There’s lots of recent scholarship complaining about how pleading standards have gotten too stringent.  Professor Anne Ralph of Ohio State University Law School believes she’s found a solution.  In her article in the Yale Journal of Law & HumanitiesNot the Same Old Story: Using Narrative Theory to Understand and Overcome the Plausibility Pleading Standard, she outlines how plaintiffs might use the principles of narrative theory to meet the Twombly/Iqbal “plausibility” standard.
So, what exactly is “narrative theory”?  As Professor Ralph explains it:
Narrative theory answers the complex question of why narratives are persuasive. Narrative theory
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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

 In the several years since the Supreme Court decided Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, scholars and litigators have argued back and forth about the appropriate pleading standard for various kinds of lawsuits. One of the most vociferous parts of that debate is over whether class actions should be subject to increased pleading standards

Former federal trial attorney Matthew J.B. Lawrence (now a fellow at Harvard’s Petrie-Flom Center) has recently published an article, Courts Should Apply a Relatively More Stringent Pleading Threshold to Class Actions, 81 U. Cin. L. Rev. 1225 (2013), that makes … Continue Reading

Back in January, NERA Economic Consulting published yet another interesting paper, entitled Dynamic Litigation Analysis: Predicting Securities Class Action Settlements as a Case Evolves, by Dr. Ronald Miller.

Using the data NERA has collected on securities class actions over 20 years, Dr. Miller comes to some interesting conclusions about motions practice in securities cases. Most notably:

 

  • Few securities class actions are resolved at the summary judgment stage.
  • The filing of a motion to dismiss has little effect on settlement value of securities cases, but the granting of dismissal can reduce the value of a settlement by up
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Blue Coat Systems, Inc. was a web security firm that, in 2008, tried to break into the growing field of wide-area network optimization by acquiring a company called Packeteer, Inc. The move was supposed to secure long-term growth, but arguably had the opposite effect.

On May 27, 2010, Blue Coat issued some financial results and held a conference call with industry analysts. While Blue Coat had met its its previous financial projections, its forward- looking guidance was not as optimistic as in previous calls. The analysts (and their readers) apparently worried, because the next day Blue Coat shares lost a … Continue Reading

Last week, NERA Economic Consulting released its latest mid-year report on trends in class-action securities filings. The trend most are mentioning is the decline in the pace of securities settlements, coupled with the fact that settlement amounts remain high. But there are a number of other interesting observations that are worth mentioning. Among them:

Of the cases that settled, 90% had a motion to dismiss filed and 42% had motion for class certification filed.

(Emphasis added.) This makes a degree of sense. A failed motion to dismiss would help the defendant to understand whether a legal theory has merit … Continue Reading

 Last week, there were two appellate opinions, one from the Seventh Circuit and one from the Tenth, that are worth some attention. They’re worth discussing together as well, because while only one is really helpful for defendants, both discuss different conceptions of how to argue comity in class actions.

The first is Smentek v. Dart (7th Cir. 2012). Smentek was a class action filed on behalf of Illinois prisoners who had been denied dental care in violation of the due process clause. It was the third of its kind. How did that happen? In the first two class actions, various … Continue Reading

 Earlier today, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting at the CLE International Class Action conference in Los Angeles with an old friend of mine, plaintiff’s lawyer Garrett Wotkyns of Schneider Wallace.   The topic was The Gauntlet: Early Challenges to Class Certification, which regular readers will know is a topic near and dear to my heart.  (Cue joke about defense lawyers’ hearts.)

The slides, which contain only a few in-jokes and as many obscure Clint Eastwood references as we could cram in, are available for download here.  

Many thanks to the nice folks at CLE International for … Continue Reading

 Last week, the District of Montana ruled on the defendants’ motion to dismiss in Pfau v. Mortenson (the infamous "Three Cups of Tea" class action). The lawsuit alleged that author Greg Mortenson had made up aspects of his biography in writing and marketing his bestselling memoir Three Cups of Tea.  The plaintiffs–a pair of Montana lawmakers–specifically claimed that Mortenson and his publisher had engaged in a criminal enterprise (a term of art for RICO claims) to market his book as nonfiction despite the falsehoods it allegedly contained.

When the complaint was filed, I wrote about how … Continue Reading

 Confidential Witness Confidential

The confidential witness is the bane of the securities defendant’s existence. While there may be some legitimate reasons to keep a witness confidential, the words "Confidential Witness #1" can also hide problems with the plaintiffs’ case, like sloppy research or outright misrepresentation.

How do we know this is the case? Well, many defendants have "Confidential" horror stories, but more importantly, these problems are sometimes revealed in the case proper. Case in point:City of Livonia Employees’ Retirement System v. Boeing Co.  As the Northern District of Illinois puts it in its opinion, the case reads like an … Continue Reading