Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Plaintiff filed a class action against air conditioner manufacturer Carrier Corporation alleging that his air conditioner was defective, asserting state law claims and a federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act ("MMWA") claim. The court reasoned that although the MMWA is a federal statute, federal courts do not have jurisdiction over an MMWA claim if the amount in controversy is less than $50,000. At issue is whether attorneys’ fees count toward the MMWA’s amount in controversy requirement.The panel held that attorneys’ fees are not “costs” within the meaning of MMWA, and therefore they may be included in the amount in controversy if they are available to prevail plaintiffs pursuant to state fee-shifting statutes.The panel next considered whether Plaintiff could include attorneys’ fees toward the MMWA’s $50,000 jurisdictional threshold. Plaintiff’s MMWA claim was premised on Carrier’s alleged breach of express and implied warranties pursuant to Michigan law. Neither of these statutes grants a prevailing plaintiff attorneys’ fees. The court found that even if this claim was included in his lawsuit, the Act makes clear that attorneys’ fees are not available in a class action. Thus, because Plaintiff brought this claim as part of a putative class action, he is not entitled to attorneys’ fees under state law. View "NICHOLAS SHONER V. CARRIER CORPORATION" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought Title IX claims for failure to provide equal treatment and benefits, failure to provide equal opportunities to male and female athletes, and retaliation against female athletes when they brought up Title IX compliance to high school administrators. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion for class certification, finding that they failed to meet the numerosity requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a).The Ninth Circuit reversed. Rule 23(a)(1) requires a party seeking class certification to prove that “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” The proposed class of plaintiffs at the time of filing exceeded 300. Additionally, the district court failed to consider the future students who also fell within the class. To satisfy the numerosity element of Rule 23(a) Plaintiffs do not need to show that the joinder of all possible class members is impossible, only that it is impracticable. The court also found Plaintiffs’ other claims met Rule 23(a)’s requirements, remanding the case for the district court to determine whether Plaintiffs satisfied Rule 23(b). View "A. B. V. HAWAII STATE DEPT OF EDUC." on Justia Law

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A putative class action against Roadrunner on behalf of all of Roadrunner’s California current and former hourly workers, alleged violations of California wage and hour laws. Roadrunner removed the case to federal court, invoking the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1711. The district court found that Roadrunner failed to establish the requisite $5 million minimum amount in controversy, and remanded the case to state court.The Ninth Circuit reversed The district court erred in imposing a presumption against CAFA jurisdiction, imposing “an inappropriate demand of certitude from Roadrunner.” Because the plaintiff contested removal, Roadrunner was required to show the amount in controversy by a preponderance of the evidence. Roadrunner offered substantial evidence and identified assumptions to support its valuation of each claim. The district court erred in assigning a $0 value to five claims where it disagreed with Roadrunner’s calculations. Nothing in CAFA or caselaw “compels such a draconian response when the district court disagrees with a single assumption underlying the claim valuation.” The CAFA amount in controversy requirement was met; using the lowest hourly wage rate identified by the court, the minimum wage claim was reasonably valued at $4.5 million, plus the $2.1 million for two claims accepted by the district court. View "Jauregui v. Roadrunner Transportation Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a remand to state court and the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' class action suit alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by Experian. Plaintiffs alleged that the FCRA required Experian to disclose behavioral data from its "ConsumerView" marketing database, "soft inquiries" from third parties and affiliates, the identity of certain parties who procured consumer reports, and the date on which employment data was reported.The panel concluded that the allegations of injury to plaintiffs' informational and privacy interests as recited in the first amended complaint are sufficiently concrete to support Article III standing at this pleading stage. The panel also concluded that none of the information plaintiffs contend Experian failed to include in its section 1681g of the FCRA disclosures is subject to disclosure under section 1681g(a)(1), (3) or (5), considered individually or in combination. View "Tailford v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, whose vehicles had been “totaled,” sued Liberty, an auto insurer, and CCC, alleging that Liberty breached its contracts with its insureds and that both companies violated Washington’s unfair trade practices law and committed civil conspiracy. Liberty’s valuation method uses a report about the value of “comparable vehicles,” provided by CCC. To account for the difference between the average car owned by a private person and the cars for sale at dealerships, CCC reduces a totaled car’s valuation.The district court declined to certify a proposed class because individual questions predominated over common questions and individualized trials were superior to a class action. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Whether Liberty and CCC’s condition adjustment violates the Washington state regulations is a common question but to show liability for breach of contract or unfair trade practices, the plaintiffs must show an injury. Establishing an injury will require an individualized determination for each plaintiff; those individualized determinations predominate over the common questions. A class action here would involve adjudicating issues specific to each class member’s claim, and that would be unmanageable. Individual trials would be a better way to adjudicate those issues. View "Lara v. First National Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and Swift reached a settlement pertaining to class claims alleging violations of California labor law, and claims brought under the California Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), which allows private citizens to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves “and other current or former employees.” Peck and Mares objected to the settlement agreement. The district court gave final approval of the settlement.The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal of the PAGA settlement. Peck may not appeal the PAGA settlement because he was not a party to the underlying PAGA action. Although Peck is a class member of the class action, a PAGA action is distinct from a class action. Objectors to a PAGA settlement are not “parties” to a PAGA suit in the same sense that absent class members are “parties” to a class action. The fact that Peck may ultimately receive a portion of the PAGA settlement did not make him a party. Although Peck has a separately-filed PAGA action, that does not make him a party to this PAGA case.The court vacated the approval of the class action settlement. The district court erred in applying a presumption that the settlement was fair and reasonable, and the product of a non-collusive, arms-length negotiation; the error was not harmless. That erroneous presumption cast a shadow on the entire order. On remand, the district court must make findings in accordance with the applicable heightened standard. View "Peck v. Swift Transportation Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged, in this consolidated class action, that Google illegally collected their Wi-Fi data through its Street View program. After the parties reached a settlement agreement that provided for injunctive relief, cy pres payments to nine Internet privacy advocacy groups, fees for the attorneys, and service awards to class representatives—but no payments to absent class members, David Lowery, one of two objectors to the settlement proposal, appealed the district court's approval of the settlement and grant of attorneys' fees.The Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the settlement, certifying the class, or in its award of attorneys' fees, and it did not commit legal error by rejecting Lowery's First Amendment argument. The panel rejected the suggestion that a district court may not approve a class-action settlement that provides monetary relief only in the form of cy pres payments to third parties; Lowery has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in approving the use of cy pres payments in the settlement; the infeasibility of distributing settlement funds directly to class members does not preclude class certification; and viewing the modest injunctive relief together with the indirect benefits the class members enjoy through the cy pres provision, the panel affirmed the district court’s finding that the settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate.The panel also concluded that the settlement agreement does not compel class members to subsidize third-party speech because any class member who does not wish to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support, can simply opt out of the class. The panel has never held that merely having previously received cy pres funds from a defendant, let alone other defendants in unrelated cases, disqualifies a proposed recipient for all future cases. Furthermore, the panel affirmed cy pres provisions involving much closer relationships between recipients and parties than anything Lowery alleges here. The court further concluded that the district court properly considered all relevant circumstances, including the value to the class members, and concluded that a 25% benchmark was appropriate. Finally, the panel concluded that class counsel and class representatives did not breach their fiduciary duties by entering the settlement. View "Joffe v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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A putative nationwide class of current and former members sued MEF, a membership-based spa-services company, alleging that MEF increased fees in violation of the membership agreement. The parties settled. In exchange for the release of all claims against MEF, class members could submit claims for “vouchers” for MEF products and services. The district court approved the settlement as “fair, reasonable, and adequate” under FRCP 23(e).The Ninth Circuit vacated. If a class action settlement is considered a “coupon” under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) additional restrictions apply to the settlement approval process. The court did not defer to the district court’s determination that the MEF vouchers were not coupons but applied a three-factor test, examining whether settlement benefits require class members “to hand over more of their own money before they can take advantage of” those benefits, whether the credit was valid only for “select products or services,” and how much flexibility the credit provided. The district court also failed to adequately investigate some of the potentially problematic aspects of the relationship between attorneys’ fees and the benefits to the class, which impacted the fairness of the entire settlement, not just attorneys’ fees. The district court did not apply the appropriate enhanced scrutiny; it failed to adequately address the three warning signs of implicit collusion. View "McKinney-Drobnis v. Massage Envy Franchising, LLC" on Justia Law

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The district court certified a nationwide indirect purchaser class in antitrust multidistrict litigation seeking injunctive and monetary relief under sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and California law against Qualcomm. The suit alleged that Qualcomm maintained a monopoly in electronic chips by engaging in a “no-license-no-chips” policy and sold chips only at above-FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) royalty rates; refusing to license its standard-essential patents to rival chip suppliers; and entering into exclusive dealing arrangements with Apple. The plaintiffs, consumers who bought cellphones, alleged that Qualcomm’s monopoly harmed consumers because the amount attributable to an allegedly excessive royalty was passed through the distribution chain to consumers.The Ninth Circuit vacated. The court noted its 2020 holding, FTC v. Qualcomm, that Qualcomm’s modem chip licensing practices did not violate the Sherman Act and that its exclusive dealing agreements with Apple did not substantially foreclose competition. The class was erroneously certified under a faulty choice of law analysis because differences in relevant state laws swamped predominance. California’s choice of law rules precluded the district court’s certification of the nationwide Rule 23(b)(3) class because other states’ laws, beyond California’s Cartwright Act, should apply. As a result, common issues of law did not predominate in the class as certified. View "Stromberg v. Qualcomm, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification in an action alleging minimum wage, overtime, and expense reimbursement claims against Grubhub. Plaintiff contends that he was misclassified as an independent contractor rather than an employee when he worked for Grubhub as a food delivery driver.The panel concluded that the district court properly denied certification to plaintiff's proposed class of delivery drivers in California where all members of plaintiff's putative class—except plaintiff and one other—signed agreements waiving their right to participate in a class action. The panel explained that the district court correctly held plaintiff did not satisfy the requirements in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) because he is neither typical of the class nor an adequate representative, and because the proceedings would be unlikely to generate common answers. The panel rejected Grubhub's claim that California Proposition 22 abated the application of the ABC test to plaintiff's pending class claim. In this case, there is no dispute that plaintiff’s minimum wage and overtime claims are rooted in wage orders. The panel concluded that, because the district court rendered its judgment before the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex Operations W., Inc. v. Superior Court, 416 P.3d 1, 33–40 (Cal. 2018), it had no occasion to apply the ABC test to plaintiff's claims. The panel remanded for the district court to apply the ABC test in the first instance to plaintiff's expense reimbursement claim. View "Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc." on Justia Law