Articles Posted in Class Action

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Defendants created a publicly searchable “Inmate Lookup Tool” into which they uploaded information about thousands of people who had been held or incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility since 1938. Taha filed suit, alleging that the County and Correctional Facility had publicly disseminated information on the internet in violation of the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 9102, about his expunged 1998 arrest and incarceration. The district court granted Taha partial summary judgment on liability before certifying a punitive damages class of individuals about whom incarceration information had been disseminated online. The court then found that the only remaining question of fact was whether defendants had acted willfully in disseminating the information. After the court certified the class, the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed the class certification order, rejecting an argument that the district court erred in granting Taha partial summary judgment on liability before ruling on class certification. The court upheld conclusions that punitive damages can be imposed in a case in which the plaintiff does not recover compensatory damages, that punitive damages can be imposed on government agencies, and that the predominance requirement under FRCP 23(b)(3) was met so that a class could be certified. View "Taha v. County of Bucks" on Justia Law

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Genova manufactures vinyl pipes and rain gutters. It operated a plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Former employees of that plant filed a putative class action, seeking medical monitoring for their alleged exposure to toxic substances. Genova ceased operations at its Hazleton facility in 2012, more than two years before the suit was filed. Plaintiffs claimed to have discovered previously unavailable Material Safety and Data Sheets (MSDSs), revealing that, while working for Genova, they were exposed to carcinogens and other toxic chemicals linked to various diseases or conditions and that Genova violated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazard Communication Standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200, by failing to inform them about the chemicals to which they were exposed and by failing to provide the requisite protective equipment. No members of the putative class have suffered an injury or illness linked to the substances used at Genova’s plant. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as barred by the two-year limitations period. Reasonable minds would not differ in finding that the plaintiffs did not exercise the reasonable diligence required for the discovery rule to toll the statute of limitations. Information concerning the dangers of the chemicals to which they were exposed was widely available for decades before they filed their complaint. View "Blanyar v. Genova Products Inc" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit affirmed the approval of a settlement of an FRCP 23(b)(3) class action arising out of hexavalent chromium contamination in Jersey City, New Jersey. The class action was brought on behalf of property owners in several neighborhoods whose homes were allegedly contaminated by by-products disposed of at chromium chemical manufacturing plants, owned and operated by the predecessors of Honeywell and PPG. Plaintiffs asserted common law tort claims and civil conspiracy claims for depreciation of their property values due to the alleged contamination, but not claims for harm other than economic loss to property value, such as personal injury or medical monitoring claims. The district court certified a settlement-only class as to the claims against Honeywell and approved a $10,017,000 settlement fund, which included an award of costs and attorneys’ fees for plaintiffs’ counsel. Overruling an objection by a member of the Honeywell settlement class, the Third Circuit concluded that the class certification requirements of FRCP 23(a) and (b)(3) are satisfied, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the settlement under FRCP 23(e) and the award of attorneys’ fees under FRCP 23(h). The court remanded for reconsideration of the award of costs under Rule 23(h). View "Halley v. Honeywell International Inc" on Justia Law

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In New Jersey, GTL is the sole provider of telecommunications services that enable inmates to call approved persons outside the prisons. Users can open an account through GTL’s website or through an automated telephone service with an interactive voice-response system. Website users see GTL’s terms of use and must click “Accept” to complete the process. Telephone users receive an audio notice: Please note that your account, and any transactions you complete . . . are governed by the terms of use and the privacy statement posted at www.offenderconnect.com.” Telephone users are not required to indicate their assent to those terms, which contain an arbitration agreement and a class-action waiver. Users have 30 days to opt out of those provisions. The terms state that using the telephone service or clicking “Accept” constitutes acceptance of the terms; users have 30 days to cancel their accounts if they do not agree to the terms. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that GTL’s charges were unconscionable and violated the state Consumer Fraud Act, the Federal Communications Act, and the Takings Clause. GTL argued that the FCC had primary jurisdiction. Plaintiffs withdrew their FCA claims. GTL moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied GTL’s motion with respect to plaintiffs who opened accounts by telephone, finding “neither the knowledge nor intent necessary to provide ‘unqualified acceptance.’” The Third Circuit affirmed. The telephone plaintiffs did not agree to arbitration. View "James v. Global TelLink Corp." on Justia Law

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A packaging error reversed the sequence of Qualitest birth control pills contained within each package, resulting in a less effective dosage. Qualitest executed nationwide recalls reaching 3.2 million packs of pills. Plaintiffs, alleging that they were harmed, filed suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, alleging that similarly-situated plaintiffs are residents of 28 different states “whose claims arise out of a common set of operative facts . . . and which claims have been filed together . . . for purposes of case management on a mass tort basis.” The defendants removed the action to federal court as a “mass action” under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(11). The district court remanded, concluding that CAFA precluded federal jurisdiction because plaintiffs did not propose to try their claims jointly. Cases that are consolidated or coordinated only for pretrial purposes are explicitly exempted from CAFA’s mass action provision. The Third Circuit reversed, finding federal jurisdiction proper under CAFA. The language plaintiffs held out as disclaiming their intent to seek a joint trial was not sufficiently definite to prevent removal. Where more than 100 plaintiffs file a single complaint containing claims involving common questions of law and fact, a proposal for a joint trial will be presumed unless an explicit, unambiguous disclaimer is included. View "Ramirez v. Vintage Pharmaceuticals LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action

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Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield provides health insurance products and services to approximately 3.7 million members. Two laptop computers, containing sensitive personal information about members, were stolen from Horizon. Four plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of themselves and other Horizon customers whose personal information was stored on those laptops, alleging willful and negligent violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, and numerous violations of state law. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of Article III standing. According to the court, none of the plaintiffs had claimed a cognizable injury because, although their personal information had been stolen, none of them had adequately alleged that the information was actually used to their detriment. The Third Circuit vacated. In light of the congressional decision to create a remedy for the unauthorized transfer of personal information, a violation of FCRA gives rise to an injury sufficient for Article III standing purposes. Even without evidence that the plaintiffs’ information was in fact used improperly, the alleged disclosure of their personal information created a de facto injury. View "In re: Horizon Healthcare Inc. Data Breach Litigation" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 2008, PGW, which manufactures auto glass, engaged in reductions in force (RIFs). Individual directors had broad discretion in selecting whom to terminate. PGW did not: train directors, employ written guidelines, conduct disparate-impact analysis, nor document why any particular employee was terminated. Plaintiffs, terminated in a March 2009 RIF, were each over 50 years old. After filing charges with the EEOC, plaintiffs brought an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) collective action, asserting disparate treatment, disparate impact, and retaliation. The district court ruled that ADEA subgroups are cognizable, and conditionally certified a collective action of terminated employees who were at least 50 years old. After the case was transferred, another district judge concluded that the action should be decertified because the opt-in plaintiffs’ claims were factually dissimilar from those of the named plaintiffs. The court also excluded: statistical evidence in favor of plaintiffs’ disparate-impact claim; an expert opinion on “reasonable” human-resources RIF practices; and testimony concerning age-related implicit-bias studies. The court granted held that the 50-and-older disparate-impact claim was not cognizable under the ADEA and granted summary judgment as to plaintiffs’ disparate-treatment claims. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The ADEA prohibits disparate impacts based on age, not 40-and-older identity. A rule that disallowed subgroups would ignore genuine statistical disparities that could otherwise be actionable under the plain text of the statute. The court vacated the exclusion of testimony by plaintiffs’ statistics expert and remanded for Daubert proceedings. View "Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2009, two groups of Pennsylvania hospital employees claimed they were not properly compensated for work performed during meal breaks. They sought to bring a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 216(b). The actions were conditionally certified and “opt-in” notices were sent to potential plaintiffs. More than 3,000 individuals joined one collective action and more than 800 opted in to the other. The parties conducted collective action related discovery for nearly two years. Both judges subsequently decertified the collective actions, reasoning that the opt-in plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the named plaintiffs. Their job duties varied significantly; those duties were “highly relevant in terms of how, why and whether the employees were compensated properly for missed or interrupted meal breaks.” More than 300 different individuals supervised the plaintiffs and had individual authority to implement policies. The named plaintiffs successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims with prejudice (FRCP 41(a)). The Third Circuit rejected an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The same law firm then filed new claims against the same defendants, with new named plaintiffs, which were dismissed based on issue preclusion. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that only plaintiffs who had accepted an offer of judgment had been dismissed with prejudice. When the other opt-in plaintiffs were dismissed without prejudice, they did not suffer an adverse judgment on the merits of any claim. View "Halle v. West Penn Allegheny Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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As a result of criminal convictions Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought removal of lawful U.S. permanent residents. Pending removal proceedings, each was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), which provides that if ICE has “reason to believe” that an alien is “deportable” or “inadmissible” by virtue of having committed a specified crime, that alien “shall” be taken into custody when released from detention for that crime, "without regard to whether the alien is released on parole, supervised release, or probation, and without regard to whether the alien may be arrested or imprisoned again for the same offense.” In a purported class action, the district court dismissed in part, holding that section 1226(c) did not violate substantive due process with respect to aliens who assert a substantial challenge to their removability. The court later held that the form giving aliens notice of their right to seek a hearing does not provide constitutionally adequate notice, that the government was required to revise the form, and that procedures for that hearing violate due process by not placing the initial burden on the government. The court then denied a motion to certify the class, stating that certification was “unnecessary” because “all aliens who are subjected to mandatory detention would benefit from the injunctive relief and remedies.” Stating that the district court “put the cart before the horse a,” the Third Circuit vacated. Once petitioners were released from detention, their individual claims became moot so the court retained jurisdiction only to rule on the motion for class certification—not to decide the merits issues. View "Gayle v. Warden Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst." on Justia Law

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Jani-King, the world’s largest commercial cleaning franchisor, classifies its franchisees as independent contractors. Its cleaning contracts are between Jani-King and the customer; the franchisee is not a party, but may elect to provide or not provide services under a contract. Jani-King exercises a significant amount of control over how franchisees operate and controls billing and accounting. Two Jani-King franchisees assert that they are misclassified and should be treated as employees. On behalf of a class of Jani-King franchisees in the Philadelphia area (approximately 300 franchisees), they sought unpaid wages under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), 43 Pa. Stat. 260.1–260.12. The Third Circuit affirmed certification of the class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The misclassification claim can be made on a class-wide basis through common evidence, primarily the franchise agreement and manuals. Under Pennsylvania law, no special treatment is accorded to the franchise relationship. A franchisee may be an employee or an independent contractor depending on the nature of the franchise system controls. View "Williams v. Jani-King of Philadelphia Inc" on Justia Law