Spokeo—Round 3: The Ninth Circuit Finds Alleged Statutory Violation Sufficiently “Concrete” To Satisfy Article III Standing

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

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Adopts New Rule Barring Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

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

You Can’t Always Get What You Want—Second Circuit Affirms Parties Can Bargain Away TCPA Right To Revoke Consent To Automated Calls

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

Class Action Plaintiffs In The Ninth Circuit Can No Longer Obtain Immediate Appellate Review Of Orders Denying Class Certification

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

If At First You Don’t Succeed: The Ninth Circuit Invites Successive Class Actions By Extending American Pipe Tolling To Absent Class Members’ Own Class Claims

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

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

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

Enough is Enough: Court Dismisses TCPA Class Action Against A Health Plan That Placed Reminder Calls To Its Members That They Should Consider Their Options During The Annual Open Enrollment Period

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.

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Update on Data Breach and Data Privacy Class Actions Post-Spokeo

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.

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Ninth Circuit Confirms Brazil v. Dole Decertification Due to Faulty Damages Model

In Brazil v. Dole, No. 14-17480 (9th Cir. Sept. 30, 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part three different orders issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  In doing so, the Ninth Circuit (1) confirmed that in order to state a false advertising claim under the unlawful prong of California’s Unfair Competition law, a plaintiff must allege that he relied on the purportedly misleading statements, (2) clarified what types of evidence were sufficient to create an issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment based on the reasonable consumer standard, and (3) confirmed that, in order to certify a damages class under Rule 23(b)(3), a plaintiff must present a damages model that provides a method of calculating damages using proof common to the class.

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California Supreme Court Approves Attorney Fee Awards Calculated Based Upon Percentage of Class Action Common Fund

In Laffitte v. Robert Half International Inc., No. S222996 (Aug. 11, 2016), the California Supreme Court held, in an employment class action lawsuit, that when attorney fees are awarded to class counsel from a common fund, that the award is not per se unreasonable because it is calculated as a percentage of the common fund, as opposed to pursuant to a lodestar calculation.

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