Articles Posted in Class Action

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Plaintiffs, members of Global Fitness gyms, believed that Global misrepresented the terms of its gym memberships and sued as a class. The parties settled: Global agreed to pay $1.3 million to the class members, class counsel’s fees as ordered by the court, and the claims administrator’s fees and costs. The court approved the agreement over the objections of some class members and ordered its implementation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. In the meantime, Global had sold all of its gyms and funneled $10.4 million of the proceeds to its managers through “tax distributions.” The payments Global owed to the class were in escrow under the terms of the settlement agreement, which made no similar provision for class counsel and the claims administrator. Days before its payment obligation under the agreement came due, Global notified the court it could not meet its remaining obligations. The court held Global Fitness and its managers in civil contempt. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Global had no legal obligation to conserve funds to pay class counsel and the claims administrator while the appeals were pending. Its obligation to pay became definite and specific only once the appeals were exhausted. The court erred in considering any of Global’s conduct from before that date and by holding the managers jointly and severally liable. View "Gascho v. Global Fitness Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the 1980s, merchant marine plaintiffs filed asbestos-liability suits against ship-owner and manufacturer defendants in the Northern District of Ohio. That court ruled, in 1989, that it lacked personal jurisdiction over many of the defendants. Instead of dismissing those defendants, the court stated that if a defendant did not wish to be transferred, it could “waive the in personam jurisdiction problem” by filing an answer. Some did so. In 1990, the court ordered the transfer of some cases to scattered venues. Those transfers did not occur. Certain defendants sought to appeal the order, specifically stating that they did not waive jurisdiction. The court did not certify the interlocutory appeal. Eventually, the cases were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Certain defendants objected, arguing that they had been “strong-armed” into submitting to Ohio jurisdiction. The Pennsylvania court held that the N.D. of Ohio lacked personal jurisdiction over the relevant defendants and that those defendants had not waived or forfeited their personal jurisdiction defense. Thousands of parties were dismissed. Ten plaintiffs appealed the Pennsylvania’s decision as to 19 defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Pennsylvania district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that the ship-owner defendants had not waived their personal jurisdiction defense by filing answers in the N.D. of Ohio and had no authority to transfer the cases to jurisdictions that did have jurisdiction. View "Kalama v. Matson Navigation Co." on Justia Law

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The Class Action Fairness Act extends federal court jurisdiction to class actions on behalf of 100 or more people and in request of $5 million or more in damages if “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant,” 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2)(A), (d)(5), (d)(6). Roberts filed a class action on behalf of Tennessee citizens against Mars, a citizen of Tennessee and Delaware, alleging a conspiracy to employ a “prescription-authorization requirement” to sell pet food at above market prices in violation of the Tennessee Trade Practices Act. Mars removed the case to federal court, invoking its Delaware citizenship and claiming its Tennessee citizenship did not matter. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of plaintiffs’ motion for remand to state court. Because section 1332(d)(2)(A) refers to all of a defendant’s citizenships, not the alternative that suits it, Mars cannot rely on its state of incorporation (Delaware) and ignore its principal place of business (Tennessee) to create diversity under the Act. View "Roberts v. Mars Petcare US, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Besse, a pharmaceutical distributor, sent a one-page fax advertising the drug Prolia to 53,502 physicians. Only 40,343 of these faxes were successfully transmitted. Sandusky, a chiropractic clinic that employed one of the physicians, claims to have received this “junk fax,” and, three years later, filed a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court denied Sandusky’s motion for class certification. It held that Sandusky’s proposed class failed to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3) because two individualized issues—class member identity and consent—were central to the lawsuit and thus prevented “questions of law or fact common to class members [from] predominat[ing].” In the absence of fax logs, no classwide means existed by which to identify the 75% of individuals who received the Prolia fax; “each potential class member would have to submit an affidavit certifying receipt of the Prolia fax.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Besse presented actual evidence of consent to the district court, which required the need for individualized inquiries in order to distinguish between solicited and unsolicited Prolia faxes. The court stated that it was unaware of any court that ever mandated certification of a TCPA class where fax logs did not exist. View "Sandusky Wellness Center, LLC v. ASD Specialty Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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The National Labor Relations Board sought enforcement of its Order finding that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from pursuing class-action litigation or collective arbitration of work-related claims and by forbidding an AEI technician from discussing a proposed compensation change with his coworkers and by firing that technician for discussing the proposed change and complaining to management about it. AEI employees sign an agreement that “Disputes … relating to your employment” must, at the election of the employee or the company, be resolved “exclusively through binding arbitration” and that “you and AEI also agree that a claim may not be arbitrated as a class action, also called ‘representative’ or ‘collective’ actions, and that a claim may not otherwise be consolidated or joined with the claims of others.” AEI’s employee handbook prohibits “[u]nauthorized disclosure of business secrets or confidential business or customer information, including any compensation or employee salary information.” The Sixth Circuit enforced the order. An arbitration provision requiring employees covered by the Act individually to arbitrate all employment-related claims is not enforceable. The evidence was adequate to support the ALJ’s factual findings and conclusion that DeCommer was fired for engaging in protected, concerted activity View "National Labor Relations Board v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the city began using the Flint River as its water source in 2014, residents complained that the water was discolored and foul-smelling. There were reports of skin rashes, hair loss, and vomiting after drinking and bathing in the water. Many children were found to have high levels of lead in their blood stream. In 2016, plaintiffs filed this putative class action in Michigan state court, claiming negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment. The defendants include several entities related to the city's expert water consultants. A defendant removed the case to district court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), asserting that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, the putative class comprised at least 100 members, and there was the minimal diversity of citizenship required by CAFA. The district court remanded, citing the local controversy exception, under which a district court must decline to exercise CAFA jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the exception did not apply because other class actions had been filed in the previous three years, asserting the same or similar factual allegations against the defendants. View "Davenport v. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc." on Justia Law

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While implementing changes required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Michigan experienced a systemic computer problem that erroneously assigned thousands of non-citizens, who may have been eligible for comprehensive Medicaid coverage, to Emergency Services Only (ESO) Medicaid. Plaintiffs, two eligible noncitizen residents of Michigan who were erroneously assigned ESO coverage, filed a class action complaint against the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, alleging violations of the Medicaid statute and the Due Process Clause. The district court found that actions taken by the state since the complaint was filed had resolved all systemic errors, so that plaintiffs’ claims were moot. The Sixth Circuit reversed the summary judgment, noting that not one of the individuals identified as a named plaintiff or potential named plaintiff was granted relief on the basis of a systemic fix and that that it is not “absolutely clear the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.” Material questions of fact remain regarding claims that the state failed to provide comprehensive Medicaid coverage and a reasonable opportunity to verify immigration status, precluding summary judgment. View "Unan v. Lyon" on Justia Law

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Fleet Owners Fund is a multi-employer “welfare benefit plan” under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001, and a “group health plan” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 26 U.S.C. 5000A. Superior Dairy contracted with Fleet for employee medical insurance; the Participation Agreement incorporated by reference a 2002 Agreement. In a purported class action, Superior and its employee alleged that, before entering into the Agreement, it received assurances from Fleet Owners and plan trustees, that the plan would comply in all respects with federal law, including ERISA and the ACA. Plaintiffs claim that, notwithstanding the ACA’s statutory requirement that all group health plans eliminate per-participant and per-beneficiary pecuniary caps for both annual and lifetime benefits, the plan maintains such restrictions and that Superior purchased supplemental health insurance benefits to fully cover its employees. Fleet argued that the plan is exempt from such requirements as a “grandfathered” plan. The district court dismissed the seven-count complaint. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring claims under ERISA and ACA, having failed to allege concrete injury, and did not allege specific false statements. View "Soehnlen v. Fleet Owners Insurance Fund" on Justia Law

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Abraham operated B2B, a fax advertising company. Abraham has testified that she believed it was legal to send fax advertising to companies that had an established business relationship with the sender and mistakenly thought the companies on her list met that standard. B2B faxed an advertisement for Top Flite—a Michigan mortgage company—to more than 4,000 fax numbers, using that list. Recipients alleged that the fax was unsolicited and that they did not have an established business relationship with Top Flite and filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court denied class certification, making “no determinations” as to the requirements in Rule 23(a), but focusing on Rule 23(b)(3)'s requirement of predominance. The court expressed concern that individual class members might have consented to receiving the challenged faxes, and that determining whether they had consented would require investigation of each person or business. Top Flite then offered to allow an injunction and judgment of $1,550. Under Rule 68(b), the offers lapsed. Top Flite successfully moved to dismiss, arguing that because the court had denied class certification and plaintiffs had failed to accept offers of judgment that encompassed all of the individual relief sought, the complaints were moot. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Speculation alone regarding individualized consent was insufficient to defeat plaintiffs’ showing of predominance under Rule 23(b)(3) and the unaccepted settlement offer was a nullity. View "Bridging Communities, Inc. v. Top Flite Financial, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action

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In 2010, plaintiffs, former employees of establishments that operate in “Fourth Street Live,” a Louisville entertainment district, sued, alleging violations of the Kentucky Wage and Hour Act, KRS 337.385, based on policies regarding off-the-clock work and mandatory tip-pooling. In 2012, the district court granted class certification under Rules 23(a) and 23(b). In 2013, the defendants unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, citing the Supreme Court’s 2013 "Comcast" decision. In 2014, the parties reached a financial settlement. It took almost another year to reach an agreement regarding non-monetary terms. In March 2015, the parties filed a joint status report declaring that they had reached a settlement agreement and anticipated filing formal settlement documents in April. The defendants then became aware of a February 2015 Kentucky Court of Appeals holding that KRS 337.385 could not support class-action claims. Defendants unsuccessfully moved to stay approval of the settlement. The court granted preliminary approval of the settlement. The Sixth Circuit denied an appeal as untimely because the defendants had not challenged an appealable class-certification order under Rule 23(f). Defendants filed another unsuccessful decertification motion with the district court. The court granted final approval of the settlement as “a binding contract under Kentucky law.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A post-settlement change in the law does not alter the binding nature of the parties’ agreement. View "Whitlock v. FSL Management, LLC" on Justia Law