Tagged: Courts of Appeal

Second Circuit Holds Monetary Compensation for Survey Participation Not an “Unsolicited Advertisement” Under the TCPA; Disagrees with Third Circuit

The Second Circuit recently held, in Bruce Katz, M.D., P.C. v. Focus Forward, LLC, that an unsolicited faxed invitation offering $150 to participate in a market research survey does not constitute an “unsolicited advertisement” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (the “TCPA”). The TCPA defines “unsolicited advertisement” as “any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person’s prior express invitation or permission.” The Second Circuit reasoned that the subject fax transmissions “plainly do not advertise the availability of any property, goods, or services” and therefore “cannot reasonably be construed” as unlawful advertisements. The panel did note, however, that its holding may not necessarily extend to all “communications, including faxed surveys, offering the recipient both money and services,” as some such communications could incur liability under the TCPA depending on the specific content of the communication. The Second Circuit’s holding in Katz departed from the reasoning in the Third Circuit’s divided opinion in Fischbein v. Olson Research Group, Inc. The faxes at issue in Fischbein consisted of requests to doctors to participate in market research surveys in exchange for monetary compensation. The Third Circuit held that such faxes are advertisements, reasoning that “an offer of payment in exchange for participation...

Eleventh Circuit Holds That Administrative Feasibility is Not a Precondition for Class Certification

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently analyzed a “hotly contested issue in class action practice” – whether administrative feasibility is a requirement for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Breaking from the First, Third, and Fourth Circuits and agreeing with the Second, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits, the Eleventh Circuit held putative class representatives need not prove the existence of an administratively feasible method to identify absent class members as a precondition for certification of a class action.

Eleventh Circuit Eliminates Incentive Awards for Named Plaintiffs in Class Action Settlements

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upended what has become common practice in class action settlements by ruling that “incentive” awards to named plaintiffs are unlawful. In Johnson v. NPAS Solutions, LLC, the plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) alleging that the defendant used an automatic telephone dialing system to call cell phones without the proper consent. Less than eight months after the complaint was filed, the parties jointly filed a notice of settlement for an award of $1,432,000. The District Court preliminary approved the settlement and certified the class for settlement purposes. In addition, that order permitted the plaintiff to petition the court to receive an amount not to exceed $6,000 “as acknowledgement of this role in prosecuting this case on behalf of class members.” The court also set a date for class members to opt out of the class settlement and a date three weeks later for class counsel to submit their petition for attorneys’ fees and costs. One person objected to the settlement on the grounds that (1) the objection deadline was set before the deadline for class counsel to file their attorneys’ fee petition, which she contended violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and the Due Process Clause; (2) the amount of...

Third Circuit Holds Agreement to Arbitrate in Illusory Forum Is Unenforceable

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently held, in a precedential decision, that when parties enter an agreement directing them to arbitrate in an illusory forum, the forum selection clause is not severable and the entire agreement to arbitrate is unenforceable. In MacDonald v. CashCall, Inc. et al., a plaintiff brought suit on behalf of himself and a putative class, alleging a loan agreement between the parties was unconscionable and usurious. The agreement at issue included “(1) a provision requiring that all disputes be resolved through arbitration conducted by a representative of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (‘CRST’) and (2) a clause that delegates questions about the arbitration provision’s enforceability to the arbitrator.” The defendants moved to compel arbitration. The district court declined to compel arbitration because the agreement at issue expressly disavowed federal and state law, thus rendering the arbitration provisions invalid as an impermissible prospective waiver of federal and state statutory rights. The district court further held that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because the forum was illusory, as the selected forum did not conduct arbitrations or have rules for conducting arbitrations. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the loan agreement’s arbitration provision cannot direct arbitration to an illusory forum—here, the CRST. Similar to its sister circuits, the Third Circuit...

Eighth Circuit Relies on Spokeo to Hold That Retention of Personal Information, Without More, Does Not Satisfy Article III’s Injury-in-Fact Requirement

The United States Supreme Court decision in Spokeo v. Robins, in which the Court considered whether a claim of statutory damages was sufficient to confer Article III standing, left much to be desired in terms of guidance for lower courts and litigants. Nonetheless, the Eighth Circuit’s recent refusal to revive a putative class action over Charter Communications Inc.’s allegedly indefinite retention of consumer data illuminated a way for defendants to trim claims of bare statutory violations, while clarifying how Spokeo should be applied.

Supreme Court in Spokeo Holds Plaintiffs Must Allege More Than a Bare Procedural Violation to Stand Up for Their Rights

After much anticipation, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Spokeo v. Robins, a case that many believed would finally establish a definitive ruling as to whether a federal statute which awards statutory damages to those impacted is sufficient to confer Article III standing. The question is particularly relevant in the class action context where class members could be awarded statutory damages in the absence of any actual damages. Unfortunately, although the Court considered the scope of the injury-in-fact requirement, the 6-2 decision still leaves the standing question open to interpretation by courts and by both plaintiffs and defendants.

Supreme Court Accepts Use of Representative Sample To Prove Classwide Liability

In Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, the Supreme Court of the United States definitively answered the question of whether statistical “representative evidence” may be used in class actions to establish that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members” pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3). According to the Court’s much-anticipated opinion, the answer is yes: “Its permissibility turns not on the form a proceeding takes – be it a class or individual action – but on the degree to which the evidence is reliable in proving or disproving the elements of the relevant cause of action.”

Supreme Court Holds Unaccepted Offer of Judgment for Complete Relief to Named Plaintiff in Putative Class Action Does Not Moot Claims

The Supreme Court of the United States recently issued its ruling in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, a closely watched appeal in which the Court held that a complete offer of relief to a named plaintiff in a class action does not moot the individual’s claim. As explained by Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority and drawing upon lessons taught to a “first-year law student,” an unaccepted settlement offer “creates no lasting right or obligation,” “has no force,” and, thus, “is a legal nullity, with no operative effect” that “does not moot a plaintiff’s case.” The Court’s opinion follows up on its 2013 decision in Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, in which it assumed that an offer of complete relief, even if unaccepted, moots a plaintiff’s individual claim to the extent the plaintiff’s Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) collective-action allegations could not stand on their own.

Super Bowl Tickets Not the Ticket to Federal Class Action, as Third Circuit Finds No Standing for Uninjured Plaintiffs

“[T]he disappointment of wanting to attend a concert or athletic event only to discover that the event has sold out,” does not confer constitutional standing. That was the take away from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recent precedential decision, Finkelman v. Nat’l Football League. Addressing the always-thorny contours of constitutional standing to bring a federal lawsuit, the Court held, in the face of high Super Bowl ticket prices, that neither non-purchasers of tickets nor purchasers of “scalped” tickets at elevated prices, had standing to sue under Article III. This opinion sets up yet another obvious roadblock in the path of plaintiffs looking to bring claims—whether or not as class actions—when their perceived injuries are either non-existent or so tenuous as to make “difficulties in alleging an injury-in-fact . . . insurmountable.”

Class Action Plaintiffs Have Standing Based on Actual Injuries and Costs of Mitigation Following Corporate Hacking, Says Seventh Circuit

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held that class action plaintiffs alleging injuries due to corporate hacking scandals have standing to pursue those claims in federal court, based on both actual injuries suffered repairing damage done by fraudulent charges, as well as costs of mitigating potential future harm, such as credit monitoring. Remijas v. Neiman Marcus Group, LLC, No. 14-3122 (7th Circ. July 20, 2015). As with other cases that come to the same conclusion, the court placed great emphasis on the fact that the data thieves were specifically targeting personal data, as well as the company’s admission of the breach and offer of a year of credit monitoring to those whose information had been exposed.