In recent years, website operators have increasingly used chatbots to improve customer engagement and provide customer support. In the past several months, however, the plaintiffs’ bar has expressed concerns about the privacy implications of these chatbots, and has brought a wave of litigation challenging their use under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA). Continue Reading The Tides are Turning on a Wave of California Privacy Litigation
Arbitration clauses with class action waivers remain one of the most effective lines of defense against consumer class actions. They are also one of the most challenged. As we have discussed in prior posts, including here, here, and here, consumer arbitration clauses have come under fire in California if they prohibit plaintiffs from obtaining “public injunctive relief” in any forum. This is the so-called McGill rule, which comes from the California Supreme Court’s decision in McGill v. CitiBank, N.A., 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017).
Continue Reading More on McGill: Ninth Circuit Affirms Order Enforcing Arbitration of Public Injunctive Relief Claims
The California Court of Appeal recently made it more difficult for plaintiffs to certify class actions based on false advertising or fraud. In Downey v. Public Storage, Inc., Case No. B291662, ___Cal.App.5th___ (Feb. 6, 2020), the Court of Appeal affirmed an order denying class certification on the grounds that issues of deception and reliance were not susceptible to common proof.
In March 2015, several plaintiffs filed a class action against Public Storage, alleging that its $1 promotional rate was deceptive, violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. § 17200 et seq.), and constituted a false advertisement. In particular, the plaintiffs alleged that the $1 promotional rate was deceptive because customers had to pay more than $1 for their first month of storage due to (1) having to pay for a new account fee, (2) being charged for a second month’s rent on the first day of the next calendar month, (3) having to pay for a lock for their storage unit, and (4) having to pay for insurance coverage.
Continue Reading California Court Sets High Bar For Class Certification In False Advertising Cases
As one year ends, another begins. So too it seems with California’s embrace of multi-million dollar privacy class actions. The purported illegal recording of cellular or cordless phone calls under Section 632.7 of the California Penal Code has long been a favorite of the class action bar due to the availability of staggering statutory damages. These actions are all but dead, however, following the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Smith v. LoanMe, Inc., 2019 DJDAR 11930, holding that some form of eavesdropping is required to state a cause of action under Section 632.7. No longer is the simple recording of a cellular or cordless telephone call between the actual participants to the call actionable. While many have long argued that the actual language of the statute as well as its legislative history – including the legislative history of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (Pen. Code §§ 630, et seq.) in general – require some form of spying to state a claim under Section 632.7, the court of appeal in LoanMe has made it official. Barring review or inconsistent rulings by other appellate districts, privacy class actions seeking statutory damages under Penal Code section 632.7 are the past.
Continue Reading The Death of One California Privacy Class Action, and the Birth of Another
When it comes to compelling arbitration in California, courts often put the moving party to the test. The most recent example is the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Fabian v. Renovate America. Affirming a lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeal held that the defendant failed to meet its burden of proof that an electronically signed contract – one containing a 15-digit alphanumeric verification from DocuSign and the words “Identify Verification Code: ID Verification Complete” – was in fact signed by the plaintiff. Stating that the “burden of authenticating an electronic signature is not great,” the Court of Appeal went on to hold that the defendant had not met its burden as it had failed to submit evidence explaining the DocuSign verification process. The court of appeal acknowledged the acceptance of a DocuSign verified signature in Newton v. Am. Debt Servs (N.D. Cal. 2012) 854 F.Supp.2d 712, but distinguished that case finding that Renovate had not submitted “evidence about the process used to verify Fabian’s electronic signature via DocuSign, including who sent Fabian the Contract, how the Contract was sent to her, how Fabian’s electronic signature was placed on the Contract, who received the signed the [sic] Contract, how the signed Contract was returned to Renovate, and how Fabian’s identification was verified as the person who actually signed the Contract.”
Continue Reading Is Hate Too Strong A Word (When It Comes To Compelling Arbitration In California)?
This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal and San Francisco Daily Journal on November 28, 2018.
The Northern District of California comprehensively updated its Procedural Guidance for Class Action Settlements on Nov. 1, 2018, requiring increased disclosures for preliminary and final settlement approvals, and more transparency in post-distribution accounting. Failure to follow the guidance may result in delay or denial of settlement approval. Federal class action lawyers should be aware of the updated settlement approval rules in the Northern District of California, one of the busiest and most influential districts for class action litigation.
Continue Reading Northern District Releases Guidance for Class Action Settlements
In Durnford v. MusclePharm Corp., plaintiff Durnford asserted that the company’s “Arnold Schwarzenegger Series Iron Mass” supplements are falsely labeled because the protein content of the supplements is misstated. Durnford brought claims under California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), False Advertising Law (“FAL”) Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”) and for breach of express warranty. The district court dismissed these claims, finding them preempted by federal law. However, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of Durnford’s claims effectively reviving them, albeit on a narrower basis. Durnford v. MusclePharm Corp., No. 16-15374, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. 2018), 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 28771.
Continue Reading “I’ll Be Back;” Ninth Circuit Gives Arnold Schwarzenegger-Branded Supplement Purchasers Another Shot to Pursue UCL, FAL, CLRA and Warranty Claims
In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeal reaffirmed and clarified how the “reasonable consumer” standard must be applied at the pleadings stage to mislabeling claims. In simplest terms, if the packaging makes a definitive statement on the front that suggests one thing, but fine print on the back contradicts that statement, the defendant cannot rely on the fine print to escape a mislabeling claim. In reaching that conclusion, however, the Court of Appeal appears to have laid a roadmap for how to defeat class certification.
Continue Reading One A Day Will Not Keep Plaintiffs Away
The ruling in Lanovaz v. Twinings N. Am., Inc., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 15248 (9th Cir. June 6, 2018), settles what was arguably an open issue among district courts within the Ninth Circuit. A plaintiff must have an intent to re-purchase a product alleged to be falsely advertised in order to maintain an action for injunctive relief.
Twinings’ labels on its green, black, and white tea products stated that the teas were a “Natural Source of Antioxidants”. Plaintiff Lanovaz asserted that the labels amounted to “nutrient content claims,” which are regulated by the FDA (the term “antioxidant” is also subject to regulation). The plaintiff alleged that Twinings’ labels did not satisfy FDA regulations, and therefore were unlawful, misleading consumers.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Confirms that Class Action Plaintiffs Must Plausibly Establish Future Intent To Re-Purchase To Maintain Claims for Injunctive Relief
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 Class Action Plaintiffs In The Ninth Circuit Can No Longer Obtain Immediate Appellate Review Of Orders Denying Class Certification
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 Dancing On Their Own: The California Supreme Court’s Decision in McGill v. Citibank, N.A. that Class Action Waivers Do Not Apply to Claims for Public Injunctive Relief under California’s Consumer Protection Laws