About

Pierce Atwood is pleased to present this class action blog with a focus on decisions of the state and federal courts within the boundaries of the First Circuit. With decades of national class action experience and offices in every First Circuit state, our goal is to serve as a primary resource for companies that face class litigation in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, as well as to provide timely information about significant class action developments, strategies and trends on a national level.

District of New Hampshire Denies Remand Under CAFA’s Local Controversy Exception

On November 30th, in Brown v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., United States District Judge Joseph Laplante of the District of New Hampshire denied plaintiffs’ motion to remand two related class action lawsuits based on allegations that defendants had caused a release of toxic chemicals from a manufacturing plant that contaminated nearby wells and water supplies.  One lawsuit was brought on behalf of a putative class of current owners of residential properties with private groundwater wells within two miles of the manufacturing site, and sought damages for the alleged diminished values of their properties. The other lawsuit was brought on behalf of a putative class of current and former residents of such properties, and sought to recover the costs of medical monitoring. The defendants are the company that owns the plant and the individual plant manager. They removed the case to federal court under CAFA, and plaintiffs moved to remand, citing CAFA’s local controversy exception.

The local controversy exception requires district courts to decline

First Circuit Affirms Tough Standard for Alleging Securities Fraud; Revives One Claim Against Local Drug Maker

Authors:

On November 28, 2016, the First Circuit upheld the dismissal of all but one of the class action securities fraud claims against Cambridge, MA drug company, ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc., reaffirming the exacting pleading standards that enable defendants to put an early end to reflexive stock-drop lawsuits.  In doing so, the First Circuit also adopted strict requirements for asserting claims that defendants misled investors in a common stock offering.

In In re ARIAD Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Securities Litigation, shareholder plaintiffs appealed the District of Massachusetts’ dismissal of the federal securities fraud claims against ARIAD based on optimistic statements the company’s executives made about the prospects of ARIAD’s experimental leukemia drug, ponatinib, which ultimately did not fare so well in FDA trials.  The First Circuit largely affirmed the district court’s dismissal, holding that the complaint failed to raise a compelling inference that the company’s executives acted with scienter—or intent to defraud.  The appellate court did, however, revive a claim related to “one particular alleged

In a Groundbreaking Decision, Third Circuit Provides Framework for Evaluating Numerosity

Practice area:

One of the least disputed elements of class certification is Rule 23(a)(1) numerosity, and so there is relatively little analysis from the courts about it. Last month, however, a divided panel of the Third Circuit provided a detailed analysis of the purposes of numerosity and the factors that district courts should employ in making numerosity determinations. In doing so, the court has broken new ground, and its decision will likely be cited by other courts and parties for years to come.

Plaintiffs in In re: Modafinil Antitrust Litigation, No. 15-3475, 2016 WL 4757793 (3d Cir. Sept. 13, 2016) were direct wholesale purchasers of Provigil, a wakefulness-promoting agent used to treat narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.  Defendant Cephalon owned the patent for modafinil and had FDA approval for the branded version.  Plaintiffs alleged an antitrust conspiracy between Cephalon and the four generic modafinil manufacturers for entering into reverse-payment settlements.  Plaintiffs also brought a monopoly claim against Cephalon.

The district court

Bellerman v. Fitchburg Gas & Electric Light Co. – Lack of Injury in Massachusetts Consumer Claims

Practice area:
Industries:

In 2014, we posted about the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Bellermann v. Fitchburg Gas & Electric Light Co.  In that case, plaintiffs sought relief under the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, G.L. c. 93A, because of the defendant utility’s alleged failure properly to prepare and plan for a major winter storm, and its allegedly deceptive communications made to consumers before and during the storm.  The SJC affirmed the trial court’s denial of class certification because plaintiffs could not establish that defendant’s conduct caused similar injury to consumers on a class-wide basis.

On remand, plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for class certification relying on a different liability theory – that they had suffered economic injury by overpaying for a level of emergency preparedness, required by Department of Public Utility regulations, which the defendant allegedly failed to provide.  This time a different trial court judge certified two classes under this diminution-in-value theory (a business customers class and a residential customers class), but

District of Massachusetts Grapples with Campbell-Ewald’s Unanswered Questions

Practice area:

Chief Judge Saris and Judge Sorokin of the District of Massachusetts recently tackled questions left unanswered by the Supreme Court’s opinion earlier this year in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S. Ct. 663 (2016) (see Don Frederico’s prior post for a full discussion of Campbell-Ewald).

In South Orange Chiropractic Center, LLC v. Cayan LLC, 2016 WL 1441791, No. 15-13069 (D. Mass. April 12, 2016), the defendant, seeking to slip through the door left ajar by Campbell-Ewald, sought to deposit $7,500 with the court, providing the named plaintiff in a putative Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action with full relief. In addition, the defendant agreed to have judgment entered against it for allegedly sending plaintiff an unsolicited fax in violation of the TCPA, to pay for costs, to be enjoined from future conduct as to plaintiff or others, and to preserve evidence, and presented the plaintiff with a stand-alone settlement agreement,

Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins and the No-Injury Class Action

Practice area:

Class action practitioners have been closely watching Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a case before the Supreme Court on appeal from the Ninth Circuit.  Spokeo presented the Court with the opportunity to decide whether a plaintiff may maintain a class action absent any injury other than the violation of a statutory right.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Publishes Proposed Rule Precluding Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Clauses

Practice area:

The CFPB today released a proposed rule that would ban consumer financial services providers such as banks, credit card issuers, and small-dollar lenders from using mandatory arbitration clauses to prohibit consumers from filing or joining class actions against them. Please click here for further analysis and potential impacts of the proposed rule.

Pazol v. Tough Mudder, Inc.: Muddying the waters on proof of jurisdictional facts under CAFA?

Practice area:

The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) was intended to make it easier for defendants to remove class action lawsuits from state court to federal court.  For example, CAFA introduced the concept of minimal as opposed to complete diversity, and waived the absolute one year deadline normally applicable to removal petitions as well as the requirement that all defendants join the petition.  It remains the removing defendant’s burden…

First Circuit Denies Review in Building Products Case

Practice area:
Industries:

On October 2, 2015, we posted about the District of Massachusetts’ denial of class certification in a case in which we represent a building products company that sold allegedly defective decking.  We’re pleased to report that yesterday the First Circuit denied Plaintiffs’ petition for review of the class certification denial under Rule 23(f). 

The Supreme Court’s Vindication of The In re Nexium Dissent

Uncategorized
Practice area:

We have commented previously on several aspects of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Tyson Foods.  One additional important aspect that deserves special attention in the First Circuit is the issue of how to cull uninjured class members prior to judgment, an issue a divided panel of the First Circuit addressed in In re Nexium last year.