Over the past two years, class actions have been filed against nearly every major retailer challenging various sales and pricing practices. Many of these have focused on outlet stores (sometimes called “factory” stores). These cases have generally claimed that selling product made only for the outlet or factory store, where that product was never sold in mainline channels (e.g., in regular stores, boutiques, department stores or online), is deceptive, particularly product if the store suggests that the made-for-outlet was previously sold in mainline channels for a higher price. In many states, the trend has been to dismiss the case on the pleadings, holding that plaintiffs, who purchased a product for the price advertised, were not injured, especially if they cannot allege that the product was worth less than what they paid. In California, with the expansive reach of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), False Advertising Law (FAL), and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), courts have generally permitted these claims to proceed beyond the pleadings. Continue Reading
In the past few years, class action lawsuits challenging privacy practices, particularly internet privacy practices, have expanded. But, these lawsuits often challenge practices that do not cause any actual damage, which can make it difficult to reach a settlement, particularly of a Rule 23(b)(3) class. So, how can parties wanting to settle proceed? Continue Reading
The Ninth Circuit recently issued its long-awaited opinion in Robins v. Spokeo, Inc., — F.3d —-, 2017 WL 3480695 (9th Cir. Aug. 15, 2017), on remand from the United States Supreme Court. Once again, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s lawsuit alleging willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq. (“FCRA”), holding plaintiff’s alleged injuries were sufficiently “concrete” to satisfy Article III standing requirements. This most recent Spokeo decision (a/k/a Spokeo III) is the latest in a series of appellate decisions during the last year that have determined whether, and under what, circumstances a defendant’s alleged violation of a federal statute, without more, may satisfy Article III’s “injury-in-fact” requirement. Continue Reading
As expected, and with few changes, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau adopted its proposed rule barring financial companies regulated by the agency from including class action waivers in arbitration agreements. Arbitration clauses in new contracts offering a consumer financial product or service will need to include specified language indicating that arbitration cannot be used to stop the consumer from pursuing a class action. Continue Reading
As the Rolling Stones famously sing, “You can’t always get what you want.” And in the ever treacherous world of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq., the Second Circuit has ruled that means a party to contract cannot unilaterally revoke consent to receive automated calls. Continue Reading
The U.S. Supreme Court has closed a loophole that class action plaintiffs in the Ninth Circuit had been exploiting to obtain immediate appellate review of a district court’s denial of class certification. The decision – Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, 582 U.S. __ (2017) – will end a practice in the Ninth Circuit that was seen as unfair to defendants, who could not exploit the same loophole to obtain immediate review of a district court’s grant of class certification. Continue Reading
In Resh v. China Agritech, No. 15-5543, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9029 (9th Cir. May 24, 2017), a Ninth Circuit panel held that a pending putative class action in which class certification is ultimately denied tolls the statute of limitations as to claims that previously absent class members later seek to assert as class claims. The ruling expands a tolling doctrine the U.S. Supreme Court has so far only applied to absent class members’ individual claims. See American Pipe & Construction Co v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974). It also clarifies Ninth Circuit precedent, which, to the extent it had previously applied American Pipe tolling to absent class members’ class claims, arguably did so only when the earlier class certification denial rested on the named plaintiff’s inadequacy, not on the invalidity of the alleged class itself. Resh applies American Pipe to class claims without qualification. Hence, it opens the door in the Ninth Circuit to new phenomenon: successive class actions based on the same underlying event. Continue Reading
On April 6, 2017, the California Supreme Court struck another blow in its contentious battle with the United States Supreme Court on the enforceability of consumer arbitration clauses subject to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In McGill v. Citibank, N.A., No. S224086, Slip Op. at 1 (Cal. Apr. 6, 2017), the Court held that an arbitration clause in Citibank’s credit card agreement purporting to waive the plaintiff’s right to seek public injunctive relief under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), or the False Advertising Law (FAL) in any forum was unenforceable as against California public policy. The Court further held that, notwithstanding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on the subject, including in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740, 1747 (2011), the FAA did not preempt California’s policy. As discussed below, these holdings are troubling and likely inconsistent with federal law. Continue Reading
Plaintiffs across the country have continued to file class actions against companies of all stripe for violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), often for communications far afield from the classic “telemarketing” calls that the TCPA was meant to prevent. Recently, a spate of class actions have been filed against health care providers and health plans, alleging that routine calls to patients and health plan members constitute “telemarketing” under the TCPA if they mention a product or service, whether that be medications, appointments, or information about health plans.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Spokeo v. Robins, providing guidance on the “injury-in-fact” aspect of the constitutional standing requirement for putative class action plaintiffs. 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016), as revised (May 24, 2016). Spokeo was quickly hailed by both plaintiff- and defense-side lawyers as a major victory, but in truth provided something for everyone. It requires, for example, that a plaintiff allege “a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation . . .” and not merely a “bare procedural violation, divorced from any concrete harm.” Id. at 1543, 1549. Further, a “concrete” injury must “actually exist” and be “real, and not abstract.” Id. at 1548. On the other hand, a “concrete” injury is not “necessarily synonymous with ‘tangible.’” Id. at 1549. Ways to determine whether “intangible” harm qualifies as “concrete” include: (1) evaluating whether the alleged harm “has a close relationship to a harm that has traditionally been regarded as providing a basis for a lawsuit” and (2) looking to the judgment of Congress which “has the power to define injuries and articulate chains of causation that will give rise to a case or controversy where none existed before.” Id.