Monday, November 18, 2013
Earlier this month we covered Chief Justice Roberts’ statement in Marek v. Lane, a case challenging a class action settlement that included cy pres remedies. In his statement, Chief Justice Roberts agreed with the decision to deny certiorari but raised a number of concerns about cy pres remedies, concluding that “[i]n a suitable case, this Court may need to clarify the limits on the use of such remedies.”
Today, Justice Alito issued a similar statement “respecting the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari” in another case involving a class action settlement: Martin v. Blessing (No. 13-169). You can find his six-page statement in today’s order list, beginning on page 13 of the pdf file. It begins:
The petition in this case challenges a highly unusual practice followed by one District Court Judge in assessing the adequacy of counsel in class actions. This judge insists that class counsel “ensure that the lawyers staffed on the case fairly reflect the class composition in terms of relevant race and gender metrics.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 35a. The uniqueness of this practice weighs against review by this Court, but the meaning of the Court’s denial of the petition should not be misunderstood.
The judge is U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York, and Justice Alito writes that “[b]ased on the materials now before us, I am hard-pressed to see any ground on which Judge Baer’s practice can be defended.” [p.3]
Friday, November 15, 2013
1. Whether this Court should overrule or substantially modify the holding of Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), to the extent that it recognizes a presumption of classwide reliance derived from the fraud-on-the-market theory.
2. Whether, in a case where the plaintiff invokes the presumption of reliance to seek class certification, the defendant may rebut the presumption and prevent class certification by introducing evidence that the alleged misrepresentations did not distort the market price of its stock.
Links to the cert-stage briefing and the Fifth Circuit’s opinion below available are at SCOTUSblog. If the name of this case sounds familiar, it’s been up to the Supreme Court before. In 2011, the Court unanimously decided that the plaintiff was not required to prove loss causation at the class-certification phase. But at the end of the opinion, Chief Justice Roberts alluded to the issues the Court will now confront:
Because we conclude the Court of Appeals erred by requiring EPJ Fund to prove loss causation at the certification stage, we need not, and do not, address any other question about Basic, its presumption, or how and when it may be rebutted. To the extent Halliburton has preserved any further arguments against class certification, they may be addressed in the first instance by the Court of Appeals on remand.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Following the Supreme Court's reversal of certification of an antitrust class in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013), the district court in the case has allowed plaintiffs to present another motion for certification of a narrower class. Glaberson v. Comcast Corp., No. 03-6604 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 13, 2013).
The court rejected Comcast's argument that the rule of mandate prevented the court from considering another motion for class certification, holding:
The Supreme Court reversed our prior certification order because the Plaintiffs’ proffered evidence on antitrust impact was not limited to the overbuilding theory, and thus failed the predominance requirement in Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). Importantly, the Supreme Court did not decide as a matter of law that class-wide proof could never be established. Rather, the Supreme Court’s opinion clearly contemplates that a damages model that measured only the antitrust impact of the overbuilding theory, and also plausibly showed that the extent of overbuilding, absent deterrence would have been the same in all counties, or that the extent was irrelevant to any effect upon Comcast’s ability to charge supra-competitive prices, could be common evidence. Comcast Corp., 133 S. Ct. at 1435 n.6. Under the Third Circuit’s law of mandate, Plaintiffs’ ability to certify a significantly narrowed class based on a more limited antitrust impact model that satisfies Footnote 6 is a “matter left open by the mandate,” since it was not decided by the Supreme Court in the first appeal and deemed finally settled.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The Fall 2013 newsletter from the ABA Mass Torts Litigation Committee has several blurbs of possible interest to Civil Procedure professors (the summaries below are in the newsletter's words), including:
By Deborah A. Elsasser, Nicholas Magali, and Philip R. Weissman
Some claimants have the opportunity to try their claims in Florida while others will litigate in Italy.
Undoubtedly, the outcome of this case will impact the "jurisdictional gamesmanship" involved with the litigation of mass-torts actions.
Monday, November 4, 2013
SCOTUS, Class Actions & Cy Pres: Cert. Denied in Marek v. Lane, but with a Statement by Chief Justice Roberts
Today the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Marek v. Lane (No. 13-136), a closely watched class action against Facebook. Four class members had objected to the settlement of that class action, which included as a cy pres remedy “the establishment of a new charitable foundation that would help fund organizations dedicated to educating the public about online privacy.” The settlement was approved by the district court and on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, prompting a petition for certiorari by one of the objectors.
Scroll to the end of today’s order list, however, and you’ll find a “Statement of Chief Justice Roberts respecting the denial of certiorari.” Here’s the final paragraph of the Chief’s statement:
I agree with this Court’s decision to deny the petition for certiorari. Marek’s challenge is focused on the particular features of the specific cy pres settlement at issue. Granting review of this case might not have afforded the Court an opportunity to address more fundamental concerns surrounding the use of such remedies in class action litigation, including when, if ever, such relief should be considered; how to assess its fairness as a general matter; whether new entities may be established as part of such relief; if not, how existing entities should be selected; what the respective roles of the judge and parties are in shaping a cy pres remedy; how closely the goals of any enlisted organization must correspond to the interests of the class; and so on. This Court has not previously addressed any of these issues. Cy pres remedies, however, are a growing feature of class action settlements. See Redish, Julian, & Zyontz, Cy Pres Relief and the Pathologies of the Modern Class Action: A Normative and Empirical Analysis, 62 Fla. L. Rev. 617, 653–656 (2010). In a suitable case, this Court may need to clarify the limits on the use of such remedies.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Of interest to devotees of the AMC show "Breaking Bad":
Purchasers of Season 5 of the show on iTunes have filed a putative class action against Apple in federal court in the Northern District of California for attempting to charge them again for the last eight episodes. The complaint is available here. Plaintiff asserts federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Following its decision in Comcast v. Behrend, the Supreme Court remanded a number of class actions for reconsideration (two in April and one in June). Last month, the Sixth Circuit found that class certification remained proper in Glazer v. Whirlpool, a class action involving defective washing machines. The Seventh Circuit has now done the same in a similar washing machine class action against Sears. The entire opinion (Butler v. Sears) is worth a read; Judge Posner’s discussion of Comcast starts on page 5. Here are some excerpts:
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Here’s Adam Liptak’s latest story, When Lawyers Cut Their Clients Out of the Deal, which discusses a recent Ninth Circuit decision on cy pres settlements that is the subject of a pending Supreme Court cert. petition, Marek v. Lane (No. 13-136).
Monday, August 12, 2013
Hot on the heels of Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 133 S. Ct. 1523 (2013), comes a new Second Circuit decision heralding the slow strangulation of Fair Labor Standards Act cases: Sutherland v. Ernst & Young LLP, No. 12-304-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 9, 2013).
Plaintiff, a former employee of Ernst & Young, brought a class action on behalf of herself and other similarly situated to recover overtime wages under the FLSA and the New York Department of Labor's Minimum Wage Order. Plaintiff's employment contract, naturally, contained a mandatory arbitration clause that specifically applied to the FLSA and state wage laws, as well as a provision that "disputes pertaining to different employees will be heard in separate proceedings."
Plaintiff's individual alleged unpaid overtime wages were $1,867.02. The district court denied Ernst & Young's motion to dismiss, stay the proceedings, or compel arbitration on an individual bases. The district court reasoned that "[e]nforcement of the class waiver provision in this case would effectively ban all proceeings by [plaintiff] against E&Y."
The Second Circuit reversed. Citing American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S. Ct. 2304 (2013), the court held that the "effective vindication doctrine" (which might allow invalidation of a class-action waiver) was not satisfied even if the cost of proceeding individually in arbitration would exceed the potential recovery. Further, the court held that FLSA "does not include a 'contrary congressional command' that prevents a class-action waiver provision in an arbitration agreement from being enforced by its terms."
Monday, July 22, 2013
The Northern District of Ohio, supervising multidistrict litigation alleging that Whirlpool's front-loading washing machines allow mold and mildew to grow in the machines, certified a class of Ohio purchasers for liability purposes. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Whirlpool's petition for certiorari, vacated, and remanded to the Sixth Circuit for reconsideration in light of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013).
The Sixth Circuit just reaffirmed the class certification, despite Amgen and Comcast. Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp., No. 10-4188 (6th Cir. July 18, 2013).
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
In Scimone v. Carnival Corp., No. 13-12291 (11th Cir., July 1, 2013), two groups of 56 and 48 plaintiffs filed suit in Florida state court for damages arising out of the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy in 2012. Defendant Carnival removed the actions to federal court, alleging diversity jurisdiction under CAFA's mass action section, 28 USC 1332(d)(11) ("'mass action' means any civil action . . . in which monetary relief claims of 100 or more persons are proposed to be tried jointly . . . ").
The district court granted plaintiffs' motions to remand, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, distinguishing Standard Fire v. Knowles. "Under the plain language of CAFA . . ., the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' two separate actions unless they proposed to try 100 or more persons' claims jointly."
Monday, July 1, 2013
Plaintiff filed a state-law wage-and-hour class action in California state court on April 27, 2011. Plaintiff and an added plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on May 24, 2012, adding a new defendant, CHA.
On September 4, 2012, CHA and the other defendants removed the action, alleging diversity jurisdiction under CAFA "based on the diverse citizenship of one would-be class member" and an amount in controversy in excess of $5 million. The would-be class member submitted a declaration that she had moved to Nevada in late 2011, intending to live in Nevada for the foreseeable future. (Although the opinion did not say, apparently all the defendants and all of the other class members are California citizens.)
The district court granted plaintiffs' motion to remand to state court. The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court implicitly assumed that the defendants had shown diversity jurisdiction under CAFA and focused solely on the timing of the notice of removal. Although the 30-day period for removal under 28 USC 1446(b)(3) had passed (if counted from the filing of the First Amended Complaint), the FAC had not explicitly contained information showing diversity of citizenship. Using their superior knowledge of the whereabouts of employee class members, the defendants had found the Nevada citizen on their own.
The court noted that plaintiffs could protect themselves from gamesmanship by providing to the defendant "a document from which removability may be ascertained," which will trigger the 30-day removal period. The court also noted that this case still might be remanded under CAFA's local controversy exception. Roth v. CHA Hollywood Medical Center, L.P., No. 13-55771 (June 27, 2013).
Here is the opinion in The Authors Guild, Inc. v. Google Inc. The opinion begins:
We consider in this appeal whether the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Denny Chin, Circuit Judge, sitting by designation) erred in certifying the plaintiff class—authors claiming that defendant-appellant Google Inc. committed copyright infringement by copying and displaying “snippets” of millions of books in the Library Project of its Google Books search tool. On the particular facts of this case, we conclude that class certification was premature in the absence of a determination by the District Court of the merits of Google’s “fair use” defense. Accordingly, we vacate the June 11, 2012 order certifying the class and remand the cause to the District Court, for consideration of the fair use issues, without prejudice to any future motion for class certification.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant (No. 12-133), another important arbitration case. The Court divides 5-to-3, with Justice Scalia writing the majority opinion (joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito), and Justice Thomas writing a brief concurring opinion. Justice Kagan writes a dissenting opinion (joined by Ginsburg and Breyer). Justice Sotomayor took no part.
Justice Scalia’s majority opinion begins: “We consider whether a contractual waiver of class arbitration is enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act when the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery.” The answer: yes. The FAA’s mandate that arbitration provisions are “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable” applies [p.3], and “[n]o contrary congressional command requires us to reject the waiver of class arbitration here.” [p.4]. The opinion continues: “Respondents argue that requiring them to litigate their claims individually—as they contracted to do—would contravene the policies of the antitrust laws. But the antitrust laws do not guarantee an affordable procedural path to the vindication of every claim.” [p.4]
Monday, June 10, 2013
Today was arbitration day at the Supreme Court (well, that and raisins). In addition to granting certiorari in BG Group PLC v. Argentina, the Court issued a unanimous decision in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter (No. 12-135). Justice Kagan writes the Court’s opinion in Oxford, which begins:
Class arbitration is a matter of consent: An arbitrator may employ class procedures only if the parties have authorized them. See Stolt-Nielsen S. A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., 559 U. S. 662, 684 (2010). In this case, an arbitrator found that the parties’ contract provided for class arbitration. The question presented is whether in doing so he “exceeded [his] powers” under §10(a)(4) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA or Act), 9 U. S. C. §1 et seq. We conclude that the arbitrator’s decision survives the limited judicial review §10(a)(4) allows.
Here’s more from Justice Kagan’s opinion on the relationship between Oxford and Stolt-Nielsen [Op. at 6-7]:
Sunday, June 9, 2013
class actions (consolidated in an MDL in Minnesota) are notable for the whimsical names of their subclasses, the Soggy
Plaintiffs and the Cloggy Plaintiffs.
The Eighth Circuit upheld the settlement of several class actions
alleging damage caused by defective brass
plumbing fittings sold by defendants Radiant and Uponor. The Soggy Plaintiffs have already experienced
leaking (in some cases causing severe damage) and the Cloggy Plaintiffs have
not yet experienced leaks but have the same fittings.
"The proposed settlement agreement stipulated that after two leaks, soggy plaintiffs would be entitled to have their entire plumbing system replaced at Uponor and Radiant's expense. Cloggy plaintiffs who had demonstrated 'by way of a flow test that a differential in water flow . . . of more than 50% [exists] between the hot and cold lines' would also be entitled to replacement of their brass fittings, and if that proved insufficient, to a new plumbing system."
After notice of the proposed settlement had been sent, Ortega, a California resident, moved to intervene as of right. His motion was denied as untimely. He and 26 other class members then objected to the settlement, arguing that notice had been deficient, that the scope of the release of defendants was overbroad, and that the settlement did not account for a cause of action available under California law. All of these arguments were rejected and the district court's approval of the settlement was upheld. In re Uponor, Inc., F1807 Plumbing Fittings Products Liability Litigation, No. 12-2761 (8th Cir. June 7, 2013).
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Michael Klausner, Jason Hegland, and Matthew Goforth, all of Stanford Law School, have published on SSRN the first of two updates to earlier empirical studies of securities class actions, entitled "When are Securities Class Actions Dismissed, When Do They Settle, and for How Much? — An Update."
In this article, we briefly present some basic statistics on the timing of dismissals and settlements in securities class actions. In contrast to the popular image of securities class actions, we find that over half of all cases are either dismissed or settle well before discovery begins. 38% of cases are either dismissed with prejudice on the first motion to dismiss or are dropped before a second complaint is filed. Another 15% of cases settle either before the first motion to dismiss was ruled on or after an initial dismissal without prejudice. The article provides additional descriptive statistics on how securities class actions are resolved and the timing of their resolution.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Whether a state’s parens patriae action is removable as a “mass action” under the Class Action Fairness Act when the state is the sole plaintiff, the claims arise under state law, and the state attorney general possesses statutory and common-law authority to assert all claims in the complaint.
You can find a link to the Fifth Circuit’s decision below and the cert-stage briefing at SCOTUSblog’s case file.
It will be the second Supreme Court case to interpret CAFA in as many Terms, following the decision this March in Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Jaime Dodge (University of Georgia) has posted Disaggregative Mechanisms: The New Frontier of Mass-Claims Resolution Without Class Actions to SSRN.
Aggregation has long been viewed as the primary if not sole vehicle for mass claims resolution. For a half-century, scholars have consistently viewed the consolidated litigation of similar claims through joinder, class actions and more recently multi-district litigation as the only mechanism for efficiently resolving mass claims. In this Article, I challenge that long-standing and fundamental conception. The Article seeks to reconceptualize our understanding of mass claims resolution, arguing that we are witnessing the birth of a second, unexplored branch of mass claims resolution mechanisms — which I term “disaggregative” dispute resolution systems because they lack the traditional aggregation of common questions that has been the hallmark of traditional mass claims litigation. Disaggregation returns to a focus on the individual akin to that of the single-plaintiff system, but uses either procedural or substantive streamlining, or a shift of costs to the defendant, to correct the asymmetries that prompted the creation of class actions. Many of our most innovative claims structures — from the BP GCCF and the fund created in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster, to the common single-plaintiff arbitration clauses in consumer and employment agreements — use this new, bottom-up model of disaggregative mass claims resolution instead of the familiar top-down aggregative model.
These next-generation systems have been heralded as a significant advancement in mass claims resolution, capable of awarding more compensation to claimants more quickly and at lower cost than aggregate litigation. But like the single-plaintiff and aggregate litigation systems that preceded it, disaggregation has its flaws. Because the defendant typically designs these systems, they often give rise to questions about legitimacy and the accuracy of compensation. More shockingly, situating disaggregation within the existing doctrinal trends reveals that the rise of disaggregation allows corporations to avoid class actions in a far broader swath of cases than has previously been identified — such that class actions will, as a practical matter, proceed only at the defendant’s election, raising substantial questions about the viability of private actions as a mechanism for the enforcement of law. Yet, because these systems are the product of contract, attempts to restrict these systems have largely failed. The answer to these problems lies in an unlikely and potentially controversial approach: expanding rather than restricting the availability of disaggregation, by creating a public mechanism for disaggregation — comparable to the existing public aggregation mechanisms.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Now available online is an article by Arthur Miller (NYU) entitled Simplified Pleading, Meaningful Days in Court, and Trials on the Merits: Reflections on the Deformation of Federal Procedure, 88 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 286 (2013). Here’s the abstract:
When the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were promulgated in 1938, they reflected a policy of citizen access for civil disputes and sought to promote their resolution on the merits rather than on the basis of the technicalities that characterized earlier procedural systems. The federal courts applied that philosophy of procedure for many years. However, the last quarter century has seen a dramatic contrary shift in the way the federal courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, have interpreted and applied the Federal Rules and other procedural matters. This shift has produced the increasingly early procedural disposition of cases prior to trial. Indeed, civil trials, especially jury trials, are very few and far between today.
The author examines the significant manifestations of this dramatic change, and traces the shift in judicial attitude back to the three pro-summary judgment decisions by the Supreme Court in 1986. Furthermore, he goes on to discuss the judicial gatekeeping that has emerged regarding (1) expert testimony, (2) the constriction of class action certification, (3) the enforcement of arbitration clauses in an extraordinary array of contracts (many adhesive in character), (4) the Court’s abandonment of notice pleading in favor of plausibility pleading (which, in effect, is a return to fact pleading), (5) the intimations of a potential narrowing of the reach of in personam jurisdiction, and (6) a number of limitations on pretrial discovery that have resulted from Rule amendments during the last twenty-five years.
All of these changes restrict the ability of plaintiffs to reach a determination of their claims’ merits, which has resulted in a narrowing effect on citizen access to a meaningful day in court. Beyond that, these restrictive procedural developments work against the effectiveness of private litigation to enforce various public policies involving such matters as civil rights, antitrust, employment discrimination, and securities regulation.
Concerns about abusive and frivolous litigation, threats of extortionate settlements, and the high cost of today’s large-scale lawsuits motivate these deviations from the original philosophy of the Federal Rules, but these concerns fail to take proper account of other systemic values. The author argues that these assertions are speculative and not empirically justified, are overstated, and simply reflect the self-interest of various groups that seek to terminate claims asserted against them as early as possible to avoid both discovery and a trial. Indeed, they simply may reflect a strong pro-business and pro-government orientation of today’s federal judiciary. The author cautions that some restoration of the earlier underlying philosophy of the Federal Rules is necessary if we are to preserve the procedural principles that should underlie our civil justice system and maintain the viability of private litigation as an adjunct to government regulation for the enforcement of important societal policies and values.