We know the general rule that a Missouri Merchandising Practices Act ("MMPA") plaintiff cannot merely allege some undefined loss: the loss must be ascertainable, meaning the plaintiff must state an actual amount or a method for calculating the amount. Now add a corollary principle: not only must the loss be ascertainable, but whatever that amount is, it must constitute a net loss when measuring the difference between the actual or reasonable value of the product or service and the amount that plaintiff paid. That’s the takeaway from Cregan v. Mortgage One Corp., No. 4:16 CV 387 RWS, 2016 WL 3072395, at *5 (E.D. Mo. June 1, 2016). In Cregan, plaintiffs entered into a loan agreement with defendant that encumbered their real property. Id. at *1. After plaintiffs filed for bankruptcy, defendant filed a notice of claim that included a charge for $56,000 in “daily simple interest” due, and plaintiffs claimed that the…

Not quite the wrecking ball some hoped it would be, this week’s Supreme Court decision in Spokeo v. Robins created a crack just wide enough to allow a new wave of Article III standing arguments in private actions for statutory violations. As we discussed in our earlier post, Spokeo is a website that provides users with information about other individuals, including contact data, age, occupation, economic health, and wealth level.  The plaintiff, Thomas Robins, alleged willful violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because Spokeo’s website described him inaccurately—as a married 50-year-old, with children, and a high income.  None of the information was correct.  Robins alleged that the inaccurate information injured him when he searched for employment because potential employers saw him as someone who would expect a higher income and likely would be unwilling to relocate.  The district court dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing;…

Plaintiffs can no longer base Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”) claims on sales “puffery”—i.e., exaggerated statements upon which no reasonable consumer would rely, or vague or highly subjective claims of product superiority. That’s the message from Hurst v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., No. WD 78665, 2016 WL 1128297 (Mo. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2016). In Hurst, Plaintiffs alleged that Nissan violated the MMPA by making representations that “tended to create a false impression” about the quality of its “FX” sport utility vehicles, some of which developed dashboard bubbling from heat and humidity. Id. at *3. In particular, the FX’s marketing materials displayed FX dashboards and stated that the FX contained “premium automotive machinery” and “room for everything except compromise” and that the FX was “a superior product representing excellent value,” “uncompromising,” and “premium.” Id. at *4. The trial court certified a class of 326 Missourians who purchased Infiniti’s FX35 and…

To state an omission-based MMPA claim in federal court, a plaintiff may not rely on generic allegations that a defendant failed to disclose an alleged product defect. Nor may a plaintiff rely on prior consumer complaints as the basis for alleging that a defendant concealed a material fact. That’s the lesson from Johnsen v. Honeywell International Inc., No. 4:14CV594 RLW, 2016 WL 1242545 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 29, 2016). In that case, plaintiff claimed that Honeywell’s representations about its humidifiers’ quality, along with a five-year warranty, amounted to an actionable “unfair practice” under the MMPA where the humidifiers allegedly broke down repeatedly. On March 29, 2016, the Eastern District of Missouri ruled on defendant Honeywell International’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint, holding that bare allegations that defendants “knew, or reasonably should have known” that their products contained some defect and that they “concealed and failed to disclose such alleged…

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146 (March 22, 2016), a closely watched case out of the 8th Circuit that presented two meaty issues relevant to class action practitioners: 1) whether a plaintiff can use statistical sampling to establish class-wide liability, aka "Trial-by-Formula"; and 2) whether a certified class can include uninjured claimants.  In its opinion affirming both class certification and the trial verdict, the Court did not make any broad pronouncements on the use of statistical evidence in classwide proceedings, but instead took a more measured approach on when such evidence may be used.  Our thoughts on the opinion are below. On the use of statistical evidence, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority observed that "[a] categorical exclusion of that sort, however, would make little sense. A representative or statistical sample, like all evidence, is a means to establish or defend against liability."  Instead, whether and when…

The Supreme Court's opinion today in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, No. 14-857 significantly limits the defense tactic of making an offer of judgment to moot a plaintiff's or putative class representative's claim: We hold today, in accord with Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that an unaccepted settlement offer has no force. Like other unaccepted contract offers, it creates no lasting right or obligation. With the offer off the table, and the defendant’s continuing denial of liability, adversity between the parties persists. In short, defendant cannot make a Rule 68 offer and then argue that an unaccepted offer renders the plaintiff's claim moot (i.e. no Article III standing). The cost-shifting consequence of plaintiff not accepting a Rule 68 offer remains: the plaintiff must pay costs incurred after the offer was made "if the judgment that the [plaintiff] finally obtains is not more favorable than the unaccepted offer."  Rule 68(d).  This is important, especially when a…

Earlier this year, SHB welcomed the addition of complex litigation boutique Grippo & Elden in Chicago.  We were thrilled at the news because of the deep bench of experienced class action lawyers that were joining our firm, extending our presence and expertise to the Windy City.  One of the talented lawyers in our Chicago office, Chris Wray (a former 8th Circuit clerk to the Honorable Duane Benton), tipped us off about a recent decision from the Seventh Circuit may have created a circuit split on the implicit requirement of ascertainability of Rule 23.  He was kind enough to put together the following guest post: Several circuits have recognized an implicit requirement under Rule 23 that a class must be defined clearly and that membership be defined by objective criteria. In addressing this requirement, courts have sometimes used the term “ascertainability.”  Class definitions have failed this requirement when they were too vague or subjective,…

After the district court certified a class comprised of customers who had contracted with Cox Enterprises for cable services, Cox sought to compel arbitration pursuant to clauses in class members’ contracts.  That bid was frozen in its tracks by the district court and icily affirmed by the Tenth Circuit.  The Court’s holding?  A class-action defendant with a potential arbitration defense can’t hold it back anymore, at least when the issue could impact the propriety of class certification.  In re Cox Enterprises, Inc. Set-Top Cable Television Box Antitrust Litig., No. 14-6158 (10th Cir. June 24, 2015). In particular, the Tenth Circuit emphasized that 87% of class members were potentially subject to arbitration, which undermined the district court’s findings of numerosity and predominance.  Accordingly, Cox’s conceal-don’t-feel-don’t-let-them-know approach amounted to an inequitable second bite at the apple.  The court explained that arbitration should be raised as early as possible, rather than for the…

Some may say that daily print newspapers are a dying breed.  Not Plaintiffs in O’Shaughnessy v. Cypress Media, L.L.C., No. 4:13-CV-0947-DGK, 2015 WL 4197789, (W.D. Mo. July 13, 2015), who attempted to certify a class action for their newspaper delivery service cut short. But Plaintiffs’ hopes for a certified class certainly died after a recent order issued by Judge Kays reporting on the numerous ways in which Plaintiffs failed to prove that their class should be certified. Cypress publishes three newspapers, the Kansas City Star, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Belleville News-Democrat, in Missouri, Texas, and Illinois, respectively, and has hundreds of thousands of subscribers.  As part of its newspaper delivery, Cypress would deliver premium editions for holidays, special events, or elections.  As the name premium denotes, those editions were charged at a higher rate.  For some subscribers, Cypress would charge for the premium addition by shortening the subscriber’s…

When movies, politics, the TCPA, and Article III standing come together, the results are magic.  This happened recently in Golan v. Veritas Entertainment, LLC, et al, in which the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals told us some things about the TCPA and Article III standing, and Mike Huckabee told us about a very special movie.  Ron and Dorit Golan were enjoying a peaceful evening at home when they received the following mysterious message on their answering machine (yes, some people still have answering machines, apparently): "Liberty.  This is a public survey call.  We may call back later."  The Golans, who were on the no-call list, did what any of us would do: they hired legal counsel, sued, and tried to certify a TCPA class. By way of background, the mysterious patriot on the other end of the line was Governor Mike Huckabee, who had been hired as a "celebrity" voice…

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