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

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

Just about anyone who owns a printer has strong opinions on toner cartridges. An enterprising group of plaintiffs’ lawyers sought to capitalize on consumer annoyance with printer cartridges by filing three class actions in the Northern District of California against toner manufacturer Hewlett Packard.

Their cases didn’t go so well. Some of the complaints were dismissed on the pleadings. They lost a bid at class certification. And trial court called their evidence of causation and injury "weak." These setbacks must have been particularly difficult because these plaintiffs’ counsel had spent a great deal of time and money imposing discovery … Continue Reading

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Standard Fire Insurance v. Knowles.  The question the Court faced in this case was whether a plaintiff may avoid removal of a class action under CAFA by stipulating that the case is worth less than $5 million, the statutory amount-in-controversy requirement.

The Knowles opinion–which was unanimous–provides a straightforward answer. As Justice Breyer put it:

As applied here, the statute tells the District Court to determine whether it has jurisdiction by adding up the value of the claim of each person who falls within the definition of Knowles’ proposed class and

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 … from November’s cases so far:

  • CAFA has not changed the rule that a counterclaim cannot confer federal jurisdiction.  Resurgent Capital Servs., LP v. Thomason, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS (W.D. Mo. Nov. 5, 2012) (remanding case).
  • Courts get suspicious when parties widen the scope of a class action during settlement negotiations.  Smith v. Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163672 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 15, 2012) (denying approval of settlement).
  • If you’re going to settle a class action, you still need a workable class definition.  Supler v. FKAACS, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159210
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 Daniel Villalpando sued three companies–Exel Direct, Inc., Deutsche Post DHL, and DHL Express (USA), Inc.—in California state court for underpaying him and drivers like him by misclassifying them as independent contractors. The defendants removed the case to the Northern District of California under the auspices of the Class Action Fairness Act. Mr. Villalpando moved to remand the case, citing the home state exception (which keeps cases where two thirds of the class members and the primary defendants are from the same state in state court) and the local controversy exception (which allows remand where the nature of the controversy … Continue Reading

I haven’t commented much about the Supreme Court’s class action docket so far, largely because this year I was more focused on–in my own small way–trying to influence what it would be.  But now that my particular efforts are done, I thought I would focus on each of the cases before the Court this Term.  I don’t feel comfortable talking much about Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, which addresses plaintiffs’ use of stipulations that limit class recovery to less than CAFA’s $5 million amount-in-controversy threshold, since I was on a team that assisted Ted Frank of the CCAF Continue Reading

A busy travel and work schedule this week means that today, I’m just going to point you to three cases with lessons class-action lawyers should be aware of.  So, when defending your class actions, don’t forget:

  • When removing under CAFA, pay attention to continuing damages.  In Leslie v. Conesco Life Ins. Co., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130508 (S.D. Fla. Sep. 13, 2012), the Southern District of Florida was willing to count continuing damages up through the projected trial date in determining whether the plaintiff met the $5 million amount-in-controversy requirement. 
  • Plaintiffs must prove arbitration would be too

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 Back in 1990, Kenneth Carter was in an automobile accident with an underinsured motorist, one serious enough to exhaust the other party’s limited bodily injury coverage. Carter’s policy allowed him to stack coverage, meaning he probably had $150,000 coming to him. But his insurer didn’t tell him that, instead allowing him to believe that he only had $50,000 in coverage. So Carter sued his Allstate, his insurer, and made a settlement demand for $250,000. (His counsel represented a few other claimants with similar allegations, and made individual settlement demands of up to $6 million for them.) Allstate tried to remove … Continue Reading

For the tech savvy, virtual money is all the rage. It’s been the subject of a few science fiction/crime mashups by bestselling authors like Neal Stephenson and Charlie Stross. It even provides a thriving trade in various online games, one that has proved to be worth a fair amount of of real-world money. And now, it’s entered the world of class action practice.

The case, Abreu v Slide Inc (ND Cal 2012), involved an internet game (which Google eventually bought) called SuperPoke! Pets. The game allowed users to adopt and care for a virtual pet. By … Continue Reading