Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Plaintiffs filed suit against CareFirst after hackers allegedly stole sensitive customer information from the health insurer's data system, alleging tort, contract, and statutory claims. The district court dismissed all claims of five plaintiffs and most claims of two plaintiffs. At issue was whether the district court permissibly certified the dismissed claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), so as to make the dismissal order final and immediately appealable.The DC Circuit held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction over the certified claims of the Tringlers and of the other plaintiffs. Under basic principles of claim preclusion, the court explained that the Tringlers could not have litigated to judgment one action involving the claims still pending before the district court and another involving the claims already dismissed. Under Tolson v. United States, 732 F.2d 998, 1001–03 (D.C. Cir. 1984), they likewise cannot sever the latter claims for an immediate appeal under Rule 54(b). In regard to the non-Tringler claims, the court stated that it is unclear whether the district court would have certified these claims for immediate appeal had it properly declined to certify the claims of the Tringlers. Therefore, the court cannot determine whether the district court would have certified only the non-Tringler claims, much less whether it could have come up with a permissible justification for doing so. View "Attias v. CareFirst, Inc." on Justia Law

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Current and former Whole Foods employees initiated this diversity action seeking to recover purportedly lost wages, alleging that Whole Foods manipulated its incentive-based bonus program, resulting in employees losing wages otherwise owed to them. In the not yet certified class action, Whole Foods moved to dismiss all nonresident putative class members for lack of personal jurisdiction.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Whole Foods' motion to dismiss, on alternative grounds, holding that putative class members -- absent class certification -- are not parties before a court and thus Whole Foods' motion was premature. The court wrote that, only after the putative class members are added to the action, should the district court entertain Whole Foods' motion to dismiss the non-named class members. Finally, the court held that Whole Foods' remaining arguments were without merit. View "Molock v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of class certification in a putative class action of over 16,000 shippers allegedly harmed by a price-fixing conspiracy among the nation's largest freight railroads. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that plaintiffs' regression analysis—their evidence for proving causation, injury, and damages on a class-wide basis—measured negative damages for over 2,000 members of the proposed class. Therefore, common issues did not predominate where at least 2,037 individual determinations of injury and causation were needed. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by holding that this analysis was essential to plaintiffs' case for certification. View "In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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While district courts generally have discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) to adjust the terms of an existing consent decree in light of changed circumstances, the issuance of a new injunction must meet the strict preconditions for such exceptional relief set out in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. This case stemmed from a putative class action brought by a broad group of Medicaid applicants and recipients against the District. The parties eventually reached a settlement and a consent decree was issued. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and renewals under the Affordable Care Act. About a week after briefing on the preliminary injunction concluded, plaintiffs filed a motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) and (b)(6) to "modify" the Consent Decree to achieve precisely the same relief as the pending motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court granted the motion to modify and denied the motion for a preliminary injunction as moot.The DC Circuit held that the district court's order provided brand new relief based on brand new facts alleging violations of a new law without the requisite findings for an injunction, and thus it crossed the line from permissibly modifying into impermissibly enjoining. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment, vacated the new injunctive relief, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to compel payment of attorneys' fees that they say should have been but were not paid as a result of PBGC doing too little to identify and make payments to class members. The court's de novo interpretation of the wrap-up agreement gave it no reason to question the district court's conclusion that PBGC fully performed notwithstanding class counsel's unsupported assertions to the contrary. The court also held that PBGC did not prevent class counsel's performance of the wrap-up agreement. In this case, the parties intended that the wrap-up would be complete within ten years. This ten year period was unambiguous and has expired. View "Collins v. PBGC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion to compel payment of attorneys' fees that they say should have been but were not paid as a result of PBGC doing too little to identify and make payments to class members. The court's de novo interpretation of the wrap-up agreement gave it no reason to question the district court's conclusion that PBGC fully performed notwithstanding class counsel's unsupported assertions to the contrary. The court also held that PBGC did not prevent class counsel's performance of the wrap-up agreement. In this case, the parties intended that the wrap-up would be complete within ten years. This ten year period was unambiguous and has expired. View "Collins v. PBGC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of CareFirst customers, filed a putative class action after CareFirst suffered a cyber attack in which its customers' personal information was allegedly stolen. The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on lack of standing. In this case, because the district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction without expressly inviting plaintiffs to amend their complaint or giving some other equally clear signal that it intended the action to continue, the order under review ended the district court action, and was thus final and appealable. On the merits, the court held that plaintiffs have standing where the fact that plaintiffs have reasonably spent money to protect themselves against a substantial risk created the potential for them to be made whole by monetary damages. View "Attias v. CareFirst, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court denied certification for a class consisting of African-American deputy U.S. Marshals alleging racial discrimination by the United States Marshals Service (USMS). The lead plaintiff, Herman Brewer, petitioned for interlocutory review, but while his petition was pending, he settled his individual claims with the Government. The parties then stipulated to dismissal of the action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), which allowed the parties voluntarily to dismiss a suit without a court order by filing a jointly signed stipulation with the court. Four current and former deputy U.S. Marshals moved to intervene upon notice of the stipulation. The DC Circuit granted the motion to intervene but declined the petition for review as presenting no question that falls within the court's discretion to hear an interlocutory appeal under the framework announced in Lorazepam & Clorazepate Antitrust Litigation, 289 F.3d 98 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The court remanded for the district court to consider motions to substitute absent class members as plaintiffs and for further proceedings. View "In re: Herman Brewer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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In 2011, the district court approved a Settlement Agreement that created a $680 million compensation fund for the benefit of class members consisting of Native American farmers and ranchers who participated in a non-judicial, administrative claims process.In this appeal, two class members challenged the district court's approval of an addendum to the Agreement. The DC Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, rejecting the claim that the modification clause requires Appellant Mandan's assent before the Agreement can be amended. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the addendum was fair, reasonable, and adequate; the court declined to reach the merits of Mandan's legal challenges to the cy-près provision because these claims were explicitly waived before the district court; the claims were also forfeited because Mandan never raised any legal challenges to the cy-près provision before the district court despite clear opportunities to do so; and there were no good reasons at this point in the litigation to entertain Mandan's legal challenges to the cy-près provisions in the first instance. Finally, the DC Circuit found no merit in Appellant Tingle's breach of fiduciary duty claims. View "Keepseagle v. Perdue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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This appeal arose out of the Department of the Interior’s misadministration of Native American trust accounts and an ensuing complex, nationwide litigation and settlement. The class action representatives appealed the district court's denial of compensation for expenses incurred during the litigation and settlement process. The court affirmed the district court’s denial of additional compensation for expenses for the lead plaintiff because the district court expressly wrapped those costs into an incentive award given to her earlier. However, the district court erred in categorically rejecting as procedurally barred the class representatives’ claim for the recovery of third-party payments, and remanded for the district court to apply its accumulated expertise and discretion to the question of whether third-party compensation can and should be paid under the Settlement Agreement. View "Cobell v. Jewell" on Justia Law