Category Archives United States Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court today ended the controversial tactic of self-inflicted finality, wherein a class action plaintiff that has been denied certification and denied 23f review creates its own “final judgment” by voluntarily dismissing its own case, while reserving the right to appeal the denial of class certification. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-457_6j37.pdf In Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, the Supreme held that this gambit violates the carefully-calibrated principle of finality set out in the federal statutory review structure, composed of 28 U.S.C. 1291 (review of final decisions), 1292(b) (interlocutory review), and Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f) (review of class certification decisions):   “We hold that the voluntary dismissal essayed by respondents does not qualify as a ‘final decision’ within the compass of 1291.  The tactic would undermine S 1291’s firm finality principle, designed to guard against piecemeal appeals, and subvert the balanced solution Rule 23(f) put in place for immediate review of class…

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;…

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…

Following its grant of certiorari in Spokeo v. Robbins earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court has granted cert in yet another class action for the upcoming Fall Term that may have wide-ranging implications in the class action arena, particularly the wage-and-hour litigation. In Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, the Eighth Circuit recently affirmed the district court's decision to certify a class of hourly employees at a Tyson meat-processing facility in Iowa.  The plaintiffs alleged Tyson failed to provide FLSA overtime compensation for donning and doffing (putting on and taking off) protective gear before their shift formally started.  Although Tyson argued that there were significant factual differences between the workers in the putative class, the district court certified the case based on the plaintiffs' proposed statistical analysis calculating the “average” time spent donning and doffing the protective equipment, notwithstanding any employee’s actual individualized and personal circumstances.  The case was tried, ultimately resulting in a…

In a development that could have huge class action implications not only for Missouri and Kansas, but also the rest of the nation, the United States Supreme Court on April 27, 2015 granted certiorari review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Spokeo v. Robins, 742 F.3d 409 (9th Cir. 2014).  This case raises the critical issue of whether the mere violation of a federal statute can supply Article III standing to an unharmed private litigant seeking only statutory (not actual) damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – or any of a host of other federal statutes like it. By way of background, we all know that in order to maintain Article III standing in federal court, the plaintiff must show: 1) injury in fact, ie injury in fact that is both concrete and particularized and actual and imminent, as opposed to conjectural or hypothetical; 2) causation, ie the…

The United States Supreme Court held on Monday that a defendant seeking removal under CAFA need only allege the jurisdictional amount in its notice of removal.  Gone are the days when a defendant must quickly muster an affidavit or other evidence to include in a notice of removal to prove the jurisdictional amount-in-controversy under CAFA. This case began when the District of Kansas remanded back to state court a class action concerning allegedly deficient royalty payments.  See Owens v. Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., No. 12-4157, 2013 WL 2237740 (D. Kan. May 21, 2013).  (We covered the history of this case here and here).  In Dart’s removal papers, it stated that the three requirements of CAFA had been met, and more specifically with regard to the amount-in-controversy, Dart stated the putative class members’ claims totaled more than $8.2 million.  Owens moved to remand the case to state court, asserting that…

Happy belated New Year everyone.  We had a great first year here at the Missouri Kansas Class Action Blog and look to continue the trend into 2014.  Let's start off the new year with a look at a recent Supreme Court opinion involving the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA).  Although the 2012-13 term produced some important class action jurisprudence from the nation's highest court (which we wrote about here and here), the Supreme Court's decision in Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp., No. 12-1036 (U.S. Jan. 14, 2014) will probably not affect most practitioners; it is, however, blog-worthy because the Court resolved a circuit split on the issue and arguably narrows the reach of the statute based on the its plain meaning. In the case, the Mississippi attorney general filed a parens patriae action in state court against several liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturers for violating state antitrust and consumer protection…

This is a follow-up from our earlier post discussing the Supreme Court's decision to hear the appeal in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk and our prediction that the Court's decision could impact the viability of future FLSA litigation.  Well, as it turns out, we could not have been more wrong.  In an extremely narrow 5-4 decision, the Court refused to decide whether the unaccepted Rule 68 offer of judgment actually rendered Ms. Symcyzk's individual FLSA claim moot, instead assuming that the claim was moot because she conceded the issue in the courts below and subsequently waived the argument on appeal.  No. 11-1059, ___ S. Ct. ___, 2013 WL 1567370 (April 16, 2013). Because the Court "assumed, without deciding" that the plaintiff's individual claim was moot, the larger question left to resolve was whether the lawsuit could remain viable based on the FLSA collective action allegations. The Court held that it did not because "the…

In another closely-watched case, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Comcast v. Behrend, and reversed certification of a Rule 23(b)(3) antitrust class based on the lower courts' refusal to scrutinize the plaintiffs’ expert proposed damage model because doing so would require an inquiry into the merits.  In a 5-4 decision that split largely among ideological lines, the Court re-emphasized its earlier decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes that courts must conduct a "rigorous analysis" of plaintiffs' damages theories even if that analysis involves an inquiry into overlapping merits issues.  More importantly, the decision potentially undermines the long-standing rule that individualized determinations of damages are not an obstacle to class certification. In Comcast, the Supreme Court reversed a Third Circuit decision upholding class certification in an antitrust action brought on behalf of more than 2 million current and former Comcast cable-television subscribers, claiming the cable company used an anti-competitive “clustering strategy” that drove…

When we first discussed Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles, No. 11-1450, 568 U.S. -- (Mar. 19, 2013), we noted that a ruling in favor of Defendants could mean an end to the traditional rule that a plaintiff is the “Master” of his or her own complaint, by foisting upon a party imputed damages that may have not been alleged in the case for strategic reasons.   And while the Court recognized that an individual plaintiff may avoid litigating in federal court by stipulating to an amount in controversy below the federal jurisdiction requirement, the Court unanimously held  that the same is not true for a plaintiff seeking to represent a proposed class: "Our reason is a simple one: Stipulations must be binding…. [a] plaintiff who files a proposed class action, cannot legally bind members of the proposed class before the class is certified." Slip op. at 4.   Even though this…

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