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mconroy

Melanie Conroy

This author Melanie Conroy has created 21 entries.

Supreme Court Dismisses ADA Website Accessibility Class Action for Mootness, Vacates First Circuit Decision

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At the close of 2023, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of petitioner Acheson in Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer as moot and vacated the underlying decision by the First Circuit that Laufer had constitutional standing to bring her ADA claims. The decision came as no surprise following the Justices’ sharp focus on mootness during oral argument in October. Our earlier posts provide coverage of that oral argument and the petition for appeal. At the time of oral argument, it was uncertain whether the Court would rest its decision concerning jurisdiction on mootness or standing. That question has now been resolved.

Laufer’s Unusual Controversy and Procedural History

The Court’s decision rested on the unique procedural posture of the case. Acheson filed its appeal following the First Circuit’s decision that Laufer demonstrated sufficient injury to have Article III standing to pursue her ADA claims against a hotel with alleged accessibility

District of Rhode Island Rules that Class Action Waivers are Not Enforceable Outside of Arbitration

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Earlier this month, in Elsie Metcalfe v. Grieco Hyundai, LLC, the Rhode Island Federal District Court invalidated a class action waiver in an agreement without an arbitration clause that was therefore not subject to the Federal Arbitration Act.

In Metcalfe, Plaintiff Elsie Metcalfe leased a car from Defendant Grieco Hyundai, LLC, in May 2019.  The lease agreement included an option to purchase the vehicle at a specific price at the end of the lease.  When the Defendant raised the price, Ms. Metcalfe brought a class action for breach of contract and violation of the Rhode Island Deceptive Trade Practices Act, among other claims.  The Defendant moved to dismiss based on a provision in the lease agreement that waived the lessor’s right to bring or join a class action related to the lease.

Class Action Waivers Held to Violate Rhode Island and Massachusetts Public Policy

The District Court held the waiver

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on Article III Standing of Testers to Bring ADA Website Accessibility Class Actions

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer, a case that we have summarized in prior blog posts.  Just months ago, there was doubt whether the Supreme Court would hear the case at all. While the Court granted Acheson Hotels’ petition for a writ of certiorari in March 2023, Laufer urged the Court to dismiss the case for mootness in July 2023 following the voluntary dismissal of her claims. Acheson Hotels opposed dismissal and urged the Court to hear its challenge to Laufer’s constitutional standing. The Supreme Court, in an unsigned, two-sentence order dated August 10, 2023, denied the request to dismiss the case as moot and stated it would consider mootness at oral argument in addition to the question presented. The parties and other interested non-parties briefed the matter, and the solicitor general was granted permission to participate in oral argument.

New England Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Class Action Filings Soar in 2023

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Earlier in 2023, we launched our New England and First Circuit Class Action Tracker, as a tool to analyze class action litigation trends in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In July, we updated our tracker to include data through the second quarter of 2023. A review of new filings submitted during that latest quarter reinforces the trends that we recently observed in our client alert on the enforcement of U.S. Consumer Data Privacy laws through private litigation. Namely, we are seeing record-high levels of data privacy and cybersecurity class action filings, particularly in Massachusetts courts, in the first half of 2023.

Data privacy and cybersecurity class action suits continue to represent the largest share of annual class action filings in New England to date. Although the healthcare sector continues to represent the largest share of defendants, other sectors, such as tech, retail and manufacturing, and financial and professional services industries are also experiencing high rates of cybersecurity and data

First Circuit Revives Data Breach Class Action Claims in Webb v. Injured Workers Pharmacy, LLC

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Courts and class action counsel have been considering what kinds of injuries can confer standing to pursue federal claims following the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, which held that the defendants’ alleged actions that “deprived [plaintiffs] of their right to receive information in the format required by statute” was not sufficient to establish a concrete injury necessary to bring a claim. Ever since the TransUnion decision, the question of what is sufficient injury has been reverberating throughout the lower courts and reaching federal courts of appeal.

The First Circuit has now confronted that question on multiple occasions, including its 2022 decision in Laufer v. Acheson (now on appeal to the Supreme Court) that held “dignitary harm” from discrimination was sufficient, along with allegations of “frustration and humiliation” to confer standing on a serial plaintiff who is a website accessibility tester. For more on Laufer,

Staying Put: Supreme Court Holds that District Courts Must Stay Proceedings Pending Arbitration Appeals

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On June 23, 2023, in Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski, the Supreme Court resolved a deeply divided circuit court split and ruled that a district court must stay its proceedings while an interlocutory appeal on the question of arbitrability is ongoing. Justice Kavanaugh delivered the opinion of the Court, with Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett joining the majority. Justice Jackson filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Sotomayor and Kagan joined in full, and in which Justice Thomas joined in part. The 5-4 decision has far-reaching implications for class action strategy and practice when arbitration provisions are at issue.

The Underlying Dispute Concerning Whether Proceedings Must Be Stayed Pending Arbitration Appeals

In the underlying case, Coinbase filed a motion to compel arbitration based on its user agreement following the filing of a putative class action on behalf of Coinbase users who alleged the company failed to replace funds fraudulently taken from user accounts. The district court

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Appeal from First Circuit of Website Accessibility Tester Case

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On March 27, 2023, the Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari by Acheson Hotels in Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Deborah Laufer, Case No. 21-1410. In its petition to appeal from an earlier First Circuit decision analyzed in a prior post,  Acheson Hotels asks the Supreme Court to resolve the following question:

Does a self-appointed Americans with Disabilities Act “tester” have Article III standing to challenge a place of public accommodation’s failure to provide disability accessibility information on its website, even if she lacks any intention of visiting that place of public accommodation?

In support of its petition, Acheson Hotels argued that the question was ripe for resolution by the Supreme Court based on the distinct divide among the circuit courts on the question presented and the errors it claims plagued the First Circuit’s decision.

The First Circuit’s Decision on Laufer’s Standing to Bring her Claim

In

District of Maine Applies the First Circuit’s Murray Decision to Approve Class Action Settlement

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In early 2023, the District of Maine was the first district court to apply and interpret a recent and notable First Circuit ruling that should be top-of-mind for class action attorneys and litigants seeking approval of settlements for cases brought on behalf of multiple plaintiff classes and including class representative incentive awards.

That notable First Circuit class action decision from December 2022 was Murray v. Grocery Delivery E-Services USA, Inc., 55 F.4th 340 (1st Cir. 2022), in which the appellate court considered a challenge to the approval of a class action settlement under Federal Rule 23(e).

The First Circuit Scrutinizes Multi-Class Settlements and Deepens the Circuit-Court Divide on Incentive Awards

In Murray, with a 31-page opinion written by Judge Kayatta, the First Circuit vacated the district court’s approval of the proposed settlement and remanded for further proceedings. The case is particularly noteworthy for its determination that members of different classes required separate

District of Massachusetts Dismisses Data Breach Class Action for Lack of Injury

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On October 18, 2022, in Webb v. Injured Workers Pharmacy, LLC, the District of Massachusetts dismissed a class action complaint brought by former pharmacy patients alleging that their sensitive personal information had been exposed in a data breach affecting more than 75,000 customers. In its analysis, the court determined that the named plaintiffs and putative class members could not satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for constitutional standing. Plaintiffs Webb and Charley had claimed the breach caused “anxiety, sleep disruption, stress, and fear” and cost them “considerable time and effort” monitoring their accounts.

The court rejected these factual allegations as an insufficient basis to confer constitutional standing under Article III:

The Complaint does not sufficiently allege that the breach caused any identifiable harm. It is only alleged that Webb and Charley spent “considerable time and effort” monitoring their accounts and, in Webb’s case, dealing with the IRS. Plaintiffs “cannot manufacture standing merely by inflicting harm on themselves based

First Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Website Tester Has Standing for ‘Informational Injury’, Deepens Circuit Divide

On October 5, 2022, in Laufer v. Acheson Hotels LLC, the U.S Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a suit against Acheson Hotels, LLC, which operates an inn on Maine’s southern coast. With this reversal, the First Circuit has addressed a matter of first impression and deepened a circuit split on when, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 141 S. Ct. 2190 (2021), a plaintiff can sustain a suit based on an informational injury. In TransUnion, the Supreme Court distilled its precedent on constitutional standing into five words: “No concrete harm, no standing.” In this recent decision, the First Circuit determined the plaintiff had established both.

The Lower Court Dismissal for Lack of Standing

In her complaint, Deborah Laufer alleges that when she visited the inn’s website, it didn’t identify accessible rooms, provide an option for