Category Archives Judge Laughrey

Since 2006, Robert Bratton regularly purchased 5 oz cardboard boxes of Whoppers and 4 oz cardboard boxes of Reese's Pieces several times a month.  Although Mr. Bratton initially "expected the boxes to be full," he guessed that the 600 or so boxes of Whoppers and Reese's Pieces that he purchased since 2006 contained between 30-40% empty space or "slack-fill."  Mr. Bratton ultimately filed a  putative class-action lawsuit in 2016, alleging that the slack-fill in each box of candy was a violation of the MMPA. For those familiar with the MMPA, it should come as no surprise that Mr. Bratton's knowledge of how much candy and how many empty space was in each box of Whoppers and Reese's Pieces, along with his continued purchases of the candy for over 10 years was fatal to his MMPA claim.  In Bratton v. The Hershey Company, No. 16-cv-4322, 2018 WL 934899 (W.D Mo. Feb. 16, 2018), Judge Laughrey…

In a so-called “slack-fill” case, Judge Laughrey issued an opinion denying Hershey Company’s motion to dismiss a putative class’s MMPA and unjust enrichment claims, which involve allegations that Reese's Pieces and Whoppers candy boxes improperly suggest that they contain more product than they actually do.  According to the opinion, consumers average a whopping 13 seconds making in-store purchasing decisions, further supporting the plaintiff’s contention that consumers attach significant importance to the size of candy boxes, and that he was misled to believe that he was purchasing more product than he actually received. The court rejected Hershey's argument that the MMPA claim was not plausible, reasoning that the MMPA has been interpreted as "cover[ing] every unfair practice imaginable and every unfairness. . . ."  What's more, a "plaintiff need not even allege or prove reliance on an unlawful practice to state a claim under the act."  Judge Laughrey concluded that the plaintiff…

You might have been LED to believe that the Supreme Court has short-circuited the ability of plaintiffs to certify classes under Rule 23 based on the polarizing opinions this term, despite the continued surge of class action filings around the country.  Bad puns aside, there are still classes being certified at the district court level, which may evidence a growing resistance to SCOTUS's strict interpretations of Rule 23 (sorry, couldn't help myself).  For example, in Barfield v. Sho-Me Power Elec. Coop.., No. 11-cv-04321, 2013 WL 3872181 (W.D. Mo. July 25, 2013), Judge Laughrey of the U.S. District Court for the Western District, recently discussed the impact of individual damage inquiries when certifying a class of thousands of Missouri landowners against an electric cooperative for allegedly exceeding the scope of easements granted for power lines. Here, the defendant, a local electric cooperative, had valid easements to transmit electricity over the properties owned by the named…

As part of our analysis, we’ve been looking at how Missouri courts have been interpreting the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Wal Mart v. Dukes, 1341 S. Ct. 2541 (2011).  As you probably recall, Dukes has been lauded as a game-changer by some on the defense side, or dismissed by some as a recapitulation of prior law and the product of a really bad fact pattern by others.   Without getting into too much detail on a subject well-covered in several places, Justice Scalia wrote for the majority in reversing the certification of a massive class of some 1.5 million female current and former Wal Mart employees alleging Title VII discrimination under a disparate impact theory.  At the risk of oversimplifying, the Dukes majority denied certification under b(3) because in the absence of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy, there was no common question, and denied injunctive certification under…

We like to write and talk about Missouri class action law.  Prisons, not so much.  But if there’s a class action decision involving the First Amendment, an inmate-authored publishing company named Caged Potential, and using 23(b)(3) to certify an injunctive-relief-only class, we’re all over it. In Lane v. Lombardi, 2012 WL 5462932 (W.D. Mo. Nov. 8, 2012), a publishing company, Caged Potential, published a novel, So Far From Paradise.  The book was an overnight hit at the Crossroads Correctional Facility, with nine inmates placing orders during the 2011 holiday season.  Caged Potential attempted to send the books to the inmates, but Crossroads had seized the books – pursuant to its censorship policy – and never told Caged Potential that the books were seized.  Trouble in paradise, indeed. Thereafter, Caged Potential sued the Missouri Department of Corrections, claiming that the censorship policy deprives senders of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment…

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