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Class Action Defense Cases–Marlo v. United Parcel Service: Ninth Circuit Court Affirms District Court Order Decertifying Class Action In Labor Law Misclassification Case

May 2, 2011 | By: Michael J. Hassen

District Court did not Abuse its Discretion in Decertifying Class Action Alleging Misclassification of Employees based on its Determination that Common Question of Law and Fact did not Exist Ninth Circuit Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action against his employer, United Parcel Service (UPS), alleging violations of California’s Labor Code for failure to pay him overtime or to compensate him for missed meal and rest periods. Marlo v. United Parcel Service, Inc., ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. April 28, 2011) [Slip Opn., at 5544]. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, plaintiff worked as a full-time supervisor (FTS) for UPS from 1999 to 2008, and “worked more than forty hours per week on a regular basis without taking meal or rest-period breaks, or receiving overtime compensation.” Id. Because he was an FTS, UPS classified plaintiff as exempt from California’s overtime law under the executive and administrative exemptions. Id. Plaintiff alleged that he had been misclassified, and sought and obtained an order certifying the litigation as a class action. Id. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of UPS, but the Ninth Circuit reversed finding that plaintiff “ha[d] raised material issues of fact related to whether the FTS ‘customarily and regularly exercise[] discretion and independent judgment.’” Id., at 5545 (quoting Marlo v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 254 Fed. App’x. 568, 568 (9th Cir. 2007)). On remand, however, the district court decertified the class, finding that plaintiff “had failed to establish that common issues of law or fact predominated over individual ones” as required by Rule 23(b)(3). Id., at 5544. A juy returned a partial verdict in favor of plaintiff, finding that the executive and administrative exemptions did not apply to certain supervisorial positions plaintiff held. Id., at 5546. Both sides appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the decertification order, id., at 5544.

The decertification order was based on “doubt regarding the continuing efficacy of a class action in this case.” Marlo, at 5545 (quoting Marlo v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 251 F.R.D. 476, 480 (C.D. Cal. 2008)). In part, the district court reasoned that “the existence of a uniform policy classifying FTS as exempt is insufficient absent evidence of misclassification,” and that plaintiff “had relied heavily on a survey that was neither reliable nor representative of the class.” Id. (citations omitted). The court explained at 251 F.R.D. at 486,

Certification of Class Actions Class Action Court Decisions Employment Law Class Actions

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Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) Class Action Defense Cases–AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion: U.S. Supreme Court Reverses California’s Discover Bank Rule And Holds Class Action Waivers Valid And Enforceable In Arbitration Agreements

Apr 28, 2011 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements are Valid under Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and California’s Discover Bank Rule, Which Found Such Waivers Unenforceable as Unconscionable Under State Law, is Preempted by the FAA Supreme Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in California federal court against AT&T Mobility, with whom they had cellular telephone service, alleging “false advertising and fraud by charging sales tax on phones it advertised as free.” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, ___ U.S. ___ (April 27, 2011) [Slip Opn., at 2-3]. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, plaintiffs purchased cellular telephone service from AT&T based on an advertisement for “free phones” because, even though they were not charged for the telephones, “they were charged $30.22 in sales tax based on the phones’ retail value.” Id. Defense attorneys moved to compel arbitration, id., at 3. The cellular telephone service contract required arbitration of disputes between the parties and included a class action waiver, providing that claims must be brought in a “individual capacity, and not as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class or representative proceeding.” Id., at 1. Plaintiffs opposed arbitration on the grounds that the class action waiver was unconscionable under California law. Id., at 3. Despite viewing the arbitration agreement “favorably,” the district court denied AT&T’s motion to compel arbitration because the class action waiver rendered the arbitration clause unconscionable under California law based on Discover Bank v. Superior Court, 36 Cal.4th 148 (Cal. 2005). Id. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that “the Discover Bank rule was not preempted by the FAA because that rule was simply a ‘refinement of the unconscionability analysis applicable to contracts generally in California.’” Id., at 3-4 (citing Laster v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 584 F.3d 849, 857 (9th Cir. 2009). The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed.

The service agreement was consumer-friendly: It provided that a customer could initiate a dispute by filling out a one-page form available online, and if not resolved to the customer’s satisfaction within 30 days, the customer could initiate arbitration by filling out another form available online. If a customer commenced arbitration proceedings, the arbitration would be held “in the county in which the customer is billed” and AT&T was required to “pay all costs for nonfrivolous claims.” AT&T Mobility, at 2. (The customer could also elect to proceed in small claims court. Id.) Moreover, if the amount in dispute was less than $10,000, then the customer could elect whether the arbitration should be conducted “in person, by telephone, or based only on submissions.” Id. Additionally, “the arbitrator may award any form of individual relief, including injunctions and presumably punitive damages.” Id. AT&T was prohibited from seeking reimbursement of its attorney fees, and “in the event that a customer receives an arbitration award greater than AT&T’s last written settlement offer,” then the service agreement “requires AT&T to pay a $7,500 minimum recovery and twice the amount of the claimant’s attorney’s fees.” Id. (footnote omitted). Yet despite what appears to have been every effort to craft an arbitration clause favorable to its customer, albeit prohibiting class actions, the lower courts found the arbitration clause unconscionable and unenforceable under the Discover Bank rule. The Supreme Court reversed.

Arbitration Class Action Court Decisions

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Cy Pres Class Action Defense Cases–In re American Tower: Massachusetts Federal Court Rejects Request To Distribute Class Action Settlement Cy Pres Funds To Non-Profit Organization

Aug 14, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Distribution of Unclaimed Class Action Settlement Funds to Non-Profit Organization Unconnected to Harm Suffered by Class Members Inappropriate Massachusetts Federal Court Holds Plaintiff filed a putative class action against American Tower Corp. alleging violations of federal securities laws and purported to be brought on behalf of “members of the public who were harmed by the securities fraud.” In re American Tower Corp. Securities Litig., 648 F.Supp.2d 223, 224-25 (D.Mass. 2010). Eventually, the parties negotiated a settlement of the class action which provided for the distribution of unclaimed funds through a cy pres fund.

Class Action Court Decisions Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–In re Burlington Northern: Seventh Circuit Reverses Remand Of Former Class Action Holding Jurisdiction Under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Determined At Time Of Removal Not After Amendment Of Complaint To Eliminate

Aug 13, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Following Removal of Class Action to Federal Court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act), Plaintiffs Decision to Amend Complaint to Eliminate Class Action Allegations did not Destroy Federal Court Jurisdiction because Jurisdiction is Determined at Time of Removal and is not Affected by Subsequent Events Seventh Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Wisconsin state court against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation alleging that defendants’ “failure to inspect and maintain a railroad trestle caused the town to flood in July 2007, damaging their property.” In re Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., 606 F.3d 379, 379-80 (7th Cir. 2010). Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act); plaintiffs then amended the complaint to remove the class action allegations and the district court remanded the matter to state court on the ground that without the class action allegations federal court jurisdiction was lacking under CAFA. Id., at 379. Id. Defense attorneys sought leave to appeal the remand order; the Seventh Circuit granted the petition and reversed.

The Seventh Circuit noted that “the parties battled extensively over jurisdiction” in the district court. In re Burlington, at 380. Defense attorneys argued diversity jurisdiction existed because the joinder of the non-diverse individual employee defendants was fraudulent, but the district court found it to be tactical rather than fraudulent. Id. The district court agreed, however, that jurisdiction existed under CAFA, and denied plaintiffs’ first motion to remand. Id. Plaintiffs thereafter sought and obtained leave of court to amend the complaint to remove the class action allegations. Id. The federal court also considered the motion to amend to be “an implied motion to remand the case, which it granted.” Id. In the district court’s view, because the amended complaint did not contain any class action allegations, jurisdiction under CAFA no longer existed. Id.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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Cy Pres Class Action Defense Cases–In re American Tower: Massachusetts Federal Court Rejects Request To Distribute Class Action Settlement Cy Pres Funds To Non-Profit Organization

Jul 19, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Distribution of Unclaimed Class Action Settlement Funds to Non-Profit Organization Unconnected to Harm Suffered by Class Members Inappropriate Massachusetts Federal Court Holds Plaintiff filed a putative class action against American Tower Corp. alleging violations of federal securities laws and purported to be brought on behalf of “members of the public who were harmed by the securities fraud.” In re American Tower Corp. Securities Litig., 648 F.Supp.2d 223, 224-25 (D.Mass. 2010). Eventually, the parties negotiated a settlement of the class action which provided for the distribution of unclaimed funds through a cy pres fund.

Class Action Court Decisions Uncategorized

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Class Action Defense Cases–In re General Mills: Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Denies Defense Motion To Centralize Class Action Litigation

Jul 16, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Judicial Panel Denies Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. — 1407, Agreeing With Objections of Class Action Plaintiffs that Alternatives to Centralization Exist to Avoid Duplicate Discovery Four class actions were filed against General Mills – one each in California, Florida, New Jersey and Ohio – arising out of defendant’s marketing of its Yo-Plus and/or Yo-Plus Light yogurts. In re General Mills, Inc., YoPlus Yogurt Prod.

Class Action Court Decisions Multidistrict Litigation Uncategorized

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Class Action Defense Cases–American Honda v. Allen: Seventh Circuit Court Reverses Class Action Certification Order Holding District Court’s Daubert Analysis Inadequate And Expert Testimony Inadmissible

Jul 15, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

District Court Erred in Granting Class Action Certification because Expert Testimony Establishing Rule 23(b)(3)’s Predominance Prong was Unreliable and District Court’s Daubert Analysis Inadequate Seventh Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against American Honda and Honda of America (collectively “Honda”) alleging product defect liability concerning Honda’s Gold Wing GL1800 motorcycle; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that a design defect in the steering assembly causes the motorcycle to “wobble.” American Honda Motor Co., Inc. v. Allen, 600 F.3d 813, 814 (7th Cir. 2010). Plaintiffs moved the district court to certify the litigation as a class action under Rule 23(b)(3), relying heavily on an expert’s opinion that common issues predominate; Honda opposed class action treatment and challenged the expert opinion relied upon by plaintiffs in their motion. Id. Defense attorneys moved under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), to strike plaintiffs’ expert report on the grounds that the expert’s “wobble decay standard was unreliable because it was not supported by empirical testing, was not developed through a recognized standard-setting procedure, was not generally accepted in the relevant scientific, technical, or professional community, and was not the product of independent research.” Id. The district court agreed to rule on the admissibility of the report prior to ruling on class certification because the report was central to the motion, id. But while the court announced “definite reservations about the reliability of [the expert’s] wobble decay standard,” it refused to exclude the report entirely “at this early stage of the proceedings.” Id., at 814-15. The district court granted class action certification, id., at 815, and Honda sought leave to appeal, id., at 814. The Seventh Circuit granted Honda’s request and reversed.

The Circuit Court explained that the issue before it was “whether the district court must conclusively rule on the admissibility of an expert opinion prior to class certification in this case because that opinion is essential to the certification decision.” American Honda, at 814. The Court summarized the expert’s “wobble decay” opinion, which was based on a standard the expert himself had devised and that he himself characterized as “reasonable.” Id. The expert opinion was important because “most of Plaintiffs’ predominance arguments rest upon the theories advanced by [their expert].” Id. (quoting Allen v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 264 F.R.D. 412, 425 (N.D. Ill. 2009)). In response to Honda’s objections and following the Daubert hearing, the district court “noted that it was concerned that, among other things, [the expert’s] wobble decay standard may not be supported by empirical evidence, the standard has not been generally accepted by the engineering community, and [his] test sample of one may be inadequate to conclude that the entire fleet of GL1800s is defective.” Id., at 814-15. Nevertheless, the lower court believed it was too early in the litigation to dismiss the4 expert’s opinion in its entirety, and so it granted class action treatment without prejudice to Honda moving to exclude the expert’s opinion. Id., at 815.

Certification of Class Actions Class Action Court Decisions Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Moffitt v. Residential Funding: Fourth Circuit Court Affirms District Court Order Denying Remand Of Class Actions Holding CAFA Jurisdiction Existed At Time Remand Motions Filed

Jul 14, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Even if Defendants Removed Class Actions to Federal Court Prematurely, Subsequent Class Action Complaints Filed by Plaintiffs Prior to Filing Motion for Remand Established Federal Court Jurisdiction under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) so District Court did not Err in Denying Motion to Remand Class Actions to State Court Fourth Circuit Holds In 2003, three plaintiffs filed individual state court lawsuits against various defendants, including Residential Funding, “alleging violations of the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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Class Action Defense Cases–Hershey v. Energy Transfer Partners: Fifth Circuit Court Affirms Dismissal Of Class Action Complaint Under Commodities Exchange Act Holding Plaintiffs Failed To Adequately Allege Specific Intent

Jul 13, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

As Matter of First Impression in Circuit, Class Action Claims under CEA (Commodities Exchange Act) Required Allegation of Specific Intent to Manipulate Natural Gas Prices at a Specific Location/for a Specific NYMEX Contract, so District Court Properly Dismissed Class Action Complaint Fifth Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Energy Transfer Partners and its affiliates alleging that they manipulated the price of natural gas futures and options in violation of the Commodities Exchange Act (CEA). Hershey v. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., ___ F.3d ___, 2010 WL 2510122, *1 (5th Cir. June 23, 2010). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, plaintiffs bought and sold natural gas futures and options on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), and sought “to represent a class of natural gas futures and options contracts traders.” Id. The class action alleged that defendants “manipulate[ed] the price of natural gas delivered at the Houston Ship Channel (‘HSC’) and alleged economic harm to [plaintiffs’] NYMEX natural gas futures contracts caused by that manipulation.” Id. Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the class action on the ground that the CEA required plaintiffs to allege that defendants specifically intended to manipulate NYMEX natural gas futures contracts; the district court agreed and dismissed the complaint. Id., at *1, *4. Plaintiffs appealed and the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

We do not here summarize the natural gas futures market. See Hershey, at *1-*2. The issue presented, as a matter of first impression in the Fifth Circuit, was whether defendants were correct in arguing that in order to assert a claim under the CEA plaintiffs were required “to allege that Defendants specifically intended to manipulate the price of natural gas” at a specific location (the Henry Hub) thereby satisfying the requirement under the CEA “that the manipulation be specifically directed toward the underlying commodity of the contract.” Id., at *4. And the district court was considering this defense against a backdrop of regulatory action in that defendants previously had paid $10 million to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and $30 million to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to settle claims that defendants “created and then exploited price differences between the HSC and the Henry Hub, a major confluence of natural gas pipelines and the settlement price for all NYMEX natural gas futures contracts.” Id., *1, *3. Not surprisingly, plaintiffs’ class action complaint “substantially mirror[ed] the allegations in regulatory actions against Defendants by the CFTC and FERC.” Id., at *3.

Class Action Court Decisions Uncategorized

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iPhone Class Action Defense Cases–Apple and AT&T Mobility Antitrust Litigation: California Federal Court Certifies Nationwide Class Action Against Apple And AT&T On iPhone Antitrust Claims

Jul 12, 2010 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Complaint Against Apple and AT&T for Antitrust Violations in Connection with Sale and Marketing of iPhone Warranted Class Action Treatment California Federal Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative nationwide class action against Apple and AT&T Mobility (ATTM) alleging federal antitrust violations; specifically, the class action complaint alleged “monopolization in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301, et seq., and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030.” In re Apple & ATTM Antitrust Litig., ___ F.Supp.3d ___ (N.D.Cal. July 8, 2010) [Slip Opn., at 1]. The district court summarized the allegations underlying the class action complaint at page 1 as follows: “Plaintiffs allege that although they were required to purchase a two-year service agreement with ATTM when they purchased their iPhones, Apple and ATTM had secretly agreed to technologically restrict voice and data service in the aftermarket for continued voice and data services for five years, i.e., after Plaintiffs’ initial two-year service period expired. Plaintiffs also allege that Apple monopolized the aftermarket for third party software applications for the iPhone, and that Apple caused the iPhone to become unusable if it detected that a customer had “unlocked” their iPhone for use with other service providers.” Defense attorneys for Apple moved for summary judgment with respect to the class action’s iPhone Operating System Version 1.1.1 claims, which the district court granted. Id., at 2. We do not here discuss that portion of the court order. Rather, as part of the same order, the district court considered plaintiffs’ motion to certify the litigation as a class action; the district court granted class action treatment to the lawsuit. Id. It is the class action certification portion of the decision that we discuss below.

Plaintiff’s class action certification motion sought to certify the litigation on behalf of a nationwide class defined as follows: “All persons who purchased or acquired an iPhone in the United States and entered into a two-year agreement with Defendant AT&T Mobility, LLC for iPhone voice and data service any time from June 29, 2007, to the present.” In re Apple, at 12-13. (The motion additionally sought certification of a sub-class defined as “All iPhone customers whose iPhones were ‘bricked’ by [Apple] at any time during the Class Period.” Id., at 13. However, the district court granted Apple’s motion for summary judgment on the “bricking” claim, so the court did not address the sub-class. Id.) The federal court noted that with respect to Rule 23(a)’s requirements for class action certification, Apple and ATTM did not contest numerosity, see id., at 13-14, nor did they contest adequacy of representation, see id., at 21-22. But defendants argued that the commonality and typicality requirements of Rule 23(a) had not been met, and that Rule 23(b) had not been met.

Certification of Class Actions Class Action Court Decisions Uncategorized

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