Supreme Court

SCOTUS Resolves Circuit Split Regarding American Pipe Tolling

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In an opinion authored by Justice Ginsburg and joined by all of the Justices (though with only a concurrence from Justice Sotomayor), the Supreme Court today ruled that its 1974 ruling in American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah does not toll the statute of limitations for successive class actions. Justice Ginsburg summarized the Court’s holding as follows:

American Pipe 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. But American Pipe does not permit the maintenance of a follow-on class action past expiration of the statute of limitations.

The case, China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, was the third in a series of putative class actions brought to address alleged federal securities law violations. Each of the first two lawsuits was filed within the two-year statute of limitations

Supreme Court Affirms Class Action Waivers in Employment Arbitration Agreements

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Since the Federal Arbitration Act’s (FAA) enactment in 1925, parties have sparred over the enforceability of arbitration agreements in a number of contexts. In recent years, the battle has focused on the enforceability of class or collective action waivers, pursuant to which parties agree to forgo their right to proceed on a class basis and to pursue claims in arbitration on an individual basis instead. Between 2011 and 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued several opinions enforcing class action waivers in the consumer context, but none dealt with employment arbitration agreements. On Monday, the United States Supreme Court removed any doubt that class or collective action waivers contained in employment arbitration agreements are enforceable, affirming a potential cure for the employment class action epidemic.

The argument that employment class action waivers are different from consumer class action waivers derives from Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees employees the right to engage in collective activities

Justice Thomas’ Concurring Opinion in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker: A Useful Reminder

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On June 12th, the Supreme Court issued its unsurprising decision in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, addressing a relatively recent twist concerning the appealability of orders denying class certification.  The case resulted in unanimous agreement among the eight Justices who participated in it (Justice Gorsuch did not participate), but a five-three split among them as to whether the case should be decided on statutory grounds (supported by the majority) or constitutional grounds (supported by the minority).  In the course of the debate over the decision’s rationale, Justice Thomas penned a paragraph that serves as a useful reminder concerning the nature of putative class litigation.

Of all the Court’s class certification cases, this must have been one of the easiest to decide.  Put simply, the district court struck plaintiffs’ class allegations from the complaint, based on a class certification denial in an earlier case raising the same claims.  After plaintiffs unsuccessfully petitioned the Ninth Circuit for interlocutory review under Rule 23(f), they were left with

Multi-State Class Actions After the Supreme Court’s Decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court

On June 19th, the Supreme Court issued a decision that could have important consequences for multi-state class actions.  In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, the Court addressed the question whether a California state court could exercise personal jurisdiction over the claims of nonresident plaintiffs who had joined a group of California plaintiffs in suing Bristol-Myers Squibb (“BMS”) for alleged adverse health effects from its drug, Plavix.  As a matter of 14th Amendment due process, the Court held that the nonresidents’ claims should have been dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Initially, the nonresident plaintiffs succeeded in the state courts in arguing that the courts could exercise general jurisdiction over BMS, but the California Court of Appeal reversed itself after SCOTUS issued its 2014 decision in Daimler Ag v. Bauman (holding that a court could not assert general jurisdiction over a non-resident corporate defendant solely because it engaged “in a substantial, continuous and systematic course of business”

A New Justice: Any Change For Class Actions?

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This week, Justice Gorsuch donned his black robes and began hearing arguments alongside his new colleagues on the Supreme Court.  With his elevation to the high court, Justice Gorsuch assumes many new responsibilities.  Some, of the lighter kind, include opening the door during conferences with his colleagues and assuming oversight of the Court’s cafeteria menu.  More serious responsibilities will include weighing in on important class action cases that will undoubtedly be heard by the Court in the future.

Despite his lengthy judicial record from having served a decade on the Tenth Circuit, there are relatively few clues regarding Justice Gorsuch’s approach to class actions.  While on the court of appeals, he participated in only a few class action cases, which is not surprising given that the Tenth Circuit has not been a hotbed of class actions.  His handful of class action opinions, however, evidences not only his gift with the pen but also a restrained, textual approach to Rule 23.  These characteristics are

Supreme Court Will Hear Class Action Waiver Cases

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Last week, the Supreme Court consolidated and agreed to hear three appeals of Circuit Court decisions concerning whether class action waivers contained in employment arbitration agreements infringe on employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.  According to the schedule currently in place, briefing on these cases will commence in late February 2017.  Unless a ninth Supreme Court justice is appointed, confirmed, and seated before oral argument in this consolidated appeal, the possibility of a 4-4 decision—and resulting preservation of the status quo–looms large. 

 

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

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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.

Supreme Court Permits Use of Statistical Evidence to Prove Classwide Liability, but Declines to Adopt Categorical Rule

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In Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, et al., the United States Supreme Court affirmed a judgment in favor of a class of Tyson employees, holding that averaged statistical analysis or so-called “representative evidence” presented by the class’s experts properly established classwide liability in the case.  The Court rejected, however, the requests of all parties and amici curiae to adopt a broad and categorical rule governing the use of representative and statistical evidence in class actions, stating that…