Richard C. Beaulieu reports below on the Iowa Supreme Court’s affirmation of the trial court’s order certifying a class of individuals asserting claims against a corn milling facility based on allegations of air pollution.

Over the past two decades, large agricultural operations have become a popular target for plaintiffs’ attorneys.  Bringing claims under common law causes of action like negligence, trespass, and especially nuisance based on the environmental impacts of these agricultural operations, plaintiffs in these cases have frequently succeeded in winning substantial judgments.  While there have been some class actions based on these theories in the past, most such … Continue Reading

 While it remains popular among settling lawyers and courts, the doctrine of cy pres in class actions (where defendants wind up paying charities with an ostensible link to the gravamen of a lawsuit) has been garnering criticism for some time. A few federal district courts (including the Southern District of New York and the District of New Hampshire) have questioned the application of cy pres in specific cases. Last year, Professor Martin Redish published an article questioning whether cy pres relief violates the Rules Enabling Act. After that, John Beisner and Jessica Miller of Skadden Arps published a working Continue Reading

The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy for appellate decisions involving class actions. In addition to Judge Easterbrook’s In re Aqua Dots opinion, the Sixth Circuit’s Pipefitters opinion, the Second Circuit’s Literary Works opinion, and the Ninth Circuit’s reversal of the Bluetooth settlement, the Third Circuit has offered up a pair of opinions involving predominance and common evidence. In one, Behrend v. Comcast Corp., a panel appeared to limit the reach of In re Hydrogen Peroxide on expert evidence, affirming certification of an antitrust case again the cable provider in part because it held that a DaubertContinue Reading

Class definitions can be extremely difficult for plaintiffs. In addition to holding that merits-based class definitions cannot support certification, courts have begun to hold that some definitions are simply too broad. Overbroad definitions usually are symptomatic of other problems with the proposed class.

Want an example? Take the case of Kemblesville HHMO Center LLC v. Landhope Realty Co., 2011, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83324 (E.D. Pa. Jul. 28, 2011). Kemblesville concerns the dispersion of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that helps reduce harmful automobile emissions, but which can contaminate groundwater under the wrong circumstances.

In … Continue Reading

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion in the class-action world about commonality. Which is why it’s so refreshing to see the Fifth Circuit take on a case where the defendants argued predominance under Rule 23(b)(3).

The case–Madison v. Chalmette Refining–is a toxic tort case. As Judge Edith Jones, writing for the Fifth Circuit, describes the facts, the Chalmette Refinery, which processes petroleum, released an amount of petroleum coke dust that migrated over to the nearby Chalmette Battlefield while a number of students and parents were watching a reenactment of the Battle of New Orleans. … Continue Reading

A group of Florida landowners sued Raytheon Company, accusing it of contaminating their groundwater by improperly disposing of hazardous waste. The plaintiffs put up an expert who testified that he could construct a statistical model that would demonstrate liability and damages on a classwide basis.  Raytheon put up its own experts, who argued that plaintiffs’ method of defining the affected area was not consistent with "applicable professional standards," and that their expert’s statistical method was unsound as well.  

The district court threw up its hands.  Declaring 

[i]t is not necessary at this stage of the litigation to declare a

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