Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

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The case involves the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, and its laws restricting public camping. The city's laws prohibit activities such as camping on public property or parking overnight in the city’s parks. Violations can result in fines and, in the case of multiple violations, imprisonment. A group of homeless individuals filed a class action lawsuit against the city, arguing that these ordinances violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The district court agreed with the plaintiffs, citing a previous Ninth Circuit decision, Martin v. Boise, which held that cities cannot enforce public camping ordinances against homeless individuals when the number of homeless individuals exceeds the number of available shelter beds.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, leading to the city's appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's decision, holding that the enforcement of laws regulating camping on public property does not constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The Court reasoned that the Eighth Amendment focuses on the punishment a government may impose after a criminal conviction, not on whether a government may criminalize particular behavior in the first place. The Court also noted that the punishments imposed by the city of Grants Pass, such as fines and temporary bans from public parks, did not qualify as cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "City of Grants Pass v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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This case is a class action involving commercial truck drivers who claimed they were not paid properly by Werner Enterprises, Inc., and Drivers Management, LLC. The drivers alleged that they were not adequately compensated for off-duty time spent on short rest breaks and time spent resting in their trucks’ sleeper-berths. The case has been appealed multiple times, with the court previously vacating a jury verdict in favor of the drivers because the district court improperly allowed the drivers to submit an expert report after the deadline. On remand, the district court entered judgment in favor of the defendants. The drivers appealed again, and the court vacated the judgment and remanded the case back to the district court to conduct an analysis regarding whether the expert report should be excluded as a discovery sanction and whether the district court should appoint an independent expert.On remand, the district court concluded that exclusion of the drivers’ expert report was the appropriate sanction for its late disclosure and that appointment of an independent expert was not appropriate. It then entered judgment in favor of the defendants. The drivers appealed this decision, asserting that the district court erred in its analysis. The defendants cross-appealed, asserting that the drivers’ notice of appeal was untimely, requiring dismissal of the appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected the defendants’ contention on cross-appeal and affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert report and denying the drivers’ motion for a new trial. The court also found that the district court did not err in declining to appoint an expert and in entering judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves a putative class action of approximately 2,000 payees who received structured settlement annuities to resolve personal injury claims. The plaintiffs, Renaldo White and Randolph Nadeau, alleged that defendants Symetra Life Insurance Company and Symetra Assigned Benefits Service Company wrongfully induced them to cash out their annuities in individualized “factoring” arrangements, whereby they gave up their rights to periodic payments in return for discounted lump sums.The district court certified two nationwide classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The first class consisted of all persons who were annuitants of a structured settlement annuity (SSA) issued by Symetra and who subsequently sold to a Symetra affiliate the right to receive payments from that SSA in a factoring transaction. The second class was a subclass of the first, consisting of all members of the class whose contract defining the annuity at issue included language explicitly stating that the annuitants lack the power to transfer their future SSA payments.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s certification of the two nationwide classes. The court held that individual issues of causation will predominate over common ones when evaluating whether defendants’ acts and omissions caused the plaintiffs to enter factoring transactions and incur their alleged injuries. The court also held that the district court erred in certifying the nationwide subclass of plaintiffs whose original settlement agreements with their personal injury tortfeasors contained structured settlement annuity (SSA) anti-assignment provisions. The record indicates that the annuitants hail from a wide array of different states, and some of the settlement agreements have choice of law provisions denoting the law of a state other than the location where the contract was executed. The apparent variations in state law on the enforceability of anti-assignment provisions in SSAs and the need to apply multiple state laws to the subclass raised a substantial question of whether individual issues predominate and how the matter can be fairly managed as a class action. View "WHITE V. SYMETRA ASSIGNED BENEFITS SERVICE COMPANY" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Mary Rodgers-Rouzier, worked as a bartender on steamboats operated by American Queen. She alleged that she and her coworkers were wrongly denied overtime wages. Rodgers-Rouzier filed a suit as a collective action, and over one hundred of her coworkers joined her proposed collective action. Meanwhile, American Queen moved to dismiss the case, arguing that Rodgers-Rouzier had agreed to arbitration. The district court denied the motion, but American Queen moved again to dismiss based on the arbitration agreement, this time invoking Indiana state law. The district court granted this motion, over Rodgers-Rouzier’s objections.The district court had previously denied American Queen's motion to dismiss the case for improper venue because Rodgers-Rouzier had agreed to arbitration. However, American Queen then moved again to dismiss based on the arbitration agreement, this time invoking Indiana state law. The district court granted this motion, over Rodgers-Rouzier’s objections that American Queen had waived its argument and the court lacked authority to apply Indiana law in this context. The court further determined that all the workers who had filed consent forms were not parties to the action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court concluded that although American Queen’s arguments were not waived and the court had authority to enforce the arbitration agreement under Indiana law, Indiana law would hold American Queen to its bargain that its arbitration agreement was governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Therefore, Rodgers-Rouzier’s case may continue in federal court. The court did not decide whether it may do so as a collective action and left that question for further litigation. View "Rodgers-Rouzier v. American Queen Steamboat Operating Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves Nicholas DeFries, a former conductor for Union Pacific Railroad Company, who was removed from his duties after failing color-vision testing. Prior to DeFries' removal, a class action lawsuit had been filed against Union Pacific by a group of employees, alleging that the company's fitness-for-duty program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DeFries qualified as a member of this class, but the class was later narrowed and then decertified by the Eighth Circuit. DeFries subsequently filed an individual lawsuit in the District of Oregon, raising claims similar to those in the class action.The District of Oregon concluded that the commencement of the class action had tolled the statute of limitations under American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, but that the tolling ended when the class definition was voluntarily narrowed, making DeFries's claim untimely. DeFries appealed this decision.The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court found ambiguity in whether the definition of the certified class included color-vision plaintiffs like DeFries. The court concluded that this ambiguity should be resolved in favor of allowing DeFries to rely on American Pipe tolling. Therefore, DeFries was entitled to tolling as a member of the class until the Eighth Circuit issued the mandate for its decision reversing class certification, making his claim timely. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "DeFries v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over a protective order issued by the district court, barring Visser and Associates, PLLC (“Visser”) from communicating with potential class members in a putative class action. The case originated from a claim by Wayside Church that Van Buren County had violated the federal Constitution’s Takings Clause by foreclosing on its property to satisfy a tax debt and then selling the property for a higher amount without refunding the difference. The case was revived in federal court following the Supreme Court's overruling of a previous decision that required such claims to be pursued in state court.The district court preliminarily approved a proposed class action settlement between the plaintiffs and defendant counties. Around the same time, Visser began sending solicitation letters to property owners who it thought might have takings claims against counties in the Western District of Michigan. The district court issued a show-cause order, finding that Visser’s solicitation letters did not cross the line from permissible solicitation to misleading, improper communication with potential class members. However, the court was not satisfied with Visser’s explanation for why it had sent solicitation letters to named plaintiffs who were already represented by class counsel.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's protective order. The court found that Visser had violated ethical rules by soliciting named plaintiffs and misleading the court. The court also found that Visser had continued to solicit potential class members after the district court had preliminarily approved the class settlement. The court concluded that Visser's conduct posed a serious threat to the fairness of the litigation process and the administration of justice generally. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the protective order. View "Wayside Church v. Van Buren County" on Justia Law

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A class of individuals and businesses in Northern California, who paid health insurance premiums to certain health plans, sued Sutter Health, a healthcare system operator in the region. They alleged that Sutter abused its market power to charge supracompetitive rates to these health plans, which were then passed on to the class in the form of higher premiums. The case went to trial on claims under California’s Cartwright Act for tying and unreasonable course of conduct. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Sutter.The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury to consider Sutter’s anticompetitive purpose and by excluding evidence of Sutter’s conduct before 2006. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs. It held that the district court contravened California law by removing “purpose” from the jury instructions, and that the legal error was not harmless. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 in excluding as minimally relevant all evidence of Sutter’s conduct before 2006. The court concluded that these errors were prejudicial and reversed the district court’s judgment, remanding the case for a new trial. View "SIDIBE V. SUTTER HEALTH" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of former detainees at the Medium Security Institution (MSI) in St. Louis, who alleged that they were subjected to inhumane conditions in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. They sought to represent classes of pre-trial and post-conviction detainees, asserting that both categories of detainees were subjected to poor physical conditions and inadequate operations. After the district court denied their first motion to certify, the plaintiffs returned with new proposed classes and renewed their motion. The district court granted the renewed motion, and the City of St. Louis appealed.The district court had initially denied the plaintiffs' motion to certify four classes, citing the open-ended class periods and the City's undisputed improvements to conditions at MSI over time. However, the court suggested that a more focused claim covering a more discrete time period and a more uniform class might be appropriate for class certification. In response, the plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for class certification, proposing four new, more narrowly defined classes. The district court granted the renewed motion, certifying the four new classes.The City of St. Louis appealed the district court's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, challenging both the decision to certify the classes and several of its procedural aspects. The appellate court reversed the certification of the classes and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court found that the district court had abused its discretion in certifying the classes, as the classes were not "sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation." The court also found that the district court had erred in describing the standard for liability and had failed to conduct a rigorous analysis of the requirements for class certification. View "Cody v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Alex Cantero, Saul Hymes, Ilana Harwayne-Gidansky, and others (the plaintiffs) and Bank of America. The plaintiffs had obtained home mortgage loans from Bank of America, which required them to make monthly deposits into escrow accounts. These accounts were used by the bank to pay the borrowers' property taxes and insurance premiums. Under New York law, banks are required to pay borrowers interest on the balance of such escrow accounts. However, Bank of America did not pay interest on the money in the plaintiffs' escrow accounts, arguing that the New York law was preempted by the National Bank Act. The plaintiffs filed class-action suits against Bank of America, alleging that the bank violated New York law by failing to pay them interest on the balances in their escrow accounts.The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, agreeing that New York law required Bank of America to pay interest on the escrow account balances. The court concluded that nothing in the National Bank Act or other federal law preempted the New York law. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed this decision, holding that the New York interest-on-escrow law was preempted as applied to national banks. The Court of Appeals argued that federal law preempts any state law that attempts to exercise control over a federally granted banking power, regardless of the magnitude of its effects.The Supreme Court of the United States, in reviewing the case, focused on the standard for determining when state laws that regulate national banks are preempted. The Court noted that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 expressly incorporated the standard articulated in Barnett Bank of Marion County, N. A. v. Nelson, which asks whether a state law "prevents or significantly interferes with the exercise by the national bank of its powers." The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals did not apply this standard in a manner consistent with Dodd-Frank and Barnett Bank. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Cantero v. Bank of America, N. A." on Justia Law

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Joseph Work, a former employee of Intertek, filed a collective action against the company for unpaid overtime, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, and relief for the collective class. Intertek objected to the judicial forum and requested arbitration. The dispute centered on whether the agreed-upon Arbitration Agreement provided for individual or class arbitration. Work sought class arbitration, while Intertek sought individual arbitration. Intertek filed a Motion to Compel Individual Arbitration, arguing that the Arbitration Agreement did not contain an express delegation clause and was silent on class arbitration.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that the issue of class arbitrability was delegated to the arbitrator. The court held that the Arbitration Agreement incorporated certain JAMS Rules by reference, which delegate questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, including the question of class arbitrability. The district court granted Work’s motion to dismiss and denied Intertek’s motion to compel individual arbitration.On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Intertek argued that consent to class arbitration was absent and that the language in the Arbitration Agreement was not clear. The court rejected both arguments, affirming the district court's decision. The court held that the Arbitration Agreement was not ambiguous and that it clearly incorporated the JAMS Rules by reference. The court concluded that the language in the Arbitration Agreement was "clear and unmistakable" in its incorporation of the JAMS Rules, which provide that the arbitrator decides the question of arbitrability. View "Work v. Intertek" on Justia Law