Author: Gibbons P.C.

Lack of Plaintiff Article III Standing Proves Fatal to Eleventh Circuit in FACTA Class Action Settlement

In a 7-to-3 en banc decision, the Eleventh Circuit vacated a high-stakes $6.3 million class settlement on standing grounds. In James Price v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., et al, the court held that a named plaintiff lacked standing to bring a claim under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) on behalf of a proposed settlement class. The plaintiff, Dr. David Muransky, filed a class action complaint against Godiva claiming a violation of FACTA, which prohibits “merchants from printing more than the last five digits of the card number (or the card’s expiration date) on receipts offered to customers.” After visiting a Godiva retail store in Florida, the plaintiff was handed a receipt that contained the first six and the last four digits of his credit card number–a technical violation of FACTA. The plaintiff claimed that the violation was “statutory in nature” and did “not intend[] to request any recovery for personal injury.” The plaintiff further framed the class’s harm from violations as “irreparable harm as a result of the defendant’s unlawful and wrongful conduct,” and that “Plaintiff and members of the class continue to be exposed to an elevated risk of identity theft.” The putative class was so large that Godiva could have faced statutory damages, punitive damages, and costs of more than $342...

Planning Ahead: The Critical Importance of Early Agreement on the Proportional Scope of Preservation

In M.A. v. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc., and H.H. v. G6 Hospitality LLC, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, rejected plaintiffs’ objections to the Magistrate Judge’s decision excluding certain types of electronically stored information (ESI) from defendants’ duty to preserve. In doing so, the District Court emphasized the fact that the parties had spent a considerable amount of time addressing issues related to ESI and that plaintiffs had consented to the exclusions during a status conference with the Magistrate Judge. In adopting the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation, the District Court based its decision on “guiding principles of proportionality, default standards in other jurisdictions, and current trends in ESI discovery.” Plaintiffs filed related complaints against several hotel locations and parent companies pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). In April 2019, plaintiffs sent letters to defendants reminding them of their duty to preserve potentially discoverable ESI. A number of discovery disputes ensued related to proposed confidentiality and ESI orders. While this decision also addresses issues related to confidentiality, the primary focus of this post is the dispute regarding defendants’ obligation to preserve certain types of ESI. In particular, plaintiffs objected to an oral decision rendered by the Magistrate Judge finding that defendants were not obligated to preserve:...

NJ’s New Economic Incentive Legislation Includes Supplement to Brownfields Program

The New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (NJERA), recently signed into law by Governor Murphy, includes an important new tax incentive for Brownfields called the “Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program Act” (BRIPA),  included as Sections 9 through 19 in the act. BRIPA supplements the existing “Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act” (BCSRA), which provides funds for reimbursement of varying components of remediation costs at Brownfield sites based on certain eligibility criteria, including the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund and the Brownfield Site Reimbursement Fund. Under BRIPA, as under BCSRA, a “Brownfield site” is any commercial or industrial site that is “vacant or underutilized and on which there has been, or there is suspected to have been, a discharge of a contaminant.” BRIPA further expands the definition of Brownfield sites to include sites where there is or suspected to be contaminated building materials. BRIPA takes an approach similar to that of the New York Brownfields Cleanup Program by awarding tax credits of up to the lesser of 40 percent of remediation costs or $4 million under redevelopment agreements entered into by the state and a developer. There is a cumulative cap of $50 million that can be awarded annually under BRIPA. Projects that are eligible for tax credits under BRIPA are those that are located at...

Gibbons Environmental Law Department Congratulates Former Director Shawn LaTourette on Being Named NJDEP Acting Commissioner

The Gibbons Environmental Law Department proudly congratulates former Director Shawn LaTourette on his being named Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) by Governor Murphy. Shawn joined the Gibbons Environmental Law Department as an associate in 2015 where he was provided with a supportive platform on which to develop and expand his legal and environmental skills. Recognizing his significant talent, Gibbons elevated him to Director in 2018. Shortly thereafter, he was tapped to serve as Chief Counsel for the NJDEP. During his time at Gibbons, he was an integral part of the Environmental Law Department where he worked on complex environmental litigation matters under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act and the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as well as other significant litigation matters involving contract and common law claims between private parties. He also represented clients in cutting-edge permitting and regulatory compliance matters, and on brownfields redevelopment projects. “We are extremely proud of Shawn, and we are glad that our department was able to enhance his development as an environmental attorney such that he has been able to succeed so profoundly in public service,” said Camille V. Otero, Director and Chair of the Gibbons Environmental Law Department. “Shawn was a vital part of our Department’s...

Former Gibbons Director Shawn LaTourette Named NJDEP Acting Commissioner

Shawn LaTourette, formerly a Director in the Environmental Department at Gibbons P.C., has been named Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), as announced by New Jersey Governor Murphy earlier today. Mr. LaTourette previously served as NJDEP Chief Counsel. Mr. LaTourette joined Gibbons in 2015 as an associate and was promoted to Director in 2018, prior to joining the NJDEP. At Gibbons, his practice focused on environmental and closely related legal fields, in both litigation and transactional settings involving environmental conditions, land use, and development. He helped clients across various industries manage compliance with and enforcement of state and federal environmental and land use laws, including their application to commercial, real estate, construction, and infrastructure transactions. At Gibbons, Mr. LaTourette was the firm’s go-to lawyer to handle all environmental aspects of our clients’ real property acquisitions, developments and redevelopments, and construction projects, which included some of the most high-profile real estate, construction, and infrastructure matters in New Jersey. “When he was here, all of us at Gibbons recognized that Shawn was a rising leader in the environmental bar in New Jersey and throughout the region,” said Patrick C. Dunican Jr., Chairman and Managing Director of the firm. “We are delighted to congratulate him on proving us right.” For an article on...

CREMA Provides the Framework for the Regulated Recreational Cannabis Industry in New Jersey, but Disincentivizes Businesses From Seeking to Achieve Certain Legislative Goals

In November 2020, New Jersey voters passed the referendum to add an amendment to the State Constitution for the legalization of recreational cannabis by a resounding margin of 2 to 1. The amendment went into effect as of January 1, 2021; however, implementation and the establishment of the legal recreational cannabis market requires further legislative and regulatory action. As the first step in this process, the State Assembly and Senate each passed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREMA”). CREMA is the result of tireless legislative negotiation that began well before the November 2020 vote. The end result includes provisions aimed at public policy and social justice considerations, and at creating a competitive business marketplace. For example, under CREMA, the Legislature takes effort to address the disproportionate negative impacts that cannabis prohibition has had on Black New Jerseyans and other minority communities. With the goal of promoting social equity and redressing the historical impact of unequal application of drug laws on minority communities, CREMA provides priority for license applications to businesses located in “impact zones,” which are defined as municipalities that have a population of 120,000 or more or that rank in the top 40 percent for cannabis-related arrests, and mandates that at least 70 percent of tax revenue on...

USEPA Provides Draft Guidance on Application of “Functional Equivalent” Analysis for Clean Water Act Permitting Program

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued a Draft Guidance Memorandum regarding how to apply the Supreme Court’s most recent Clean Water Act decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund from earlier this year. In that case (which we previously wrote about here and here), the Court held that the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program requires a permit where there is a “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” from a “point source” into “navigable waters.” As the USEPA draft guidance notes, the Court’s decision outlines “seven non-exclusive factors that regulators and the regulated community may consider in determining whether a “functional equivalent of a direct discharge” exists in a particular circumstance. The draft guidance aims to place the functional equivalent standard “into context within existing NPDES permitting framework.” Additionally, the draft guidance “identifies an additional factor” relevant to the analysis. The draft guidance emphasizes that the County of Maui decision did not modify the two threshold conditions that trigger the requirements for a permit. These conditions are that there must be an actual discharge of a pollutant to a water of the United States, and that that discharge must be from a point source. “Instead, Maui clarified that an NPDES permit is required for only...

Court Dismisses Complaint and Sanctions Plaintiff for Fabricating ESI

The Southern District of New York recently issued significant sanctions in a case with a background story fit for Hollywood. In Carrington v. Graden, plaintiff brought claims against entertainment giants Paramount Pictures and Viacom, Inc. for sexual misconduct, unfair competition, fraud, misappropriation, federal antitrust violations, and New York State and City labor violations. Plaintiff attached various exhibits to his complaint that contained emails purportedly between defendants and non-parties. After it was discovered, through an arduous cat-and-mouse game between defendants and plaintiff, that plaintiff completely fabricated the emails that were presented in support of his claim, the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims with prejudice against all defendants and granted defendants’ application for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in connection with their work regarding the authenticity of the emails. At the onset of the litigation, defendants sent plaintiff’s counsel a preservation notice for electronically stored information (ESI) and documents, after noting that the documents plaintiff referenced and attached as exhibits to his complaint “appeared highly questionable and inaccurate.” Significantly, the emails were not produced as native-format email communications, rather, they were all produced as email forwards from plaintiff to his attorney. Defendants, as part of a pre-motion submission to the court in connection with their anticipated motion to dismiss, submitted affidavits from the individuals who were represented as...

David J. Freeman to Co-Chair N.Y. State Bar Superfund and Brownfields Update Webinar

David J. Freeman, a Director in the Gibbons Environmental Department, will serve as Program Co-Chair for “Superfund/Brownfield Update 2020: Federal and State Environmental Law and Policy.” The program is sponsored by the Section of Environmental & Energy Law of the New York State Bar Association and will be presented as a webinar on December 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The program will feature presentations by representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Attorney General’s Office, and private bar and expert consultants regarding recent developments in the federal Superfund and New York State Brownfield programs. There will also be panels discussing the proposed new ASTM standards for the conduct of Phase I environmental site assessments and the operation of New York State’s land banks. The keynote speaker will be Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters and New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Her timely topic will be “How the 2020 Election Will Affect the Environmental Agenda at the Federal and State Levels.” A full description of the program, and instructions on how to register, can be found here.

Federal Court Sanctions Defense Attorney Under § 1927 for Unreasonably Vexatious Conduct During Discovery

A Minnesota federal court recently issued a stern warning to attorneys and litigants who ignore court orders and fail to make any effort to engage in meet and confers during the discovery process. In Management Registry, Inc. v. A.W. Companies, et al., the District Court for the District of Minnesota ordered a defense attorney to pay $25,000 in attorney’s fees, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927, in addition to other forms of sanctions for the attorney’s “pervasive discovery misconduct.” This case arose from plaintiff’s claims against defendants “after a corporation acquisition went wrong.” The litigation has a tortured procedural history during which the parties fought for almost two years over various discovery disputes, a number of which involved the format of production of certain documents. The parties had participated in a telephonic conference in late 2018, during which time the court ordered defendants to produce ESI in the same manner that plaintiff was required to produce ESI. Following that conference, a number of issues arose with respect to defendants’ production, and counsel for the defendants (at that time) agreed to make a supplemental production to resolve the technical issues. Defendants then obtained new counsel, and the new counsel proceeded to file a motion to compel without: (1) first reviewing the status of documents that had...