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

Articles Posted in Class Action
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When a class representative voluntarily settles only his individual claims without indicating any financial stake in the unresolved class claims, the class claims are rendered moot. The Ninth Circuit dismissed as moot plaintiff's appeal from the district court's judgment in a putative class action after voluntary settlement of individual claims. The panel could not assume that plaintiff maintains a financial stake in the outcome of this case merely because of a potential enhancement award. In this case, while plaintiff expressly did not resolve the class claims, he did not retain a financial stake in them. The panel concluded that, absent proof that plaintiff is legally obligated to pay the advanced legal costs unless the class is certified, those costs do not provide him a financial stake in the outcome of the class claims. View "Brady v. AutoZone Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's award of attorneys' fees and litigation expenses to class counsel, following approval of two rounds of settlements in consumer class action litigation. The litigation stemmed from claims of civil antitrust violations based on price-fixing within the optical disk drive industry. The panel held that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. In a separately filed memorandum disposition, the panel affirmed the district court's approval of the first- and second-round settlements. Here, the panel vacated the awards of fees and litigation expenses, holding that when class counsel secures appointment as interim lead counsel by proposing a fee structure in a competitive bidding process, that bid becomes the starting point for determining a reasonable fee. The district court may adjust fees upward or downward depending on circumstances not contemplated at the time of the bid, but the district court must provide an adequate explanation for any variance. In this case, class counsel argues that an upward departure from its bid was warranted in part because it did not anticipate the need to litigate a second class certification motion or interlocutory appeals. Without more, the panel held that these factors are insufficient to justify a variance of the magnitude approved in the first- and second-round fee awards. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a more complete explanation of the district court's reasoning. View "Indirect Purchaser Class v. Panasonic Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order remanding a putative class action to state court after it was removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Plaintiff, a former West Marine employee, originally filed the wage and hour action on behalf of herself and other similarly situated current and former West Marine employees in state court. Invoking the discretionary home state controversy exception to CAFA jurisdiction, the panel remanded to state court. The panel held that the district court reasonably inferred from the facts in evidence that it was more likely than not that more than one-third of class members were California citizens; a district court may raise sua sponte an exception to CAFA jurisdiction; and the district court provided the parties with an adequate opportunity to address whether the exception applied. The district court considered the six factors to determine whether the home state exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied and the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that remand was appropriate. View "Adams v. West Marine Products, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order excluding plaintiff's expert opinion, and denying class certification in a design defect case concerning 2003–2008 Honda Pilot vehicles. Plaintiff's expert opined that the window regulators were not sufficiently durable when exposed to vibrations at certain frequencies. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding plaintiff's expert opinion under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); the district court properly held that the expert's opinion was unreliable due to his failure to utilize a workable standard supporting his design defect theory, the lack of supporting studies or testing to demonstrate a common design defect, and deficiencies in the expert's methodology; and, in the absence of the report, plaintiffs failed to demonstrate commonality, as the remaining evidence consisted solely of highly individualized complaints. View "Grodzitsky v. American Honda Motor Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Plaintiffs filed a class action against LSW, a life insurance company, alleging that it violated California law concerning policy investment information. Plaintiffs argued that LSW's illustrations of potential earnings violate California's Unfair Competition Law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's class certification order, holding that any misapplication of Briseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., 844 F.3d 1121, 1133 (9th Cir. 2017), did not meaningfully influence the district court's predominance analysis. Furthermore, the panel held that there was no separate error related to the class definition. The panel also held that plaintiffs' attempted appeals of the district court's certification and reconsideration orders are untimely and procedurally improper. Therefore, the panel did not reach the merits of plaintiffs' arguments regarding the certification decision. Finally, the panel denied plaintiffs' motion to take judicial notice of the petition to appeal and the insurer's answer. View "Walker v. Life Insurance Company of the Southwest" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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An objecting class member appealed from the district court's approval of a settlement between Facebook and a nationwide class of its users who alleged that Facebook routinely captured, read, and used website links included in users' private messages without their consent, and that these practices violated federal and California privacy laws. The district court found that the settlement was fair and approved it, granting in full class counsel's request for fees and costs. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court had Article III jurisdiction to approve the settlement and that this panel had jurisdiction to evaluate the fairness of the settlement. In this case, plaintiffs identified a concrete injury that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act protect; plaintiffs established standing to seek injunctive relief; and post-filing developments did not moot this case. The panel rejected the merits of objector's contentions that the district court abused its discretion by approving the settlement. The panel rejected the argument that the settlement was invalid under Koby v. ARS National Services, Inc., 846 F.3d 1071, 1081 (9th Cir. 2017). Rather, the panel held that, given how little the class could have expected to obtain if it had pursued claims further based on the facts alleged here (and, correspondingly, how little it gave up in the release), it was not unreasonable that the settlement gave the class something of modest value. The panel rejected objector's argument that the settlement was invalid under In re Bluetooth Headset Products Liability Litigation, 654 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2010), and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that none of the warning signs weighed against approval of the settlement. View "Campbell v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals arose from a class action brought by prisoners in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) against senior ADC officials, challenging ADC's provision of healthcare. At issue on appeal are eleven district court orders imposing contempt sanctions, awarding attorneys' fees to plaintiffs, appointing expert witnesses, and otherwise enforcing the settlement agreement between the parties. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Contempt Order, the Termination Order, and the HNR-Box Order. The panel vacated the Attorneys' Fees Order and Judgment, remanding with instructions to (a) recalculate the fee award by determining the correct hourly rates for each year, (b) exclude from any fee award the 11 hours erroneously included; (c) modify the costs award down by $1,285.79 in light of the district court's failure to reflect the downward adjustments in its prior order; and (d) reweigh whether a fee enhancement was appropriate without double-counting the Kerr factors. The panel dismissed the remainder of the Medical Needs Appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Parsons v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's approval of a settlement notice process and a class action settlement, negotiated without a certified class, in a case arising out of a dispute under federal and California labor law regarding whether exotic dancers working at various nightclubs in San Francisco were misclassified as independent contractors rather than being treated as employees. The panel held that the settlement notice did not meet Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23's "best notice that is practicable under the circumstances" standard. The panel also held that the district court abused its discretion in approving the settlement, because the district court applied an incorrect legal standard and failed to employ the heightened scrutiny required to meet the strict procedural burden the panel imposed for assessing class settlements negotiated prior to class certification. The panel also reversed the district court's award of attorneys' fees, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Murphy v. SFBSC Management" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenged the district court's attorneys' fee award, arguing that the entire award was arbitrary because the district court did not adequately explain its decision to cut the number of hours expended by class counsel by 25%. The underlying class action was brought by plaintiff on behalf of a nationwide class of consumers, alleging that defendants marketed James Bond DVD and Blu-ray sets as containing all the Bonds films, when in fact they failed to include two movies. The parties settled and the settlement agreement included defendants' agreement to pay attorneys' fees and cost. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the attorneys' fee award, holding that the district court's order, when read in its entirety, explained the lodestar calculation it conducted and its application of the percentage-of-recovery analysis as a cross-check for reasonableness. Therefore, the panel found that the district court adequately explained its reasoning and did not abuse its discretion. View "Johnson v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification in an action challenging the procedures that the City and WSDOT uses to remove unauthorized encampments, camping equipment, and personal property left on city-owned property. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants engaged in a practice of "sweeps" that destroyed property, and violated the unreasonable seizure and due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The panel held that plaintiffs failed to proffer sufficient evidence and articulate a practice that was common to the claims of the proposed class in their motion for class certification. In this case, there was no evidence that every plaintiff has experienced the same challenged practice or suffered the same injury due to the implementation of the guidelines at issue. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that an alleged practice affecting each of the plaintiffs was not discernible from the record and denying certification. View "Willis v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action