Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Judge Chin Rejects Google Books Settlement

Judge Chin (SDNY) rejected the settlement negotiated in the Google Books class action case.  He worries that the settlement would be unfair to copyright owners and suggested that an opt-in format would be preferable to the current opt-out settlement.

The New York Law Journal covers the decision here.  A copy of the proposed settlement is available here.

RJE 

March 23, 2011 in Class Actions, In the News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's SCOTUS Decision in Matrixx Initiatives v. Siracusano: More on Pleading

Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion (per Justice Sotomayor) in Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano (No. 09-1156), affirming the Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that the plaintiffs’ complaint adequately stated a claim for securities fraud. The Court rejects the arguments by the defendant Matrixx (manufacturer of the cold remedy Zicam) that “[plaintiffs’] complaint does not adequately allege that Matrixx made a material representation or omission or that it acted with scienter because the complaint does not allege that Matrixx knew of a statistically significant number of adverse events requiring disclosure.” [Slip Op. at 1.] Although the case involves securities-fraud claims in particular, the opinion contains several references to Twombly and Iqbal and may have a bearing on pleading standards more generally. Here's a quick summary:

The Court begins its discussion [Slip Op. at 3] by stating that the plaintiffs’ complaint “alleges the following facts, which the courts below properly assumed to be true. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. ___, ___ (2009).” It recounts over the next four pages events relevant to plaintiffs’ securities fraud claims.

Analyzing the issue of materiality, the Court states [Slip Op. at 17]: “Assuming the complaint’s allegations to be true, as we must, Matrixx received information that plausibly indicated a reliable causal link between Zicam and anosmia.” In footnote 12, the Court rejects Matrixx’s argument that certain studies relied on by the plaintiffs were unreliable with the following discussion:

Matrixx contends that Dr. Jafek and Linschoten’s study was not reliable because they did not sufficiently rule out the common cold as a cause for their patients’ anosmia. We note that the complaint alleges that, in one instance, a consumer who did not have a cold lost his sense of smell after using Zicam. More importantly, to survive a motion to dismiss, respondents need only allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U. S. 544, 570 (2007).

Here’s the Court’s conclusion on whether the complaint adequately pleaded the materiality requirement [Slip Op. at 18]:

We believe that these allegations suffice to “raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” satisfying the materiality requirement, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U. S. 544, 556 (2007), and to “allo[w] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged,” Iqbal, 556 U. S., at ___. The information provided to Matrixx by medical experts revealed a plausible causal relationship between Zicam Cold Remedy and anosmia. Consumers likely would have viewed the risk associated with Zicam (possible loss of smell) as substantially outweighing the benefit of using the product (alleviating cold symptoms), particularly in light of the existence of many alternative products on the market. Importantly, Zicam Cold Remedy allegedly accounted for 70 percent of Matrixx’s sales. Viewing the allegations of the complaint as a whole, the complaint alleges facts suggesting a significant risk to the commercial viability of Matrixx’s leading product.

As to whether the complaint adequately pleaded scienter, the Court uses the PSLRA’s heightened pleading standard, which requires a plaintiff to “state with particularity facts giving rise to a strong inference that the defendant acted with the required state of mind.” 15 U. S. C. § 78u–4(b)(2)(A). Citing Tellabs, the Court explains [Slip Op. at 20]:

This standard requires courts to take into account “plausible opposing inferences.” Tellabs, 551 U.S., at 323. A complaint adequately pleads scienter under the PSLRA “only if a reasonable person would deem the inference of scienter cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference one could draw from the facts alleged.” Id. at 324.

The Court holds [Slip Op. at 21] that “[t]he inference that Matrixx acted recklessly (or intentionally, for that matter) is at least as compelling, if not more compelling, than the inference that it simply thought the reports did not indicate anything meaningful about adverse reactions.” After summarizing the key allegations in the complaint, the Court concludes [Slip Op. at 22]:

These allegations, “taken collectively,” give rise to a “cogent and compelling” inference that Matrixx elected not to disclose the reports of adverse events not because it believed they were meaningless but because it understood their likely effect on the market. Tellabs, 551 U. S., at 323, 324. “[A] reasonable person” would deem the inference that Matrixx acted with deliberate recklessness (or even intent) “at least as compelling as any opposing inference one could draw from the facts alleged.” Id. at 324.

--A

March 22, 2011 in Recent Decisions, Supreme Court Cases, Twombly/Iqbal | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Second Circuit Decision in Amnesty International v. Clapper: Plaintiffs Have Standing to Challenge Federal Wiretapping Procedures

Today’s opinion in Amnesty International v. Clapper (No. 09-4112-cv) begins:

Attorneys, journalists, and labor, legal, media, and human rights organizations brought this action facially challenging the constitutionality of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“FISA”), which was added to FISA by Section 101(a)(2) of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (the “FAA”), and codified at 50 U.S.C. § 1881a. Section 702 creates new procedures for authorizing government electronic surveillance targeting non-United States persons outside the United States for purposes of collecting foreign intelligence. The plaintiffs complain that the procedures violate the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, Article III of the Constitution, and the principle of separation of powers because they “allow[] the executive branch sweeping and virtually unregulated authority to monitor the international communications . . . of law-abiding U.S. citizens and residents.”

The merits of the plaintiffs’ claims are not before us. The only issue presented by this appeal is whether the plaintiffs are legally in a position to assert these claims in a federal court, not whether the claims are to any degree valid. Their merit is an issue for another court on another day. The district court (Koeltl, J.) granted the government summary judgment because it found that the plaintiffs lacked standing. On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that they have standing because the FAA’s new procedures cause them to fear that their communications will be monitored, and thus force them to undertake costly and burdensome measures to protect the confidentiality of international communications necessary to carrying out their jobs. Because standing may be based on a reasonable fear of future injury and costs incurred to avoid that injury, and the plaintiffs have established that they have a reasonable fear of injury and have incurred costs to avoid it, we agree that they have standing.

--A

March 21, 2011 in Recent Decisions, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Decision of Interest: Eighth Circuit on CAFA and 1447(c)'s Remand Deadline

In a decision issued earlier this month, the Eighth Circuit considered the deadline for seeking a remand to state court based on the “Local Controversy” exception to jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4). The case is Graphic Communications v. CVS Caremark, No. 11-1067 (Mar. 11, 2011), 2011 WL 855672, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 4747. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs' remand motion, filed more than three months after removal to federal court, was untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), which provides: “A motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect other than lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal.”

The unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Kermit Edward Bye, reasoned that the Local Controversy exception “operates as an abstention doctrine, which does not divest the district court of subject matter jurisdiction.” But the court also held that the applicability of CAFA’s Local Controversy exception “was not a ‘defect’ within the meaning of section 1447(c).” Therefore, § 1447(c)’s 30-day deadline did not apply either.

So what is the deadline? The court explained: “[T]he mere fact that the statutory time limitation on raising motions to remand does not apply does not mean that non-1447(c) remands are necessarily authorized at any time. Indeed, we do not believe the applicable time limitation for the instant motion to remand is equivalent to the anytime-before-judgment (or even on appeal) standard applicable for subject matter jurisdiction.” Instead, a motion to remand based on the local controversy exception must be “brought within a reasonable time frame,” which is the standard “for remands not covered by § 1447(c).” The Eighth Circuit sent the case back to the district court to resolve whether the plaintiffs had filed their remand motion within a “reasonable time frame.”

--A

(Hat Tip: Scott Dodson)

March 21, 2011 in Class Actions, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lahav on Redish's Class Action Book

Alexandra Lahav (University of Connecticut) has posted Book Review: Are Class Actions Unconstitutional to SSRN.

Abstract:      
This is a book review of Martin Redish, Wholesale Justice: Constitutional Democracy and the Problem of the Class Action Lawsuit (Stanford U. Press, 2009). 

In Wholesale Justice, Redish argues that class actions are unconstitutional and must be significantly reformed. The argument he presents is one that will surely be debated in courtrooms as well as classrooms and is especially significant given that the Supreme Court is hearing four major class action cases in the October 2010 term. After summarizing Redish's arguments, the review demonstrates that class actions are both constitutional and consistent with ideals of democratic accountability. In the end, the question is not whether the class action is constitutional (it is) but whether class actions are socially beneficial. This is a policy issue, not a constitutional one. Nevertheless, a broader point in Redish's book deserves serious attention. Too often procedures and remedies stealthily prevent the vindication of substantive rights. The appropriate solution to this accountability problem is a more robust public discussion of the relationship between rights and remedies.

RJE

March 21, 2011 in Class Actions, Mass Torts, Recent Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)