Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Fleming v. Bayou Steel
BD LaPlace, LLC, doing business as Bayou Steel (Bayou Steel), operated a steel mill in LaPlace, Louisiana. Without giving The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice, Bayou Steel terminated Plaintiffs’ employment and closed the LaPlace mill where they worked. Seeking to recover under the WARN Act, Plaintiffs initially filed a putative class action complaint against Bayou Steel in Delaware bankruptcy court. Plaintiffs dismissed that action and filed the instant class action in federal district court. Rather than suing their employer Bayou Steel, Plaintiffs sued Bayou Steel BD Holdings II, LLC and Black Diamond Capital Management, LLC(a private equity firm that advised the fund that owned BD Holdings II). Plaintiffs demanded a jury trial, which the district court denied. Defendants sought summary judgment, which the district court granted. Plaintiffs appealed, challenging both the denial of their jury demand and the summary judgment for Defendants. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that there is no right to a jury trial under the WARN Act. The court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to BD Holdings II. But the district court erred in granting summary judgment to BDCM because there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether BDCM exercised de facto control over Bayou Steel’s decision to close its LaPlace steel mill and order Plaintiffs’ layoffs. The court explained that if BDCM “specifically directed” the closing of the mill without proper notice, the company may be liable for Bayou Steel’s WARN Act violation even absent the other factors. View "Fleming v. Bayou Steel" on Justia Law
KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
Plaintiff asserted that ZoomInfo did not obtain her permission or compensate her when it used her name and likeness in its online directory to promote its product, in violation of California’s Right of Publicity statute and her common-law privacy and intellectual property rights. ZoomInfo moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute. In the district court, ZoomInfo moved to dismiss the complaint and to cut off the claims at the pleading stage. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and rejected ZoomInfo’s special motion to strike the complaint under California anti-SLAPP statute. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to review the denial of ZoomInfo’s anti-SLAPP motion. The panel also held that, at this stage, Martinez has plausibly pleaded that she suffered sufficient injury to establish constitutional standing to sue. The panel wrote that although the district court did not address the exemptions, Plaintiff’s case fell within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP law. Plaintiff met the three conditions for the public interest exemption: Plaintiff requests all relief on behalf of the alleged class of which she is a member and does not seek any additional relief for herself; Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the public interest of the right to control one’s name and likeness; and private enforcement is necessary and disproportionately burdensome. View "KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC." on Justia Law
Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted review in this case to consider whether the common law litigation privilege for party-generated publicity in pending class action litigation excluded situations in which the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. In 2018, two law firms, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP and Towards Justice (collectively, along with attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, “the attorneys”), filed on behalf of former employee and nail technician Lisa Miles and those similarly situated a federal class action lawsuit. This lawsuit named as defendants BKP, Inc.; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar LLC; Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-2, LLC; and Ella Bliss Beauty Bar-3, LLC (collectively, “the employer”), among others. The employer operated three beauty bars in the Denver metropolitan area. Pertinent here, the class action complaint alleged that the employer’s business operation was “founded on the exploitation of its workers.” The complaint alleged that the employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Colorado Wage Claim Act by not paying service technicians for hours spent performing janitorial work, electing to forgo hiring a janitorial service. The Supreme Court concluded the division erred in conditioning the applicability of the litigation privilege in pending class action litigation on whether the identities of class members were ascertainable through discovery. The Court reached this conclusion for two reasons: (1) ascertainability was generally a requirement in class action litigation, and imposing such a condition would unduly limit the privilege in this kind of case; and (2) the eventual identification of class members by way of documents obtained during discovery was not a substitute for reaching absent class members and witnesses in the beginning stages of litigation. The Court found the litigation privilege applied in this case: five allegedly defamatory statements at issue "merely repeated, summarized, or paraphrased the allegations made in the class action complaint, and which served the purpose of notifying the public, absent class members, and witnesses about the litigation, were absolutely privileged." View "Killmer, Lane & Newman v. B.K.P., Inc." on Justia Law
Self v. B P X Operating
Louisiana oil and gas law authorizes the state Commissioner of Conservation to combine separate tracts of land and appoint a unit operator to extract the minerals. Plaintiffs own unleased mineral interests in Louisiana that are part of a forced drilling unit. BPX is the operator. Plaintiffs alleged on behalf of themselves and a named class that BPX has been improperly deducting post-production costs from their pro rata share of production and that this practice is improper per se. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ per se claims, holding that the quasi-contractual doctrine of negotiorum gestio provides a mechanism for BPX to properly deduct postproduction costs. Plaintiffs filed this action as purported representatives of a named class of unleased mineral owners whose interests are situated within forced drilling units formed by the Louisiana Office of Conservation and operated by BPX. BPX removed this action to the district court based on both diversity and federal question jurisdiction. BPX sought dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ primary claim. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss. The district court certified its ruling for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b).The Fifth Circuit wrote that no controlling Louisiana case resolves the parties’ issue. Accordingly, the court certified the following determinative question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court: 1) Does La. Civ. Code art. 2292 applies to unit operators selling production in accordance with La. R.S. 30:10(A)(3)? View "Self v. B P X Operating" on Justia Law
Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC
Plaintiff, a chiropractic office, filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act after it received an unsolicited fax offering a free eBook with information about prescription drugs. The district court dismissed its complaint, holding that the plaintiff had not alleged that the fax, which tendered a product for free rather than for sale, was sufficiently commercial to bring it within the statutory prohibition on “unsolicited advertisements.” On appeal, Defendant-PDR Network defends both steps in the district court’s reasoning, arguing that a fax must be “commercial” to qualify as an “advertisement” under the TCPA and that Carlton & Harris has not alleged the requisite commercial character. Carlton & Harris disputes both portions of the court’s reasoning, contending that a prohibited “advertisement” may be entirely non-commercial and that, in any event, it has adequately alleged that the fax it received was commercial in nature. Further, Plaintiff asserts that PDR Network profits when its fax persuades a medical practitioner to accept the proffered eBook. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that Plaintiff had adequately alleged that the fax offer had the necessary commercial character to make it an “unsolicited advertisement” under the Act. The court explained that for present purposes, we accept as true Plaintiff’s commission allegation and find it adequate, at this preliminary stage, to state a claim that the fax offer of a free eBook is a commercial “advertisement” subject to the TCPA. View "Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC" on Justia Law
State of Louisiana v. i3 Verticals
This is a class action brought by Louisiana sheriffs and Louisiana law enforcement districts against purveyors of software. The sheriffs and law enforcement districts allege that the software purveyors sold them defective software and then failed to administer the software properly.Defendants include both in-state and out-of-state software purveyors. The Class Action Fairness Act excludes federal jurisdiction over class actions with “less than 100” plaintiff class members. However, from 2015 to late 2018, only in-state Defendants were responsible for the alleged wrongdoing. An out-of-state defendant bears responsibility for the alledged conduct after 2018.Plaintiffs sued in Louisiana state court. Defendants removed to federal district court. Plaintiffs then sought remand to Louisiana state court, arguing that the local controversy exception to the Class Action Fairness Act applied. The magistrate recommended remand under the local controversy exception. The district court adopted the magistrate’s report. Defendants appeal.To be heard in federal court, a class action must have at least a hundred plaintiff class members. Plaintiffs argued that this class action is not removable to federal court because it has fewer than a hundred class members. The Fifth Circuit held that the law enforcement districts are separate entities from the sheriffs under 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(5)(B).However, the Fifth Circuit remanded to state court on alternate grounds. The Class Action Fairness Act establishes a local controversy exception to federal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4). This exception requires at least one in-state defendant “whose alleged conduct forms a significant basis for the claims asserted” and “from whom significant relief is sought.” View "State of Louisiana v. i3 Verticals" on Justia Law
Hagey v. Solar Service Experts
Plaintiff Phil Hagey appealed a judgment of dismissal entered following the sustaining of a demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff owned a home with a solar energy system (the system). At the time he purchased the home, the prior homeowner was party to a contract with a company, Kilowatt Systems, LLC (Kilowatt), which owned the system (the solar agreement). Among other terms, the solar agreement required the prior homeowner to purchase the energy produced by the system through monthly payments to Kilowatt. In the event of a sale of the house, the solar agreement afforded the prior homeowner three options. The prior homeowner and plaintiff agreed to an option which allowed prepayment of all remaining monthly payments and a transfer of all solar agreement rights and obligations to plaintiff, except for the monthly payment responsibility. In conjunction with the sale of the house, prepayment occurred and the parties entered into the requisite transfer agreement. At some later point in time, defendant Solar Service Experts, LLC began sending plaintiff monthly bills on Kilowatt’s behalf, demanding payments pursuant to the solar agreement. After receiving a bill, plaintiff spoke to a representative of defendant who told him he should not have received the bill and the issue would be resolved. Plaintiff received additional bills and at least one late payment notice which identified defendant as a debt collector. Plaintiff communicated with defendant’s representatives about the errors by phone and email, all to no avail. Plaintiff thereafter filed a class action lawsuit against defendant. The trial court concluded plaintiff did not, and could not, allege facts sufficient to constitute a consumer credit transaction, as statutorily defined. Plaintiff argued the court erroneously focused on the undisputed fact he did not owe the debt which defendant sought to collect and, in doing so, failed to recognize the Rosenthal Act applied to debt alleged to be due or owing by reason of a consumer credit transaction. To this the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment. View "Hagey v. Solar Service Experts" on Justia Law
Kyros Law P.C. v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
Appellants-Cross-Appellees Konstantine W. Kyros and his law firm, Kyros Law P.C. (together, “Kyros”), appealed from a judgment imposing sanctions for litigation misconduct under Rules 11 and 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In 2014 and 2015, Kyros brought several lawsuits against Appellees-Cross-Appellants World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. and Vincent K. McMahon (together, “WWE”). Subsequently, the district court imposed sanctions against Kyros in the amount of $312,143.55—less than the full amount requested by WWE. Kyros now appeals these final sanctions determinations. On cross-appeal, WWE challenged the district court’s reduction of the requested fee award by application of the “forum rule,” under which a court calculates attorney’s fees with reference to the prevailing hourly rates in the forum in which the court sits. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing Rule 11 sanctions on Kyros. WWE’s sanctions motions and the district court’s order that reserved ruling on those motions gave abundant notice to Kyros of the repeated pleading deficiencies that risked imposition of sanctions, and he was afforded sufficient opportunity to be heard. The district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing Rule 37 sanctions on Kyros because Kyros failed to make a good-faith effort to comply with the district court’s order compelling responses to WWE’s interrogatories. The district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the forum rule to award WWE less than the requested amount of sanctions. View "Kyros Law P.C. v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re Jefferson Parish
Several collections of residents near Jefferson Parish Landfill sued the landfill’s owner (Jefferson Parish) and its operators (four companies). This mandamus action arises out of the Eastern District of Louisiana’s case management of two of those lawsuits: the Ictech-Bendeck class action and the Addison mass action. The Ictech-Bendeck class action plaintiffs seek damages on a state-law nuisance theory under Louisiana Civil Code articles 667, 668, and 669. The Addison mass action plaintiffs seek damages from the same defendants, although they plead claims for both nuisance and negligence. The district court granted in part and denied in part Petitioners’ motion for summary judgment against some of the Addison plaintiffs. Then on April 17 the district court adopted a new case management order drafted by the parties that scheduled a September 2023 trial for several of the Addison plaintiffs. The Fifth Circuit denied Petitioners' petition for mandamus relief. The court explained that mandamus is an extraordinary form of relief saved for the rare case in which there has been a “usurpation of judicial power” or a “clear abuse of discretion.” The court explained that mandamus relief is not for testing novel legal theories. The court wrote that Petitioners’ theory is not merely new; it is also wrong. Rule 23 establishes a mechanism for plaintiffs to pursue their claims as a class. It does not cause the filing of a putative class action to universally estop all separate but related actions from proceeding to the merits until the class-certification process concludes in the putative class action, after years of motions practice. View "In Re Jefferson Parish" on Justia Law
Bohnak v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.
Plaintiff filed this nationwide class action on behalf of herself and others similarly situated after her personally identifying information (“PII”), including her name and Social Security number, which had been entrusted to Defendants, were exposed to an unauthorized third party as a result of a targeted data hack. At issue is the proper framework for evaluating whether an individual whose PII is exposed to unauthorized actors, but has not (yet) been used for injurious purposes such as identity theft, has suffered an injury in fact for purposes of Article III standing to sue for damages. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that with respect to the question of whether an injury arising from risk of future harm is sufficiently “concrete” to constitute an injury, in fact, TransUnion controls; with respect to the question whether the asserted injury is “actual or imminent,” the McMorris framework continues to apply in data breach cases like this. Thus, the court concluded that Plaintiff’s allegation that an unauthorized third party accessed her name and Social Security number through a targeted data breach gives her Article III standing to bring this action against Defendants to whom she had entrusted her PII. View "Bohnak v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc." on Justia Law