Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Grodzitsky v. American Honda Motor Co.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order excluding plaintiff's expert opinion, and denying class certification in a design defect case concerning 2003–2008 Honda Pilot vehicles. Plaintiff's expert opined that the window regulators were not sufficiently durable when exposed to vibrations at certain frequencies. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding plaintiff's expert opinion under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); the district court properly held that the expert's opinion was unreliable due to his failure to utilize a workable standard supporting his design defect theory, the lack of supporting studies or testing to demonstrate a common design defect, and deficiencies in the expert's methodology; and, in the absence of the report, plaintiffs failed to demonstrate commonality, as the remaining evidence consisted solely of highly individualized complaints. View "Grodzitsky v. American Honda Motor Co." on Justia Law
Chavez v. Plan Benefit Services, Inc.
A district court must engage in a "rigorous analysis" when it certifies a class action. Plaintiffs filed suit against FBG under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), alleging that FBG has acted as a fiduciary and breached its duties. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's certification order, because the district court failed to engage in a rigorous analysis when it certified the class. The court held that the district court analyzed Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 superficially, because the district court's order did not identify the common question with any specificity. Having defined the question vaguely, the district court then analyzed it conclusionally and there is no reference to ERISA. Furthermore, the district court did not explain why clarifying FBG's status as a fiduciary will in one stroke resolve an issue that is central to the claims of each one of the class members, and the order neglected to consider asserted differences among class members that could prevent the suit from generating "common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation." Likewise, the district court's analysis of class type was insufficient. View "Chavez v. Plan Benefit Services, Inc." on Justia Law
In re: Lamictal Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation
GSK’s patent to an anti-epilepsy drug, Lamictal, was to expire in 2009. Teva sought to market a generic version of Lamictal, lamotrigine, before GSK’s patent expired. Teva submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application. GSK sued for infringement. After Teva received a favorable ruling with respect to one claim in 2005, the parties settled. Teva would begin selling lamotrigine six months before it could have had GSK won but later than if it had succeeded in litigation. GSK promised not to launch an authorized generic (AG) version of Lamictal. Had the parties not settled and had Teva succeeded in litigation, it would have been entitled to a 180-day exclusivity period as the generic first filer but GSK could have launched an AG. Companies that directly purchased Lamictal or lamotrigine (Direct Purchasers) sued, claiming the settlement violated the antitrust laws because GSK “paid” Teva to stay out of the market by promising not to launch an AG, resulting in Direct Purchasers paying more than they would have otherwise. The district court certified a class of all companies that purchased Lamictal from GSK or lamotrigine from Teva. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court certified the class without undertaking the required “rigorous” analysis, failing to resolve key factual disputes, assess competing evidence, and weigh conflicting expert testimony, all of which bear heavily on the predominance requirement, and confused injury with damages. View "In re: Lamictal Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
Stuart v. Global Tel*Link Corp.
Plaintiff, an inmate who had used Global's services, brought a putative class action alleging that Global's rates and fees were unjust and unreasonable under the Federal Communications Act (FCA) and that Global had unjustly enriched itself in violation of state laws. After the regulatory backdrop for the inmate calling service industry changed, the district court decertified all classes and granted summary judgment for Global on all claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions on class decertification and summary judgment in favor of Global. The court held that the district court acted within its discretion in deciding that common questions no longer predominated, and that a class action was not the proper vehicle for resolving this type of claim. The court held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' individual claims that the rates were unjust and unreasonable, and plaintiffs' common law unjust enrichment claim. Finally, the district court properly decertified the class action without seeking a determination by the agency on a methodology for segregating ancillary fees. The court dismissed Global's conditional cross-appeal as moot. View "Stuart v. Global Tel*Link Corp." on Justia Law
Douglas v. Price
The $8.5 million proposed settlement of a class action that claimed that Western Union violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited text messages, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). defined the class as: “All Persons in the United States who received one or more unsolicited text messages sent by or on behalf of Western Union.” Price, thinking she was a class member because she had received two text messages from Western, objected, arguing that the settlement inadequately compensated the class; class counsel’s fee request was too high; the plaintiff’s incentive award was too high; the class definition was imprecise; and the list of class members had errors. Western’s records confirmed that Price had enrolled in its loyalty program, checking a disclaimer box consenting to receive text messages. The judge certified the class, ruled that Price was not a member, approved the settlement, and reduced class counsel’s fees. Price did not appeal her exclusion from the class and did not seek to intervene but sought attorney’s fees and an incentive award. Her motion was denied because Price had cited “no authority for the highly questionable proposition that a non‐class member can recover fees and an incentive award under Rule 23.” The Seventh Circuit dismissed her appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Price is not a party and lacks standing to appeal. View "Douglas v. Price" on Justia Law
Rocha v. King County
This case involved claims against King County, Washington regarding jury selection and compensation. In 2016, petitioners filed a class action complaint in Pierce County, Washington Superior Court. They contended: (1) they had standing to file suit under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act; (2) jurors were employees entitled to minimum wage under Washington's Minimum Wage Act; and (3) RCW 2.36.080(3) created an implied cause of action for increased juror reimbursement based on economic status. Petitioners alleged that low rates of expense reimbursement have a greater impact on low-income jurors and asserted that this causes many jurors to seek excusal on the basis of financial hardship or to simply not respond to summons. Petitioners Nicole Bednarczyk and Catherine Selin sought reversal of a Court of Appeals decision affirming the superior court’s summary judgment dismissal of their declaratory relief, minimum wage, and disparate impact claims regarding jury service in King County. The Washington Supreme Court found standing was satisfied, but that jurors were not employees entitled to minimum wage, and there was no implied cause of action for requiring increased pay for jurors under RCW 2.36.080(3). "While we do not reach the inherent authority arguments, we take this opportunity to comment that low juror reimbursement is a serious issue that has contributed to poor juror summons response rates. The concerns raised by amici and petitioners as to the impact of low juror reimbursement on juror diversity, low-income jurors, and the administration of justice as a whole are valid points. While we should continue to cooperate with the other branches of government in an effort to address the long-standing problems identified by petitioners and amici, these concerns are best resolved in the legislative arena." View "Rocha v. King County" on Justia Law
Gendron v. Montana University System
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court partially denying Appellant's motion for attorney fees, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its determination of whether attorney fees awarded to class counsel were reasonable. Appellant filed individual and class action claims against Montana University System (MUS). The parties reached a partial settlement. The district court approved the settlement and appointed Appellant the class representative and her attorneys as class counsel. The court's order provided that class counsel were entitled to attorneys' fees and costs, but the parties were unable to agree to a total attorney fees and costs award. The district court declined to award class counsel their requested fees under a percentage-based calculation and, instead, calculated the fee award by multiplying the hours worked on the case by hourly rates of $275 and $375, respectively. The Supreme Court affirmed but remanded the case for a determination of the interest to which Appellant was entitled, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining whether the attorney fees awarded to class counsel were reasonable; and (2) Appellant was entitled to interest in accordance with Mont. Code Ann. 25-9-205. View "Gendron v. Montana University System" on Justia Law
Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
Class plaintiffs are seven named plaintiffs representing six putative classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). Plaintiffs also filed suit on behalf of themselves and 516 individuals who opted in to a conditionally certified collective action (the "collective plaintiffs") under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Class plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the labor laws in six states, and collective plaintiffs alleged that Chipotle misclassified them as exempt employees in violation of the FLSA. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying class certification on the basis of a lack of predominance and superiority. While reasonable minds could disagree, on the record before the court, it could not say that the district court's factual findings were clearly erroneous or that its conclusion was outside the range of permissible decisions. However, the court vacated the district court's order decertifying the collective action, holding that the district court committed legal error by improperly analogizing the standard for maintaining a collective action under the FLSA to Rule 23 procedure, and relying on that improper analogy in concluding that named plaintiffs and opt-in plaintiffs are not "similarly situated." In this case, the district court committed legal error in employing the "sliding scale" analogy to Rule 23 as it improperly conflated section 216(b) with Rule 23 and that rule's more stringent requirements. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc." on Justia Law
Mitchell v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.
The term "Actual Cash Value" is ambiguous with respect to the withholding of labor depreciation in Mississippi homeowners insurance policies that provide no further definition of ACV. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of State Farm's motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's breach of contract claim. The court found that, in the context of a Mississippi homeowners policy that refers to "Actual Cash Value" without further definition, both interpretations are reasonable. Therefore, the court held that the contract was ambiguous and the court applied Mississippi's interpretive canons, which provides that an ambiguous insurance contract is interpreted against the insurance company. The court reversed the district court's denial of State Farm's motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's tort claims. The court explained that, because the law on this question of interpreting "Actual Cash Value" in Mississippi was unsettled, State Farm had an arguable basis to depreciate labor costs. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying a class of Mississippi State Farm policyholders similarly situated to plaintiff, who received "Actual Cash Value" payments in which labor was depreciated and whose contracts similarly did not define "Actual Cash Value." View "Mitchell v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Nessel v. AmeriGas Partners. L.P.
Michigan filed suit, alleging that AmeriGas, Michigan's largest provider of residential propane, violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Section 10 of the MCPA, Mich. Comp. Laws 445.910, titled “class actions by attorney general,” 10 states that: The attorney general may bring a class action on behalf of persons residing in or injured in this state for the actual damages caused by any of the following: (a) A method, act or practice in trade or commerce defined as unlawful under section 3 [unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive methods, acts, or practices]. AmeriGas removed the case to federal court, citing the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 119 Stat. 4. The district court remanded to state court, finding that the lawsuit did not qualify as a “class action” because Section 10 “lacks the core requirements of typicality, commonality, adequacy, and numerosity that are necessary to certify a class under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 23.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Section 10 is not a state statute “similar” to Rule 23 for purposes of CAFA removability, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(1)(B). The court declined “to effectively invalidate the Michigan Legislature’s determination that an Attorney General should be able to sue for injuries to consumers pursuant to Section 10.” View "Nessel v. AmeriGas Partners. L.P." on Justia Law