The 2018-2019 term of the U.S. Supreme Court opened with a newly configured court in which Justice Kavanaugh joined as an Associate Justice following the retirement of Justice Kennedy. Since October of last year, the Court has heard 69 argued appeals, several of which arose from class action litigation. Over the past nine months, the Court has addressed issues relating to class action practice concerning arbitration provisions, federal removal statutes, consumer antitrust law, FDA preemption, and the equitable tolling of interlocutory appeals. Although presented with class action questions related to cy pres awards, data privacy litigation standing, issue class certification, securities laws, and TCPA claims, the Court declined to resolve these issues. Reflective of the Court’s decisions this term at large, rulings were unanimous or sharply divided along ideological lines, with the Court declining to hear a number of controversies. The below summary provides an overview of class action decisions by the Court this term, including recent remands and certiorari decisions.
Every now and then a case comes along that rewards us class action nerds with an embarrassment of riches. Gammella v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc., decided last week by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, is one such case. In it, the Court addressed a number of important class certification issues, some unique to Massachusetts law, and some that have close federal procedural analogues. And its resolution of those issues offers something to both plaintiffs and defendants.
Gammella is a wage and hour case. Plaintiff brought a claim under the Massachusetts Wage Act and the minimum fair wage law for his employer’s alleged violations of the “reporting pay” provision of Massachusetts regulations which, the Court explains, “requires employers to pay employees three hours’ wages at no less than the minimum wage if they report for a scheduled shift of three or more hours but are involuntarily dismissed before they have worked three hours.” He alleged that, on numerous occasions, he reported to work at
The Supreme Court meant what it said in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh – that is the primary lesson from the First Circuit’s January 30th decision in In re Celexa and Lexapro Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation. As my partner, Don Frederico, explained in a blog post last year, the Supreme Court observed in China Agritech that its prior ruling in American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah “tolls the statute of limitations during the pendency of a putative class action, allowing unnamed class members to join the action individually or file individual claims if the class fails.” China Agritech went on to hold that “American Pipe does not permit the maintenance of a follow-on class action past expiration of the statute of limitations.” The First Circuit, in In re Celexa and Lexapro, rejected a plaintiff’s attempt to read China Agritech narrowly.
In his October 17th post, Josh Dunlap describes in detail the First Circuit’s landmark ruling in In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation concerning classes that include uninjured members. As Josh points out, although the district court had referred to ascertainability in its decision certifying the class, the First Circuit opinion reversing class certification did not, and for good reason. The case did not raise an ascertainability issue at all, but rather an issue of an overly broad class definition that encompassed significant numbers of uninjured class members (the court estimated 10 percent of potential class members had not been harmed because they would have purchased the branded drug even had the generic been allowed on the market). The ill-fated class was defined to include all purchasers of the defendant’s product, not just all such persons who would have purchased the generic alternative. Presumably, all purchasers of the drug could have been identified through prescription records, but plaintiffs failed to show that it
In Romulus v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., five former Shift Supervisors brought a putative class action against CVS under the Massachusetts Wage Act, contending they were required to work through their unpaid breaks. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that they were required to remain in the store during their breaks when they were the only managerial employees on duty, were interrupted to handle transactions when necessary, and were nonetheless not paid for their time. In a 12-page opinion issued last week, United States District Judge Rya Zobel denied the plaintiffs’ request for class certification, finding they failed to satisfy the requirements of commonality and predominance under Rule 23.
Although CVS policy required a member of management to be present in the store at all times during operating hours, the policy also provided employees with one unpaid 30-minute meal break for each six or eight-hour shift, and instructed employees that, in the event their meal period was interrupted, they should notify their manager to
On this blog, we have previously written about the growing split among the federal circuits concerning courts’ approaches to ascertainability. The Third Circuit, in a string of cases within the last five years, adopted a test requiring that class members must be identifiable without extensive and individualized fact-finding or “mini-trials,” and a plaintiff must present evidentiary support to demonstrate that a model it proposes to satisfy Rule 23’s requirements will be effective. The Eleventh Circuit in Karhu v. Vital Pharmaceutical, Inc. similarly found that a plaintiff must establish an administratively feasible method by which class members can be identified.
In Mullins v. Direct Digital, LLC, the Seventh Circuit rejected the Third Circuit’s approach, finding that the Third Circuit’s test was a “heightened” requirement above and beyond Rule 23’s requirements. The Seventh Circuit adopted a more lenient approach and looks only at whether a class can be ascertained by objective criteria, not whether there’s an administratively feasible way to identify
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
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).
Yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Microsoft Xbox case to decide whether federal courts of appeals have jurisdiction to review orders denying class certification after named plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their individual claims with prejudice.
Last week, the District of Massachusetts denied class certification in a building products case in which Pierce Atwood represented the seller of a composite decking product. You can find a brief summary of the decision here.