class actions

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

The District of Massachusetts Orders that Comcast Subscribers Must Individually Arbitrate Privacy Class Action Claims

On November 4, 2019, in Wainblat v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, et. al., No. 19-cv-10976, the District of Massachusetts ordered that a consumer privacy class action against Comcast must be arbitrated on an individual basis because the claims are subject to a valid and enforceable arbitration provision. Against a backdrop of rapidly expanding consumer class action litigation, especially based on consumer privacy laws with statutory damages, the case is an important reminder that arbitration provisions in customer agreements offer robust and critical protections for businesses.

Wainblat’s Consumer Privacy Class Action Claims against Comcast

In a class action complaint filed on April 25, 2019, plaintiff Wainblat asserted claims on behalf of all Massachusetts Comcast subscribers under the Cable Privacy Act, 47 U.S.C. § 55l(a)(l), and the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, M.G.L. c. 93A § 9 (“Chapter 93A”). The plaintiff alleged that Comcast “systematically violates cable television subscribers’ federal statutory privacy rights

Despite Holding the TCPA’s Government Debt Exemption is Unconstitutional, the District of Massachusetts Permits Class Claims to Move Forward

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On September 24, 2019, the District of Massachusetts held in Katz v. Liberty Power Corp., LLC that the government debt collection exemption to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. §§ 227 et seq., is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. No. 18-cv-10506-ADB, 2019 WL 4645524 (D. Mass. Sept. 24, 2019). Following the U.S. Circuit Courts for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, Judge Burroughs concluded that the exemption to the statute could not survive constitutional scrutiny, but otherwise permitted the plaintiffs’ TCPA class action claims, which did not implicate the exemption, to go forward.

Defendants Sought Dismissal of the TCPA Class Claims by Challenging the Constitutionality of the Government Debt Exemption

In their class action complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that Liberty Power Corp., LLC and its holding company (“Liberty Power”) placed prohibited pre-recorded calls to cell phones in disregard of the national Do Not Call Registry and specific do-not-call

Even With Common Questions, Chapter 93A Deceptive Marketing Claims Are Ill-Suited for Class Treatment

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Earlier this month, in Plastic Surgery Associates, SC v. Cynosure, Inc., United States District Judge Denise Casper denied plaintiffs’ motion for class certification and allowed Cynosure’s motion for summary judgment on claims arising from the marketing of a medical device intended to reduce body fat. The decision provides a searching and instructive analysis of the standards for class certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, particularly for claims under Massachusetts’s consumer protection law, Mass Gen. L. c. 93A (“Chapter 93A”).

In Cynosure, plaintiffs purported to represent a class of all U.S.-based purchasers and lessees of the same medical device over a four-year period. Over 1,400 customers, mostly plastic surgeons and medical spas, had purchased the device for approximately $165,000 each. Plaintiffs each claimed they were harmed by the alleged deceptive marketing of the devices. Invoking Rule 23(c)(4), plaintiffs asked the Court to certify four issues for their Chapter 93A claim, including whether Cynosure

Yan v. ReWalk Robotics, Ltd.: No Substitute for Standing in the District of Massachusetts

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

Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela: Class Arbitration Must Be Expressly Authorized

Class arbitration came back before the Supreme Court this term in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela.  Today, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Lamps Plus, holding that, under the Federal Arbitration Act, “courts may not infer from an ambiguous agreement that parties have consented to arbitrate on a classwide basis.”  Rather, class arbitration must be expressly authorized by contract.

The facts of Lamps Plus are straightforward.  An employee had signed an arbitration agreement upon being hired to work for Lamps Plus.  After a data breach, the employee sued Lamps Plus in federal court.  Lamps Plus filed a motion to compel individual arbitration, and the district court granted the motion to compel but authorized arbitration on a class basis.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the arbitration provision was ambiguous as to class arbitration and must be construed against the employer under California’s contra proferentem rule that ambiguities in a contract must be

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

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.

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