim as a matter of law. Accordingly, the order granting Respondents’ special motion to strike the complaint was vacated and reversed. On remand, the trial court was directed to enter a new and different order denying Respondents’ special motion. View "Area 55 v. Nicholas & Tomasevic" on Justia Law
Smith v. General Motors LLC
In 2005-2006, GM changed the dashboard used for GMT900 model cars from a multi-piece design to a single-piece design, which made the dashboard prone to cracking in two places. Plaintiffs, from 25 states, alleged that GMT900 vehicles produced in 2007-2014 contained a faulty, dangerous dashboard and that GM knew of the defective dashboards before GTM900 vehicles hit the market. The complaint contained no allegation that any of the plaintiffs have been hurt by the allegedly defective dashboards. The complaint, filed on behalf of a nationwide class, alleged fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, and violations of state consumer protection statutes and the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. At worst, Plaintiffs suffered only cosmetic damage and a potential reduced resale value from owning cars with cracked dashboards. Although the plaintiffs claimed that routine testing, customer complaints, and increased warranty claims alerted GM to the defective dashboards and accompanying danger, that is not enough to survive a motion to dismiss without specifics about how and when GM learned about the defect and its hazards, and concealed the allegedly dangerous defect from consumers. Even accepting that GM produced defective vehicles, under the common legal principles of the several states, the plaintiffs must show that GM had sufficient knowledge of the harmful defect to render its sales fraudulent. View "Smith v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law
Cherry v. Dometic Corporation
Putative class representatives do not have to prove the existence of an administratively feasible method to identify absent class members as a precondition for certification of a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Plaintiffs, owners of allegedly defective refrigerators manufactured by Dometic Corporation, as putative class representatives, moved to certify a class of similarly situated owners. The district court denied certification based on plaintiffs' failure to prove administrative feasibility, and dismissed the action because, in its view, the denial of class certification divested it of subject matter jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying class certification and dismissing the action, holding that the doctrines of invited error and forfeiture do not bar the court's consideration of the issue of administrative feasibility; administrative feasibility is relevant under Rule 23(b)(3) but is not a prerequisite of certification; and jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act does not depend on class certification. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cherry v. Dometic Corporation" on Justia Law
Anderson v. Weinert Enterprises Inc.
Weinert roofing employees could drive directly to job sites around Green Bay or could carpool from the shop using a company truck. For carpool employees, Weinert paid travel time at time-and-a-half the minimum wage and did not count travel time toward an employee’s 40-hour workweek. Weinert paid more than minimum wage for job-site work; job-site overtime pay was higher than travel time pay. Anderson, a Weinert seasonal employee, filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b), and Wisconsin law. Three other employees joined the action. Anderson converted the collective action into an individual FLSA action, which settled. Anderson then sought class certification (FRCP 23) for the state claims. Anderson identified 37 former or current Weinert employees to include in the class and requested the inclusion of employees Weinert expected to hire in 2019.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification. Employees to be hired in a future period cannot be included in the class. Anderson failed to show that joinder of the 37 employees in a single lawsuit (with multiple named plaintiffs) would be impracticable, as required by Rule 23(a). Anderson did not identify any difficulty in locating or contacting potential class members; the class lacked the geographical spread that might render joinder impracticable. Prevailing under the Act allows a plaintiff to recover attorneys’ fees and costs, offsetting some of the disincentive created by the small damages available. The numerosity requirement focuses on whether joinder would be impracticable, not whether each potential class member could bring a separate lawsuit. View "Anderson v. Weinert Enterprises Inc." on Justia Law