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.
On May 16, 2019, the District of Massachusetts denied a lead plaintiff’s motion to amend a complaint that sought to overcome standing deficiencies of the original class representative by adding a new named plaintiff. The Court dismissed the putative class action without prejudice, holding that if a class action has only one representative, and that party does not have standing, the Court lacks jurisdiction over the case and cannot permit the lead plaintiff substitution.
In Yan v. ReWalk Robotics, Ltd., lead plaintiff Wang Yan brought a putative class action for alleged violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Exchange Act of 1934 in connection with the company’s 2014 initial public offering. In a class action complaint filed in 2017, Yan claimed that ReWalk concealed material information in its IPO documents concerning a failure to comply with FDA regulations and continued to make materially false statements after the IPO. In August 2018, the Court granted the
First Circuit Affirms Tough Standard for Alleging Securities Fraud; Revives One Claim Against Local Drug Maker
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