Last week, while the legal world was abuzz over the Supreme Court argument on Wal-Mart v. Dukes, Judge Posner was quietly putting the finishing touches on Randall v. Rolls Royce, which provides his own take on some of the same issues.

As in Dukes, the plaintiffs sought to represent a class of women who alleged gender discrimination under Title VII. As in Dukes, they alleged that, because they were women, they had received less money for comparable work, and were passed over for promotions within the company. As in Dukes, they sought certification under Rule … Continue Reading

King Architectural Metals manufactured metal building components, which it needed to sell. It made the mistake of faxing an advertisement to CE Design. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. CE Design was a small, Chicago-area civil engineering firm, and it had checked a box in the Blue Book of Building and Construction (a directory of building-industry firms) that indicated it was OK to contact it with advertisements. But it also had a sideline in Telephone Consumer Protection Act class actions. It filed at least 150 of them, and its president had testified in at least 20 … Continue Reading

 Paul Karlsgodt of got there first (in a post that should win "Title of the Month" hands-down), but Judge Posner’s opinion yesterday denying rehearing (and announcing there will be no en banc rehearing) in Thorogood v. Sears Roebuck & Co. is still worth an extra post.  Not just because Judge Posner discusses the results of an informal poll of the panel’s wives, not just because he cites a YouTube link of Simon Cowell, and not just because the ever-irreverent Above the Law is likely to feature the opinion as a classic benchslap.    

The primary … Continue Reading

Earlier this week, the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Richard Posner, granted an injunction to Sears under the All Writs Act to block a class action that had been filed in federal court in California. The opinion, Thorogood v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it extends relief under the All Writs Act to defendants facing copycat class actions in other jurisdictions. Second, it does so in response to a plaintiff’s attempt to leverage a settlement using the threat of class-action discovery.

Steven Thorogood, the nominal plaintiff here, … Continue Reading

 When a defendant is faced with a class action complaint, sometimes the best strategy appears to be to settle quickly, before having to engage in costly litigation or burdensome discovery. But, as readers of this blog know, that strategy is not always as straightforward as it first seems.  In today’s case, we have another example, where what first appeared to be a quick-and-painless settlement wound up taking eight years and visiting the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals three times.

In 2000, a group of class-action plaintiffs sued Fleet Mortgage claiming that it had sold their personal information to … Continue Reading

 I’m going to try a new semi-regular feature, which is to provide summaries of some of the seminal cases on which class-action defendants frequently rely. Instead of focusing on the tactics that led to these rulings, I’ll be highlighting the most commonly-used passages, as well as some that may be wrongly overlooked.

We’ll start this out with In re Rhone-Poulenc Rorer (7th Cir. 1995). In re Rhone-Poulenc Rorer involved a particularly difficult set of facts: a proposed class of HIV-positive hemophiliacs sued a group of drug companies that manufactured blood solids. Because the companies did not know enough about … Continue Reading

Certain kinds of class actions – those predicated on technical violations of a federal statute like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) – provide a steady revenue stream for some plaintiffs’ lawyers, while plaguing some defendants. It can be difficult to oppose certification of these suits, because technical statutory violations may not be associated with many variations in proof. It becomes easier to defend these suits when the plaintiffs don’t do the work of establishing that the violation actually occurred.

Take the case of DeKoven v. Plaza Associates, Nos. 09-2016 & 09-2249 (7th Cir. Mar. 17, 2010). … Continue Reading

Defendants walk a thin tightrope over a deep chasm when they have to litigate and settle a class action. On the one hand, litigating a class action vigorously requires the defendant to argue that a class is not certifiable. On the other, to settle a case on a classwide basis, the parties have to convince the court to certify a class.

At the best of times, a defendant may have to explain in one class action why it did not oppose certifying a settlement class in a similar lawsuit. But the danger of this tightrope is even clearer when a … Continue Reading