Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries
Hardwick v. 3M Co.
Hardwick alleged that his bloodstream contains trace quantities of five chemicals (PFAS)—which are part of a family of thousands of chemicals used in medical devices, automotive interiors, waterproof clothing, food packaging, firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, ski and car waxes, batteries, semiconductors, aviation and aerospace construction, paints and varnishes, and building materials. Hardwick, who was exposed to firefighting foam, does not know what companies manufactured the particular chemicals in his bloodstream; nor does he know whether those chemicals might someday make him sick. Of the thousands of companies that have manufactured PFAS since the 1950s, Hardwick sued 10 defendants and sought to represent a class comprising nearly every person “residing in the United States.” The district court certified a class comprising every person residing in Ohio with trace amounts of certain PFAS in their blood.The Sixth Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss the case. Even at the pleadings stage, the factual allegations, taken as true, “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” The element of traceability requires a showing that the plaintiff’s “injury was likely caused by the defendant.” The district court treated the defendants as a collective, but “standing is not dispensed in gross.” Even if Hardwick met the actual-injury requirement he must tie his injury to each defendant.” Hardwick’s conclusory allegations do not support a plausible inference that any of the defendants bear responsibility for the PFAS in Hardwick’s blood. View "Hardwick v. 3M Co." on Justia Law
James v. Hegar
Plaintiffs are three Texas residents whose assets escheated to the State under Texas’s Unclaimed Property Act. Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the Texas Comptroller and a director in the Comptroller’s office, alleging that the State is abusing the Unclaimed Property Act to seize purportedly abandoned property without providing proper notice. The district court dismissed most of Plaintiffs’ claims. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot invoke Ex parte Young because they lack standing to seek prospective relief and have not alleged an ongoing violation of federal law. The Fifth Circuit agreed with Defendants and reversed the district court’s denial of Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and remanded with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ remaining claims for prospective relief without prejudice. The court explained that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts indicating that Texas’s alleged abuse of the UPA is ongoing or will continue in the future. As there is no ongoing violation of federal law sufficiently pleaded in the complaint, Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the Ex parte Young requirements, and their claims for prospective relief are barred by sovereign immunity. View "James v. Hegar" on Justia Law
In re Ford Motor Co.
A putative class sued Ford over an alleged design defect in their F-150 pickup trucks, model years 2013-2018, involving brake master cylinders manufactured by Hitachi, citing two alternative theories of how the failure of internal seals would occur. The court declined to certify injunction and damages classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and (b)(3) but certified five statewide issue classes under 23(c)(4) for three issues: whether the brake systems were defective; whether Ford possessed pre-sale knowledge of the defect; and whether concealed information about the defect would be material to a reasonable buyer.On interlocutory review, the Sixth Circuit reversed. Rule 23 certification requires that a class action be able to “generate common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation.” Here, it is not clear that the certified issues can each be answered “in one stroke.” The court noted design and manufacturing changes to the units over the years and that the class alleged two distinct theories of design defect. Ford may have believed any problem was fixed when Hitachi altered its cylinder design. It is possible that those changes affected brake performance to a degree that would have made a difference to a consumer. On remand, the district court must evaluate whether each of the four Rule 23(a) factors is actually satisfied, not merely properly alleged. The inquiry might overlap with the merits of the underlying claims but is a crucial part of avoiding the procedural unfairness to which class actions are uniquely susceptible. View "In re Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
Reliance Health Care, Inc. v. Mitchell
The Supreme Court dismissed this interlocutory appeal of a vacated class certification order and directed the circuit court to remand the case to address motions to compel arbitration, holding that this appeal was moot.Plaintiffs, who represented the estates of former residents of fourteen different nursing homes, alleged breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims against the nursing homes, in violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights act and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The nursing homes moved to compel arbitration for all but two of the named plaintiffs, after which the plaintiffs moved for class certification. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification without ruling on the motions to compel arbitration. The nursing homes brought an interlocutory appeal of the class-certification order and petitioned for writ of prohibition, mandamus, and certiorari. The Supreme Court granted the writ petition, vacating the order granting class certification, and ordered the circuit court to rule on the motions to compel before ruling on class certification, holding that the interlocutory appeal of the vacated class-certification order was moot. View "Reliance Health Care, Inc. v. Mitchell" on Justia Law
Sepanossian v. Nat. Ready Mix Co.
Gary Sepanossian, dba G.S. Construction (Sepanossian), individually and as class representative, filed a class action against National Ready Mix Concrete Co., Inc. (Ready Mix), alleging Ready Mix charged its customers an “energy” fee and an “environmental” fee “wholly untethered to any actual cost for ‘energy’ or ‘environmental’ issues” that Ready Mix instead “recognize[s] as profit.” The complaint alleges causes of action for (1) violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) under the fraudulent and unfair business practices prongs; (2) breach of contract; and (3) “unjust enrichment.” After Ready Mix answered the complaint, Sepanossian filed a motion for class certification. The trial court granted class certification but expressed doubts about Sepanossian’s legal claims and invited the parties to present a motion for judgment on the pleadings to address the merits before class notice. The parties agreed to do so, and Ready Mix subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the trial court granted on the UCL and unjust enrichment causes of action. The Second Appellate District reversed because Sepanossian alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action under the UCL but affirmed dismissal of the unjust enrichment cause of action. The court explained that here, Ready Mix customers cannot buy concrete from it while avoiding being charged energy and environmental fees. On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court wrote that it must accept as true Sepanossian’s allegation the fees were unavoidable for customers who wished to purchase concrete from Ready Mix. View "Sepanossian v. Nat. Ready Mix Co." on Justia Law
Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative shareholder class action complaint in New York State Supreme Court, alleging Maryland state law claims on behalf of himself and all similarly situated preferred stockholders of Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (“Cedar”), a New York-based corporation incorporated in Maryland, following its August 2022 merger with Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc. (“Wheeler”) (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleged Cedar and its leadership breached fiduciary duties owed to, and a contract with, shareholders such as Plaintiff and that Wheeler both aided and abetted the breach and tortiously interfered with the relevant contract. The Defendants collectively removed the case, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but the district court remanded the case to state court after Krasner argued that an exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied to his claims. The Second Circuit dismissed Defendants’ appeal and concluded that the “securities-related” exception applies. The court explained that here, the securities created a relationship between Cedar and Plaintiff that gave rise to fiduciary duties on the part of Cedar and the potential for additional claims against those parties who aid and abet Cedar’s breach of those duties. Thus, the aiding and abetting claim—and by the same logic, the tortious interference with contract claim—“seek enforcement of a right that arises from an appropriate instrument.” As such, the securities-related exception applies, and the district court properly remanded the case to state court. View "Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc." on Justia Law
Jill Hennessey v. The Gap, Inc.
Plaintiff, a retail customer, brought a putative class action under the Class Action Fairness Act against clothing retailers The Gap, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Old Navy, LLC (“Defendants”). Plaintiff alleged that she purchased numerous products at Old Navy stores and online at discount prices that were deceptively advertised because Defendants did not sell a substantial quantity of these products at the advertised “regular” prices prior to selling them at the advertised “sale” prices. She sought class-wide compensatory damages under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”). The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint with prejudice, Plaintiff appealed, arguing that she plausibly pleaded ascertainable loss under Missouri’s benefit-of-the-bargain rule. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court’s decision to “join a growing number of courts in finding that complaints based solely on a plaintiff’s disappointment over not receiving an advertised discount at the time of purchase have not suffered an ascertainable loss.” Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint also alleged that the actual fair market value of some of the products she purchased “may have even been less than the discounted prices that she paid.” This theory of ascertainable loss does not depend on Defendants’ comparison pricing for the value represented component of the benefit-of-the-bargain rule. Plausible allegations of such immediate injury would satisfy an MMPA plaintiff’s burden to show an ascertainable loss. However, these allegations are based solely on information and belief, which are generally insufficient under Rule 9(b). View "Jill Hennessey v. The Gap, Inc." on Justia Law
Cunningham v. Cornell University
Plaintiff class participates in “403(b)” retirement plans administered by Cornell University (“Cornell”). Plaintiffs brought this suit against Cornell and its appointed fiduciaries alleging a number of breaches of their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). Plaintiffs appealed from entry of judgment in Defendants’ favor on all but one claim, which was settled by the parties. On appeal, Plaintiffs challenged: (1) the dismissal of their claim that Cornell entered into a “prohibited transaction” by paying the plans’ recordkeepers unreasonable compensation, (2) the “parsing” of a single count alleging a breach of fiduciary duty into separate sub-claims at the motion to dismiss stage, (3) the award of summary judgment against Plaintiffs for failure to show loss on their claim that Defendants breached their duty of prudence by failing to monitor and control recordkeeping costs, and (4) the award of summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs’ claims that Cornell breached its duty of prudence by failing to remove underperforming investment options and by offering higher-cost retail share classes of mutual funds, rather than lower-cost institutional shares. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiffs’ prohibited transactions claim and certain duty-of-prudence allegations for failure to state a claim and did not err in granting partial summary judgment to Defendants on the remaining duty-of-prudence claims. In so doing, the court held as a matter of first impression that to state a claim for a prohibited transaction pursuant to 29 U.S.C. Section 1106(a)(1)(C), it is not enough to allege that a fiduciary caused the plan to compensate a service provider for its services. View "Cunningham v. Cornell University" on Justia Law
Kimberly Powell, et al. v. School Board of Volusia County, Florida
Appellant as next of kin and on behalf of a minor, J.T.A., and all similarly situated minors (“Appellants”), filed a class action lawsuit against the School Board of Volusia County, Florida for allegedly violating the minors’ rights to free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Appellants appealed the district court’s order dismissing their amended complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order of dismissal and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the holding in Perez. The court explained that here, Appellants seek compensatory and punitive damages. The IDEA provides neither. Thus, applying Perez to this case, Appellants can proceed without attempting to exhaust administrative remedies that do not exist under the IDEA. Appellants unambiguously sought compensatory monetary damages under the ADA and not compensatory education under the IDEA. Consequently, in light of Perez, the Appellants should have been allowed to proceed with their claims regardless of the IDEA’s exhaustion requirements. View "Kimberly Powell, et al. v. School Board of Volusia County, Florida" on Justia Law
Omar Santos, et al v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
Plaintiffs s filed a class action complaint and sought to represent a class of individuals whose Healthcare Revenue tradelines had been wrongly “re-aged” by Experian. They alleged that Experian “willfully” violated its obligation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to “follow reasonable procedures” to ensure consumer credit reports were prepared with “maximum possible accuracy” when it allowed credit reports to reflect allegedly inaccurate status dates. The district court denied Experian’s summary judgment motion. After the close of discovery, Plaintiffs moved to certify a class of all consumers “whose Experian credit reports had an account or accounts reported by [Healthcare Revenue] with an inaccurately displayed Date of Status and were viewed by one or more third parties.” The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and denied class certification. Plaintiffs petitioned for permission to appeal the district court’s class certification order under Rule 23(f). The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the denial of Plaintiffs' motion for class certification was an abuse of discretion because the district court’s analysis of Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement was based on its contrary interpretation of the second option in section 1681n(a)(1)(A). The court wrote that a consumer alleging a willful violation of the Act doesn’t need to prove actual damages to recover “damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000.” While the parties raise other issues that may ultimately affect whether the class should be certified, the district court’s order denying class certification only relied on its interpretation of section 1681n(a)(1)(A) and didn’t address these other arguments. View "Omar Santos, et al v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law