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The House of Representatives has reintroduced the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (FICALA), and it’s more substantial than the 2015 version.  The previous version, you may recall, attempted to reinforce the typicality requirement to minimize the number of “no injury” class actions brought.  It cleared the House, but died in the Senate.  It appears that House Republicans sense an opportunity with the new administration to enact more sweeping class reforms.
I testified in support of the 2015 Act, and having read the new bill, I like it even more. I think it lives up to its … Continue Reading

The Subcommittee believes that drafting a formal ascertainability requirement is too difficult; it should try nonetheless.

The final topic the Subcommittee has announced it will examine is the possibility of adopting a formal ascertainability requirement. The topic was suggested by several judges of the Third Circuit, who formally requested the Subcommittee consider a formal ascertainability requirement when dissenting from a refusal to hear a Third Circuit ascertainability case en banc. The specific language of that request:

 I suggest that the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure look into this matter. Rule 23 explicitly imposes limitations on the

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Year-end lists are funny things.  They take a sort-of arbitrary starting and stopping point, and then they cram a bunch of prejudices into a (usually) arbitrary number of items.  And then people take them kind of seriously.  But they can be handy ways of catching trends one did not see before.  And in a year that has seen the beginning of a new debate over the shape of Rule 23, looking at the trends in caselaw can be important.  This year’s cases include some pro-plaintiff and some pro-defendant, and some hard to quantify.  But most of them are notable … Continue Reading

Cosmetics giant Maybelline markets Superstay 24 lipstick, which is supposed to be more comfortable, withstand heat and humidity, and go 24 hours without needing a transfer. Some customers decided that, despite the advertising, the lipstick did not last a full 24 hours without transfer; so they sued Maybelline claiming that it had violated various California fraud statutes.

As many lawyers know, California’s consumer fraud statutes have lesser reliance standards. For example, reliance is judged on an objective “reasonable consumer” standard that means plaintiffs often do not have to demonstrate individualized reliance to get a class certified.

So faced with … Continue Reading

Challenges to ascertainability have become noticeably more popular over the last few years. As a result, defendants will sometimes challenge the class definition even though there are deeper problems with the class. As a recent case shows, however, it is usually worth probing deeper than the definition in one’s arguments.

Steimel v. Minott, No. 1:13-cv-957-JMS-MJD, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38228 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 24, 2014) offers some object lessons in what ascertainability problems can really mean. In Steimel, the plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration after a change in policy (transferring developmentally … Continue Reading

This week, we get our yearly reminder not to take the humble numerosity requirement for granted. In Spread Enterprises, Inc. v. First Data Merchant Services Corp., No. 11-CV-4743, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22972 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2014), the named plaintiff–a prepaid phone minutes company–sued a bank and a credit card payment processor for charging "excessive" fees for certain transactions on one of the processing platforms.

When the plaintiff moved for class certification, the defendants opposed on numerous grounds, including challenging commonality and predominance. They also argued that the definitions of each subclass, each of which referred to merchants who … Continue Reading

This week’s case continues a trend I’ve written about before: more courts are declining to certify class actions where they will not be able to ascertain class membership based on the evidence before them.

In Sethavanish v. ZonePerfect Nutrition Co., No. 12-2907-SC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18600 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 13, 2014), the plaintiff sued ZonePerfect alleging that it had fraudulently marketed its nutrition bars as "all natural" even though they contained a number of artificial ingredients.

When the plaintiff moved to certify a class, ZonePerfect pointed out one very large problem with her proposal: it did not … Continue Reading

2013 did not offer the blockbuster docket in front of the Supreme Court that 2011 did, but that didn’t stop the Court from issuing a number of opinions whose effects will be felt for some time to come. In addition, a number of other courts took bold steps to either support or constrain class action practice. The key trends coming out of 2013: watch out for predominance, and watch out for tricky settlement provisions. Also, pay attention to the complaint; key flaws can still lurk in there.

(1) Comcast Corp v. Behrend (Supreme Court).  This case was … Continue Reading

A heavy-metals plant in Alloy, West Virginia provided a foundation for the local economy throughout the 20th century. (Hence the name Alloy.) In the 21st century, it provided the basis for an extensive class action lawsuit–Coleman v. Union Carbide Corp., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140613 (S.D. W. Va. Sep. 30, 2013)–which alleged that decades of substandard emissions controls had caused the release of 17 different toxic substances into the air, resulting in more than 30 different diseases among the local population. The lawsuit sought medical monitoring for Alloy residents and those who had been exposed. (In this case, the plaintiffs sought certification … Continue Reading

 Judge Posner is often considered to be a pro-defense jurist, particularly in the area of class actions. Lately, he’s been proving himself to be more independent-minded than that. First, he allowed certification of a washing machine class, justifying certification despite some outcome-determinative individualized issues because predominance is a matter of "efficiency," and should not be reduced to "bean-counting."

And last week, he authored an opinion that reversed decertification of an Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) class action.

In Hughes v. Kore of Indiana Ent., Inc., No. 13-8018, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 18873 (7th Cir. Sep. 10, 2013)Continue Reading