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

Articles Posted in Class Action
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The case involves Nicholas DeFries, a former conductor for Union Pacific Railroad Company, who was removed from his duties after failing color-vision testing. Prior to DeFries' removal, a class action lawsuit had been filed against Union Pacific by a group of employees, alleging that the company's fitness-for-duty program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DeFries qualified as a member of this class, but the class was later narrowed and then decertified by the Eighth Circuit. DeFries subsequently filed an individual lawsuit in the District of Oregon, raising claims similar to those in the class action.The District of Oregon concluded that the commencement of the class action had tolled the statute of limitations under American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, but that the tolling ended when the class definition was voluntarily narrowed, making DeFries's claim untimely. DeFries appealed this decision.The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court found ambiguity in whether the definition of the certified class included color-vision plaintiffs like DeFries. The court concluded that this ambiguity should be resolved in favor of allowing DeFries to rely on American Pipe tolling. Therefore, DeFries was entitled to tolling as a member of the class until the Eighth Circuit issued the mandate for its decision reversing class certification, making his claim timely. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "DeFries v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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A class of individuals and businesses in Northern California, who paid health insurance premiums to certain health plans, sued Sutter Health, a healthcare system operator in the region. They alleged that Sutter abused its market power to charge supracompetitive rates to these health plans, which were then passed on to the class in the form of higher premiums. The case went to trial on claims under California’s Cartwright Act for tying and unreasonable course of conduct. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Sutter.The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury to consider Sutter’s anticompetitive purpose and by excluding evidence of Sutter’s conduct before 2006. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs. It held that the district court contravened California law by removing “purpose” from the jury instructions, and that the legal error was not harmless. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 in excluding as minimally relevant all evidence of Sutter’s conduct before 2006. The court concluded that these errors were prejudicial and reversed the district court’s judgment, remanding the case for a new trial. View "SIDIBE V. SUTTER HEALTH" on Justia Law

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A group of individuals, including a minor, filed a class action lawsuit against Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. for alleged misrepresentations related to the mobile application Game of Thrones: Conquest (GOTC). The plaintiffs claimed that Warner Bros. engaged in false and misleading advertising within the game. In response, Warner Bros. moved to compel arbitration of all claims based on the GOTC Terms of Service, which users agree to by tapping a “Play” button located on the app’s sign-in screen. The district court denied Warner Bros.' motion, finding that the notice of the Terms of Service was insufficiently conspicuous to bind users to them.The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The lower court had found that Warner Bros. failed to provide reasonably conspicuous notice of its Terms of Service, thus denying the motion to compel arbitration. The district court focused on whether the context of the transaction put the plaintiffs on notice that they were agreeing to the Terms of Service, concluding that the app did not involve a continuing relationship that would require some terms and conditions.The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the district court erred in finding that Warner Bros. failed to provide reasonably conspicuous notice. The court found that the context of the transaction and the placement of the notice were both sufficient to provide reasonably conspicuous notice. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable due to its ban on public injunctive relief. The court concluded that the unenforceability of the waiver of one’s right to seek public injunctive relief did not make either this provision or the arbitration agreement unconscionable or otherwise unenforceable. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "KEEBAUGH V. WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC." on Justia Law

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The case involves a consumer class action against Nutramax Laboratories, Inc. and Nutramax Laboratories Veterinary Sciences, Inc. (collectively, “Nutramax”), alleging that Nutramax violated the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act by falsely marketing its pet health product, Cosequin, as promoting healthy joints in dogs. The plaintiffs, Justin Lytle and Christine Musthaler, claimed that Cosequin provided no such health benefits. The district court certified a class of California purchasers of certain Cosequin products who were exposed to the allegedly misleading statements.The district court had certified the class based on the proposed damages model of Plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Jean-Pierre Dubé, to find that common questions predominated as to injury. Nutramax appealed, arguing that the district court erred in relying on an unexecuted damages model to certify the class and that the element of reliance was not susceptible to common proof.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. The appellate court held that there was no general requirement that an expert actually apply to the proposed class an otherwise reliable damages model in order to demonstrate that damages are susceptible to common proof at the class certification stage. The court also rejected Nutramax’s contention that the district court incorrectly concluded that the element of reliance was susceptible to common proof. The district court properly found that classwide reliance may be established under the CLRA through proof that a misrepresentation is material. View "LYTLE V. NUTRAMAX LABORATORIES, INC." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Ryan S., filed a class action lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries (collectively, “UnitedHealthcare”) under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). He alleged that UnitedHealthcare applies a more stringent review process to benefits claims for outpatient, out-of-network mental health and substance use disorder (“MH/SUD”) treatment than to otherwise comparable medical/surgical treatment. Ryan S. asserted that by doing so, UnitedHealthcare violated the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“Parity Act”), breached its fiduciary duty, and violated the terms of his plan.The district court granted UnitedHealthcare’s motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) based primarily on its conclusions that Ryan S. failed to allege that his claims had been “categorically” denied and insufficiently identified analogous medical/surgical claims that he had personally submitted and UnitedHealthcare had processed more favorably.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part the district court’s judgment. The panel concluded that Ryan S. adequately stated a claim for a violation of the Parity Act. The panel explained that an ERISA plan can violate the Parity Act in different ways, including by applying, as Ryan S. alleged here, a more stringent internal process to MH/SUD claims than to medical/surgical claims. The panel also concluded that Ryan S. alleged a breach of fiduciary duty. However, as Ryan S. failed to identify any specific plan terms that the alleged practices would violate, the panel affirmed the dismissal of his claims based on a violation of the terms of his plan. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ryan S. v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involved a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly known as Facebook) by a class of advertisers who claimed that Meta misrepresented the "Potential Reach" of advertisements on its platforms. The plaintiffs alleged that Meta falsely claimed that Potential Reach was an estimate of people, when in fact, it was an estimate of accounts.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order certifying one class of advertisers (the damages class) who sought compensation for fraudulent misrepresentation and concealment. The court stated that the misrepresentation was a common issue for the class and that the district court properly determined that the element of justifiable reliance was capable of classwide resolution.However, the court vacated the district court's order certifying another class of advertisers (the injunction class) who sought injunctive relief. The court asked the lower court to reconsider whether the named plaintiff, Cain Maxwell, had Article III standing to seek an injunction. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "DZ Reserve v. Meta Platforms, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case at hand involves a putative class action brought against RAC Acceptance East, LLC, by Shannon McBurnie and April Spruell. The plaintiffs argue that two fees imposed by RAC, operators of retail stores that lease household and electronic items through rent-to-own contracts, violated California consumer protection laws. RAC sought to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration agreement with the plaintiffs. The district court denied RAC's motion, and RAC appealed the decision.RAC argued that a recent Supreme Court decision, Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, implicitly abrogated a prior Ninth Circuit decision, Blair v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., which held that RAC's arbitration agreement was unenforceable under California law. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, stating that Viking River was not irreconcilable with Blair, and that Viking River dealt with different claims from those at issue in this case. Therefore, Blair remained binding.RAC also argued that the plaintiffs' claim for public injunctive relief was mooted by a Consent Decree it entered into with the California Attorney General. The court disagreed, stating that the Consent Decree did not address whether the $45 processing fee in this case violates the law, and therefore, the challenge to the fee was not moot.However, RAC contended that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge a $1.99 expedited payment fee because Spruell did not actually pay the fee. The court remanded this issue to the district court for further consideration. As a result, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of RAC's motion to compel arbitration in part and remanded the case for further proceedings on the issue of the standing of the plaintiffs to challenge the $1.99 expedited payment fee. View "McBurnie v. RAC Acceptance East, LLC" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Adan Ortiz, worked for two companies, GXO Logistics Supply Chain, Inc., and Randstad Inhouse Services, LLC, both of which were his former employers. Ortiz's role involved handling goods in a California warehouse facility operated by GXO. The goods, primarily Adidas products, were received from mostly international locations and stored at the warehouse for several days to a few weeks before being shipped to customers and retailers in various states.Ortiz filed a class action lawsuit against his former employers alleging various violations of California labor law. The defendants moved to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement in Ortiz's employment contract. Ortiz opposed this on the grounds that the agreement could not be enforced under federal or state law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part the district court's order denying the appellants' motion to compel arbitration. It concluded that Ortiz belonged to a class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce and was therefore exempted from the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The court reasoned that although Ortiz's duties were performed entirely within one state's borders, his role facilitated the continued travel of goods through an interstate supply chain, making him a necessary part of the flow of goods in interstate commerce. The court also rejected the argument that an employee must necessarily be employed by a transportation industry company to qualify for the transportation worker exemption. View "ORTIZ V. RANDSTAD INHOUSE SERVICES, LLC" on Justia Law

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A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law

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The case concerned a lawsuit brought by Ariana Miles against her former employer, Kirkland's Stores Inc., alleging that two of the company's employee policies violated California law. The first policy required employees to take rest breaks on store property, while the second necessitated employees to undergo bag checks when they finished their shifts. Miles sought class certification for subclasses of employees affected by these two policies from May 2014 to the present. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of class certification for subclasses related to the Rest Break Claim due to the inaccuracy of the district court's finding that the rest break policy was inconsistently applied. The court held that overwhelming record evidence indicated that the company consistently enforced its rest break policy across all employees. However, the court upheld the district court's denial of class certification for the Bag Check Claim, as the evidence suggested that the bag check policy was sporadically enforced, which would require individualized inquiries. The case was thus remanded for further proceedings concerning the Rest Break Claim. View "MILES V. KIRKLAND'S STORES, INC." on Justia Law