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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

In Ubaldi v. SLM Corp., No. 11-01320, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38587 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 24, 2014), the plaintiffs sued student-loan institution Sallie Mae for allegedly imposing unenforceable choice-of-law provisions on some of its borrowers, as well as charging improper late fees and "usurious" interest.

The trial court denied certification on a number of grounds, including problems with the class definition and individualized issues that predominated. But I want to focus in on another of its reasons: the often-underused typicality requirement.

The defendant argued that at least one of the named plaintiffs (Chanee Thurston) was not typical of the … Continue Reading

Class action lawyers are well aware that the burden to affirmatively demonstrate compliance with Rule 23 rests on the plaintiffs. Over the years, courts have elaborated somewhat on the burdens plaintiffs must meet for numerosity and commonality, but have remained somewhat vaguer when it comes to typicality.

Last week, a trial court in the Eastern District of Missouri took a leap into that void in Henke v. Arco Midcon, L.L.C., No. 4:10CV86, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31810 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 12, 2014). Henke was an environmental class action alleging groundwater contamination from leaks from an oil pipeline. There were … Continue Reading

In Labou v. Cellco Partnership, No. 2:13-cv-00844-MCE-EFB, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26974 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 3, 2014), the named plaintiff sued cell phone company Verizon. She alleged that Verizon had used an automatic dialer to call her cell phone in an attempt to get her former brother-in-law to pay his cell phone bill, a practice that allegedly violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). And she sought to certify a class of everyone else Verizon had contacted with an automatic dialer.

There was a twist: the TCPA does not prohibit collection calls so long as the recipient is not … Continue Reading

 It turns out that Elizabeth Chamblee Burch is not the only law professor currently worried about adequacy in securities class actions. Boston University law professor David H. Webber has an article in the Northwestern University Law Review on The Plight of the Individual Investor in Securities Class Actions.

While Professor Burch was concerned with whether or not institutional investors were adequate representatives on their own, Professor Weber is more concerned with whether they can ever represent individual investors. In particular, he sees three conflicts that may be insurmountable:

  1. Derivatives trading. Institutional investors tend to engage in derivatives trading;
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Northside Chiropractic doctor Michael Dubick made the mistake of–after a cold call from salesmen–buying advertising space in Yellowbook. He negotiated for a certain kind of advertisement, but the published ad looked nothing like what he had asked for, and lacked even basic information about his business (like his name). So he sued, and added class allegations to his complaint. Yellowbook also listed his advertisement under "Massages – Non-Therapeutic," a possible crack about chiropractors at best, and solicitation of a whole different kind of client at worst.

So Dr. Dubick filed a class action against Yellowbook, and moved for certification. (… Continue Reading

Typicality tends to be a useful, if not always used, way of framing various class action issues. Its primary purpose is to ensure that the class action is really a representative lawsuit rather than just an individual case with pretensions. Given the rulings on typicality so far, it’s worth asking how defendants might argue it more effectively.

Ten Cases to Bring You Up to Speed:

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 I’ve written before about the uses to which defense counsel can put a well-taken named plaintiff deposition. And, once again, an opinion has come along that showcases just how important the named plaintiff deposition is as a weapon to defeat class certification.

The case, Burns v. Bayer Corp., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33183 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2012), is part of the Yaz multi-district litigation (which previously yielded an extremely useful motion to strike opinion). Yaz is an oral contraceptive, and the FDA has also approved it for use in treating acne and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It … Continue Reading

Like many health-minded individuals, Norma Rothman has shopped at GNC stores.  And, like many others, she has bought items there with her credit card.  And, like many consumers everywhere, she didn’t like it when the cashier allegedly asked her for her ZIP code when she made her purchase.  Unlike many consumers, Ms. Rothman tried to turn this momentary dissatisfaction into a class action, alleging that GNC had violated the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act and California’s infamous § 17200.  (Song-Beverly class actions have become very popular in California since its Supreme Court ruled that requesting a ZIP code can violate Continue Reading

Last week, the Sixth Circuit affirmed a trial court’s decision striking class allegations where a proposed nationwide class would necessarily invoke the laws of fifty different jurisdictions. (Russell Jackson has an excellent writeup of the opinion here.) There is no question the opinion is a useful one for defendants. And, since it’s the first appellate opinion on a motion to strike in decades, it may be time for an overview of where the motion to strike class allegations stands today.

In the past year, a large number of motions to strike have been filed. (I count at least 25 … Continue Reading