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Posts Tagged ‘no injury’

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be chairing the Fourth Annual ABA Regional CLE Program on Class Actions and Mass Torts, to be held on June 16, 2017 at the offices of the Bar Association of San Francisco.  This year’s program features four presentations on hot topics in class action and mass tort litigation from an expert group of practitioners, academics, in-house counsel, and judges.  See below for summaries of the four presentations, and click the link below to see the full brochure and to register.  Hope to see you there!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Discovery Following the 2015 Federal Rules Amendments: What Does Proportionality Mean in the Class Action and Mass Tort Contexts?

It’s been about a year and a half since the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure went into effect, including amendments relating to proportionality governing both the scope discovery under Rule 26(b)(1) and preservation of potentially relevant ESI. But have the new rules changed the discovery available and relative obligations in class actions, mass torts, and other complex matters? This panel will review the purposes underlying the 2015 Amendments and how the law has been developing so far, and it will offer insights into best practices in expanding or limiting discovery in the class action and mass tort contexts.

Killer Class Actions or Endangered Species?

The United States Supreme Court has in recent years addressed an unprecedented number of issues related to class actions, ranging from “no injury” class actions to “trial by formula.” The panel of experienced class action practitioners will discuss the changing class action landscape and the potential lasting impact.

The Use of Expert Evidence in Class Actions: Effective Strategies and Pitfalls

The importance of expert testimony in class actions continues to increase, for example in connection with measuring class wide effects and satisfying class certification gate-keeping threshold questions. Topics to be discussed include 1) use of surveys in consumer class actions, when they are effective and how they can influence a case; 2) what can be learned from rare successful challenges about the utility of Daubert challenges in class action cases; 3) the challenges associated with the increasing technical requirements for class certification and implications of the importance of expert evidence on cases; 4) lessons learned and experience working with experts in class action matters.

Big Brother, Information Privacy, and Class Actions: How Big Data and Social Media are Changing the Class Action Landscape

Almost everyone has a smart phone these days, even your grandparents have social media accounts, and the amount of personal information that is generated about the average consumer on a daily basis is astronomical and growing exponentially. This panel will explore ways in which the emergence of big data and social media are impacting consumer class actions. Topics to be discussed include 1) consumer class actions that may arise from companies’ collection, use, or transfer of large amounts of consumer data; 2) changing attitudes on privacy of consumer data in the age of social media; and 3) the benefits and pitfalls of using social media and internet advertising in class action notice programs.

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The October 2015 United States Supreme Court Term is already well underway, and there are several cases on the docket that could have a significant impact on class action practice.  Here is a summary of the three cases this term that I think could have the biggest impact on class action practice going forward:

Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, No. 14-857

The Campbell-Ewald case addresses the tactic known as “picking-off” named plaintiffs in class actions, and deals with the question whether an offer of judgment that would provide a named plaintiff complete relief is sufficient to moot the plaintiffs’ claim, even if it is not accepted.  The case follows the Court’s 2013 decision in Genesis Healthcare v. Symczyk, where the majority opinion assumed, without deciding, that an offer of judgment had mooted the named plaintiffs’ claim in an FLSA collective action, based on a finding that the issue had been waived below.

Oral argument in Campbell-Ewald was held in October.  Justices Alito, Scalia, and Chief Justice Roberts all displayed open hostility to the plaintiffs’ position that she should be allowed to litigate the case even after the defendant had offered everything she hoped to achieve for herself in the case.  Despite these views, however, it remains to be seen whether a majority of the court will ultimately hold that any unaccepted offer of settlement is sufficient to actually moot the plaintiffs’ claim under Article III, or whether the decision will fall short of reaching that sweeping question.  Some of the questions posed by likely swing voter, Justice Kennedy, suggest that he agrees with his conservative colleagues that a litigant who has been offered full relief should not be permitted to proceed with the case, but other questions reflected a reluctance to treat an unaccepted offer the same as a judgment.  This suggests that the Court’s ultimate decision could turn on a more technical procedural analysis rather than the broader and more abstract question of whether a controversy can ever exist following an offer of full relief, but of course the questions posed during oral argument do not always signal the Court’s ultimate analysis.

When the Supreme Court originally granted cert in Campbell-Ewald, there appeared to be a split in the circuits on this question, but since then, the circuits have become aligned with the view that an unaccepted offer in a proposed class action does not moot the named plaintiffs’ claims.  A contrary ruling by the Supreme Court would revive a powerful tool that defendants could wield to effectively preempt many types of consumer class actions, especially those seeking statutory damages for small individual amounts.

Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, No. 13-1339

Spokeo has been hailed as a case with the potential to end “no-injury” class actions.  Ostensibly at issue is whether Congress has the power to enact legislation that gives a private plaintiff the right to seek statutory damages despite the lack of any concrete injury.  A decision could therefore potentially have a significant impact on class actions brought under a variety of federal statutes that provide a private right of action to recover statutory damages upon proof of a violation, one that goes beyond the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the statute at issue in Spokeo.

However, during today’s oral argument, much of the questioning focused on whether the named plaintiff had, in fact, suffered an injury by alleging that false information had been published on his credit report, and the extent to which Congress actually intended to limit the private right of action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to persons who could show an actual injury.  It seems likely that the outcome of the case will turn on the majority’s view of those two factors.

Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146

Tyson Foods offers the Court an opportunity to further elaborate on the concept of “trial by formula”, discussed in Justice Scalia’s 2011 opinion in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, as well as the standards governing expert testimony at the class certification phase, which the Court touched upon but did not  ultimately address directly in both Wal-Mart and again in the 2013 decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend.  It also raises the question whether it is ever proper to certify a damages class that includes individual plaintiffs that undisputedly lack any injury or damages.

Specifically, the Court granted certiorari on the following two questions:

I. Whether differences among individual class members may be ignored and a class action certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), or a collective action certified under the Fair Labor Standards Act, where liability and damages will be determined with statistical techniques that presume all class members are identical to the average observed in a sample; and

II. Whether a class action may be certified or maintained under Rule 23(b)(3), or a collective action certified or maintained under the Fair Labor Standards Act, when the class contains hundreds of members who were not injured and have no legal right to any damages.

Oral argument in Tyson Foods is set for next Monday, November 10.

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