Consumer Class Actions

Supreme Court Declines to Take Up Circuit Split on Whether Courts May Grant Class Certification by Averaging Different Class Member Damages

Practice area:

On April 29, 2024, the Supreme Court issued an Order List indicating that certiorari had been denied in Brinker International, Inc. v. Steinmetz, Docket No. 23-648.

The Eleventh Circuit Brinker Decision

Brinker was a July 2023 Eleventh Circuit decision affirming class certification and holding that class members’ exposure of their payment information to the dark web was sufficient harm to establish standing in a data breach case. The Eleventh Circuit set forth an expansive view of when data breaches can create Article III constitutional standing to support class action certification. The case arose from a 2018 attack on Chili’s restaurant computer systems, after which hackers posted stolen customer credit card data to an online marketplace for stolen information on the dark web. The Eleventh Circuit held that class members who alleged their credit card information was exposed for sale on the dark web had satisfied the “actual misuse” standard for sufficient

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

Practice area:

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

Practice area:

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

Practice area:

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 Massachusetts Dismisses Data Breach Class Action for Lack of Injury

Practice area:

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

Supreme Court Addresses Concrete Harm, Limits Standing in FCRA Class Action

On June 25, 2021, the Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated 5-4 ruling in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez. In a 27-page decision by Justice Kavanaugh, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision upholding the certification of a class of 8,185 consumers whom the credit reporting agency TransUnion had  mistakenly labeled as potential terrorists and drug traffickers. Of this consumer class, only 1,853 class members’ misleading credit reports had been provided to third-parties. The District Court had ruled that all class members had Article III standing to pursue their Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) claims against TransUnion to recover statutory damages. A federal jury awarded the class $8.1 million in statutory damages and $52 million in punitive damages. On appeal, TransUnion challenged the award on the basis that the entire class lacked constitutional standing to recover. A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part.

The Court’s Decision

Taking up the question, the Court clarified its prior holdings concerning the

District Of Massachusetts Holds That Consumers With No Arbitration Agreement Must Arbitrate Their “Closely Intertwined” Class Action Claims

It is a legal maxim that arbitration is a creature of contract. A recent District of Massachusetts decision explores critical questions about when that creature can exist outside of the confines of a binding agreement to arbitrate among the parties.

The November 27, 2019 decision by Senior U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole ordered that plaintiff fantasy sports players were obligated to arbitrate their class action claims against DraftKings, Fan Duel, and their payment processing companies. The claims referred to arbitration included not only those brought by players with arbitration agreements with DraftKings and Fan Duel, but claims by players with no contractual relationship with the defendant on the basis that their claims were closely “intertwined” with claims subject to arbitration. However, the Court drew a line at family members of players, determining that they had not reaped any benefit from a contract with an arbitration agreement, and thus could not be compelled to arbitrate. Judge O’Toole also declined to hear challenges

After-Effects of In re Asacol: Recent District Court Decisions on Certification and Uninjured Class Members

About a year ago, I observed that the First Circuit in In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation had constrained plaintiffs’ ability to rely on affidavits to prove injury-in-fact.  In so doing, the First Circuit substantially curtailed its prior decision in In re Nexium Antitrust Litigation, which certified a class containing uninjured consumers because class members would be able to prove injury via affidavit.  In its In re Asacol decision, the First Circuit made it clear that trial-by-affidavit is a permissible means to establish injury only if the affidavits are unrebutted.

As the D.C. Circuit observed in relying on In re Asacol, that case “sharply limited” In re Nexium and established that “any winnowing mechanism” used to identify uninjured class members

must be truncated enough to ensure that common issues predominate, yet robust enough to preserve the defendants’ Seventh Amendment and due process rights to