Questions Regarding Cy Pres Settlements Remain after Frank v. Gaos

Today, in a case that was being watched closely for its potential ramifications for class settlements, the Supreme Court opted not to address the merits of the cy pres issues that were presented to it.  Frank v. Gaos involved a settlement that would have distributed millions of dollars to cy pres recipients and class counsel, but no money to class members.  Objectors complained that the settlement did not comply with the requirement that class settlements be “fair, reasonable and adequate,” and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve that issue.  It ultimately did not.

Instead, the Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, vacated and remanded for the lower courts to address whether the named plaintiff had Article III standing in light of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins.  After the district court rejected the argument the plaintiff lacked injury and thus standing to pursue its claim that Google violated federal law by

Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects Equitable Tolling of Rule 23(f)’s Time Limit to Petition for Interlocutory Appeal

Yesterday, the Supreme Court in Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert unanimously held that Rule 23(f) is not subject to equitable tolling. After the District Court for the Central District of California decertified a class of consumers who alleged that Nutraceutical’s marketing of a dietary supplement violated California consumer-protection law, plaintiff Lambert filed a motion for reconsideration, which the court subsequently denied. Fourteen days later, Lambert petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to appeal the decertification order under Rule 23(f). Nutraceutical opposed Lambert’s petition, arguing that it was untimely because more than four months had passed since the court’s decertification order. The Court of Appeals, however, deemed the petition timely and accepted the appeal, stating that the Rule 23(f) fourteen-day deadline should be equitably tolled under the circumstances as the time limit is “non-jurisdictional, and that equitable remedies softening the deadline are therefore generally available,” and Lambert had acted diligently in moving for reconsideration and subsequently filing his petition within fourteen days after

In re Celexa and Lexapro – The First Circuit Weighs in on China Agritech and American Pipe Tolling

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.

Amendments to Rule 23 Now in Full Swing

On December 1, 2018, the amendments to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 took effect, principally altering portions of the Rule governing class action notice, settlement, and appeals. Although the amendments were approved earlier in 2018 by the United States Supreme Court, they had been in the works for some time.

In 2014, a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules met with class action attorneys from both the plaintiffs’ and defense bar all across the country in a series of meetings, seeking input on amendments to Rule 23. One such meeting was held in October 2014 during the ABA’s National Institute on Class Actions, a two-day conference well-attended by counsel in private practice, in-house counsel, academics, and reporters from class action news services. Those of us in attendance had the opportunity to offer the subcommittee suggestions on how to amend the Rule to better address problems we encounter in practice, such as cy pres awards, professional objectors, and issue classes. Fast-forward four years later, and

In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation: Article III Standing in Multi-State Class Actions

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 re Asacol Antitrust Litigation – An Antidote to In re Nexium and “Ascertainability-by-Affidavit”

When last I wrote about ascertainability, I noted that a debate over the propriety of “ascertainability-by-affidavit” continued to percolate within the First Circuit even as lower courts relied on In re Nexium Antitrust Litigation to certify classes containing uninjured class members.  Specifically, I noted a couple of developments.  First, in In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation, Judge Casper of the District of Massachusetts had rejected defendants’ ascertainability arguments and certified a class containing uninjured individuals, relying on In re Nexium for the proposition that uninjured individuals could be identified and excluded after certification via submission of affidavits.  Second, I also observed that Judge Kayatta had continued, via his dissent from denial of a Rule 23(f) petition in In re Dial Complete Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, to express concern about the “casual reliance on ‘say-so’ affidavits” apparently sanctioned by In re Nexium.  In his words, the First Circuit

In Cullinane v. Uber, First Circuit Addresses Arbitration Clauses in Online Contracts

Yesterday the First Circuit weighed in on a hot topic – the enforceability of arbitration provisions in online contracts.  In Cullinane, several plaintiffs brought a putative class action alleging that Uber had violated Massachusetts’ consumer protection statute by assessing certain fees.  Uber filed a motion to compel arbitration under its Terms of Service, which contained an arbitration provision and class action waiver.  After the district court granted the motion, the First Circuit reversed, finding the arbitration provision unenforceable because Uber did not make its Terms of Service sufficiently conspicuous when its customers created a ride-sharing account.  Cullinane underscores the importance of obtaining customers’ affirmative consent to an online contract.

At the outset, the First Circuit acknowledged that the Federal Arbitration Action places arbitration provisions upon the same footing as other contract provisions. It also emphasized that arbitration is a matter of contract and that a valid contract must exist in order for the arbitration provision to be enforced.  The

SCOTUS Resolves Circuit Split Regarding American Pipe Tolling

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

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

Campbell-Ewald in Massachusetts

On March 6th, in Silva v. Todisco Services, Inc., Judge Kenneth Salinger, sitting in the Business Litigation Session of the Massachusetts Superior Court, held that a defendant’s tendering of the maximum amount of damages a plaintiff might recover in a putative class action did not moot either the plaintiff’s individual claims or the claims of putative class members. In rejecting defendant’s “pick-off” attempt, Judge Salinger aligned Massachusetts state court practice with federal case law, including the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, and subsequent federal decisions. His reasons for doing so, while perhaps consistent with Massachusetts precedent, were somewhat different from the federal court rationale and could have unintended consequences.

In Campbell-Ewald, the Supreme Court held that an unaccepted offer of judgment does not moot a named plaintiff’s claim, and therefore cannot prevent a putative class action from moving forward. The Court based its decision on principles of contract law