Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Barclift v. Keystone Credit Services LLC
In this case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the appellant, Paulette Barclift, sued Keystone Credit Services, LLC ("Keystone") for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). Barclift claimed that Keystone unlawfully communicated her personal information to a third-party mailing vendor, RevSpring, without her consent. She sought to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. The District Court dismissed her suit on the grounds that she did not allege an injury sufficient to establish standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.Upon appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the lower court that Barclift lacked standing, but modified the District Court's order so that the dismissal would be without prejudice. The court found that Barclift's alleged harm—embarrassment and distress caused by the disclosure of her personal information to a single intermediary (RevSpring)—did not bear a close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized by American courts, such as the public disclosure of private facts. Therefore, the court concluded that Barclift did not suffer a concrete injury and could not establish Article III standing. The court further held that the possibility of future harm was too speculative to establish a concrete injury. The case was dismissed without prejudice, allowing Barclift the opportunity to amend her complaint if she can allege a concrete injury. View "Barclift v. Keystone Credit Services LLC" on Justia Law
Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc.
In this toxic tort case, about 170 individuals allege that they were harmed by lead paint pigment. The plaintiffs, who were joined together in a single complaint, brought claims against several manufacturers of the pigment. After a series of trials, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims. The court then extended these rulings to the remaining plaintiffs on law of the case and issue preclusion grounds. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in large part but reversed in small part. The appellate court held that the law of the case doctrine properly applied to a group of plaintiffs who had opted to proceed under a single complaint and whose claims were sunk after summary judgment. However, the court reversed the district court's decision as to a small group of plaintiffs who filed their own cases, noting that due process protects their right to try their claims. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' request to revisit or certify certain questions addressed in a prior ruling, and affirmed that ruling based on the principle of stare decisis. View "Allen v. Armstrong Containers Inc." on Justia Law
Mullen v. Butler
In this case, the plaintiff, Laura Mullen, claimed that the defendants, a youth volleyball club and its owners, fraudulently concealed previous sexual abuse allegations. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, but also imposed sanctions against them and their lawyer for improperly interfering with the class notice process. The defendants appealed the sanctions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion or commit clear error in imposing the sanctions. The court found that the defendants had intentionally interfered with the class notice and opt-out process and that their communications with class members during the notice period were potentially coercive. The court also upheld the decision of the district court to impose monetary sanctions against the defendants, which included the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses, as well as a civil penalty for each defendant.The court also affirmed the non-monetary sanctions imposed against the defendants' lawyer, who had contacted a class member directly and made a false statement to the court. Although the defendants argued that the lawyer had acted in good faith and did not knowingly or intentionally violate the rules of ethics, the court found that she had taken deliberate action to avoid confirming a high probability of wrongdoing.Finally, the court rejected the defendants' argument that the plaintiff should have been sanctioned. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff’s use of the term “rape” was inaccurate and irrelevant, that her actions before and after filing the complaint were inconsistent, that she did not have a proper basis for bringing the suit, and that she misrepresented evidence. The court found no merit in these arguments and affirmed the district court’s decision to deny sanctions against the plaintiff. View "Mullen v. Butler" on Justia Law
Kappel v. LL Flooring, Inc.
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, plaintiff Carla J. Kappel, acting on behalf of her deceased ex-husband's estate and as mother to their minor children, sued LL Flooring, Inc., alleging that the company's Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring caused her ex-husband's death due to exposure to formaldehyde.The district court dismissed Kappel's wrongful death lawsuit, arguing that her claim was barred by a settlement agreement that had been reached in connection with two multidistrict litigation (MDL) actions related to LL Flooring's products. The court maintained that the deceased, Mr. Tarabus, was a class member subject to that settlement agreement and thus his claims, including any claims involving bodily injuries or death caused by the subject flooring, had been settled.On appeal, Kappel argued that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to make the dismissal order and that the MDL settlement agreement did not bar her wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the children. The Court of Appeals agreed with Kappel's latter argument and held that the settlement agreement failed to resolve Kappel’s wrongful death lawsuit.The Court found that the claims in Kappel's lawsuit, which concerned the bodily injuries Mr. Tarabus experienced and the alleged causal connection between the laminate flooring and his cancer diagnosis, were materially distinct from the claims in the MDL proceedings. Notably, the settlement class representatives had twice made clear that they were not pursuing personal injury claims on a class-wide basis, and at no point did any class representative ever allege or pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.Therefore, the Court vacated the lower court's dismissal of Kappel's lawsuit and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Kappel v. LL Flooring, Inc." on Justia Law
Neidig v. Valley Health System
Elaine Neidig, individually and on behalf of a class, sued Valley Health System, a health care provider, for unfair and deceptive practices, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract. Neidig had received three mammograms at Valley Health's Winchester Medical Center between March 2016 and June 2019. In July 2019, federal inspectors found that the center's staff were not correctly positioning or compressing women's breasts during mammograms, leading to serious image quality deficiencies. Valley Health then had to alert all at-risk patients, including Neidig, of the mammography quality problems. Neidig, who did not allege any physical or emotional harm resulting from the low-quality mammograms, sued Valley Health in August 2022. Valley Health moved to dismiss the case on the basis that it was filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations provided by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act. The United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia agreed with Valley Health and dismissed Neidig's claims as untimely. Neidig appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.Upon review, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the case presented a novel issue of state law that needed to be addressed by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. The issue was whether a plaintiff's claims can fall under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act if the plaintiff does not claim any form of physical or emotional injury. The Fourth Circuit certified this question to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia for resolution. View "Neidig v. Valley Health System" on Justia Law
MILES V. KIRKLAND’S STORES, INC.
The case concerned a lawsuit brought by Ariana Miles against her former employer, Kirkland's Stores Inc., alleging that two of the company's employee policies violated California law. The first policy required employees to take rest breaks on store property, while the second necessitated employees to undergo bag checks when they finished their shifts. Miles sought class certification for subclasses of employees affected by these two policies from May 2014 to the present. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of class certification for subclasses related to the Rest Break Claim due to the inaccuracy of the district court's finding that the rest break policy was inconsistently applied. The court held that overwhelming record evidence indicated that the company consistently enforced its rest break policy across all employees. However, the court upheld the district court's denial of class certification for the Bag Check Claim, as the evidence suggested that the bag check policy was sporadically enforced, which would require individualized inquiries. The case was thus remanded for further proceedings concerning the Rest Break Claim. View "MILES V. KIRKLAND'S STORES, INC." on Justia Law
Grainger v. Ottawa County, Mich.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Brian Behovitz's motion to intervene in a class action lawsuit initiated by Frederick Grainger, Jr. against Ottawa County, Michigan, and other Michigan counties. Grainger alleged that the counties unlawfully retained the full proceeds from foreclosure auctions of homes, even when the proceeds exceeded the homeowners' unpaid property taxes. The district court denied class certification because Grainger's individual claims were barred by the statute of limitations, making him unfit to serve as a class representative. Behovitz, who had a similar experience with another county, sought to intervene as a new putative class representative. His motion was denied by the district court, and he appealed.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial, finding that Behovitz failed to establish the necessary factors for intervention as of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a). Specifically, he failed to show a substantial legal interest in the subject matter of the case or that his ability to protect his interest may be impaired without intervention. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Behovitz’s permissive intervention. It noted that Behovitz likely does not have an interest in class certification, and his interest in opposing a settlement in a similar litigation was not a proper reason for intervention in this case. View "Grainger v. Ottawa County, Mich." on Justia Law
DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S.
The plaintiff, a survivor of childhood sex trafficking, filed a class action suit against a group of foreign and domestic corporations, alleging that they violated federal and California laws by distributing videos of her sexual abuse on the internet. The defendants included the owners and operators of two pornography websites based in the Czech Republic. The plaintiff argued that the court had personal jurisdiction over the foreign defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), which allows for jurisdiction over a foreign defendant if the claim arises under federal law, the defendant is not subject to jurisdiction in any state's courts, and exercising jurisdiction is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws. The district court dismissed the case, ruling that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the foreign defendants.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court's dismissal. The court found that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case that the Czech website operators had purposefully directed their websites at the United States. The court also held that the plaintiff's claims arose from the defendants' forum-related activities, and that the defendants failed to show that the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the action against the Czech defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction.The court also vacated the district court's dismissal of nine additional foreign defendants. The district court had dismissed these defendants solely on the grounds that there was no personal jurisdiction over the Czech defendants. The appellate court instructed the district court to address on remand whether personal jurisdiction could be asserted against these additional defendants. View "DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S." on Justia Law
Kasiotis v. N.Y. Black Car Operators’ Inj. Comp. Fund, Inc.
Plaintiff Joseph Kasiotis filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and other similarly situated New York consumers against the New York Black Car Operators’ Injury Compensation Fund, Inc. (the “Fund”). The lawsuit alleged that the Fund improperly collected a surcharge on noncash tips paid by passengers to drivers providing livery or “black car” services from January 2000 until February 1, 2021. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of Kasiotis and the class, granting summary judgment on the unjust enrichment claim. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the Fund was statutorily permitted to collect a surcharge on noncash tips. The court's ruling was based on Article 6-F of the New York Executive Law, which unambiguously authorizes the Fund to impose a surcharge on noncash tips paid in connection with covered black car services. As such, the Second Circuit Court reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Kasiotis and the class, and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the unjust enrichment claim. View "Kasiotis v. N.Y. Black Car Operators' Inj. Comp. Fund, Inc." on Justia Law
KAMAL V. EDEN CREAMERY, LLC
In a class action lawsuit, plaintiffs accused Eden Creamery, LLC of underfilling its pints of Halo Top ice cream. After the discovery period, the plaintiffs attempted to amend their complaint to include a new theory of liability (fraud by omission) and a new defendant (Wells Enterprises). The district court denied this motion, stating that plaintiffs failed to show good cause for amending their complaint. The plaintiffs then moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims without prejudice, which the district court also denied, instead dismissing the individual claims with prejudice and the class claims without prejudice.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to amend the complaint, as the plaintiffs failed to show good cause for amending after the deadline to do so had passed. However, the court found that the district court had abused its discretion by denying the plaintiffs' motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice, as the defendants did not demonstrate that they would suffer legal prejudice if the case were dismissed without prejudice. The court held that a defendant must show legal prejudice to prevent a dismissal without prejudice. Uncertainty from unresolved disputes or inconvenience of defending another lawsuit does not constitute legal prejudice. The case was remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice, and the district court was instructed to consider whether any conditions should be imposed on the dismissal, such as an appropriate amount of costs and fees. View "KAMAL V. EDEN CREAMERY, LLC" on Justia Law