Tagged: Rule 23(b)(3)

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.

In Defective Shingles Class Action, Third Circuit Rejects Novel “Expected Useful Life” Defect Theory Premised on Warranty Period

The Third Circuit recently confirmed that plaintiffs must provide evidence of a specific defect, capable of classwide proof, in order to prevail on proposed class claims, holding that, where defective design is “an essential element of Plaintiffs’ misrepresentation-based claims,” whether proof of the defect “is susceptible to classwide evidence is dispositive of whether Plaintiffs can satisfy predominance” under Rule 23(b)(3). In Gonzalez v. Owens Corning, the plaintiffs sued the manufacturer of Oakridge fiberglass roofing shingles, claiming that their shingles, which were subject to warranties of 25 years or more, were “plagued by design flaws that result in cracking, curling and degranulation” and “will eventually fail.” The plaintiffs argued that the product warranties amounted to representations about the shingles’ expected useful life. Plaintiffs did not dispute that the design specifications for all shingles met the applicable industry design standard (“ASTM”), but claimed that compliance with the ASTM specifications did not consistently yield shingles that would last the stated warranty period. Thus, plaintiffs claimed that the issue of “defectiveness should be judged by the expected useful life of the shingles as represented by the applicable warranty period.” The plaintiffs’ expert, whose testimony was largely stricken as unreliable under Daubert, acknowledged that there was no single set of measurements applicable to all shingles that would constitute a design...

Class Certification Denied in Tropicana Orange Juice Labeling MDL

In the Tropicana Orange Juice multidistrict litigation (MDL), plaintiffs’ bid for class certification has been rejected due to the need for individualized proofs and inability to ascertain class members. On January 22, 2018, U.S. District Judge William J. Martini (DNJ) denied class certification in the multidistrict litigation, In re Tropicana Orange Juice Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation. The lawsuit claimed that “Tropicana Pure Premium” (TPP) orange juice was mislabeled and misbranded as “100% pure and natural” because the juice contains undisclosed natural flavoring in violation of FDA standards of identity for pasteurized orange juice. Plaintiffs also attacked the marketing of TPP as “pure, natural and fresh from the grove” as demonstrably false given the added flavoring. The MDL judge, however, concluded that plaintiffs’ common law and N.J. Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) claims were “plainly unsuitable for class certification” because each claim “requires individualized proof.” Plaintiffs argued that their unjust enrichment claim was uniform because it focused on the TPP label and consumers uniformly paid for pasteurized orange juice that they did not receive. But the court held that defendant would be unjustly enriched only if a consumer did not receive the benefit of the bargain for which she paid, thus “compel[ling] an inquiry as to what exactly was the benefit of the bargain” in each...

In Suit Alleging Misleading Employment Rates, Third Circuit Rejects Class Certification Premised Upon Invalid Damages Theory

The Third Circuit recently affirmed a decision from the District Court of New Jersey denying class certification in an action alleging that Widener University School of Law defrauded its students by publishing and marketing misleading statistics about graduates’ employment rates. In its precedential opinion adjudicating plaintiffs’ interlocutory appeal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f), the Third Circuit concluded that although the District Court misconstrued plaintiffs’ damages theory, the error was harmless because the Court would have nonetheless concluded that plaintiffs failed to satisfy the predominance requirement. This opinion, authored by Circuit Judge Chagares, is an example of defendants defeating class certification when plaintiffs cannot proffer a valid method of proving class-wide damages, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court in Comcast v. Behrend several years ago.

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.”

Third Circuit Holds That Absent Class Members Need Not Show Standing and Reiterates Comcast’s Reiteration of Basic Rule 23 Principles

In a precedential opinion in Neale v. Volvo Cars of North America, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that putative class members need not establish Article III standing, and emphasized that the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013) “was not breaking any new ground” because “the predominance analysis was specific to the antitrust claim at issue.”

Third Circuit Clarifies Apparent Confusion Regarding Rule 23(b)(3) Ascertainability Requirement

In Byrd v. Aaron’s Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added to, and clarified, its “quartet” of ascertainability cases to resolve the “apparent confusion in the invocation and application of ascertainability in this Circuit.” The plaintiffs in Byrd brought a class action claiming violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 because laptop computers had “spyware” installed, which had captured a wide array of personal information from the users including photographs and screenshots of websites visited. Adopting the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, the District Court denied class certification for failure to establish ascertainability, finding that the proposed classes were both “underinclusive” (i.e., did not include all individuals whose information was gathered) and overinclusive (not every computer user had data intercepted), and that it was insufficient to propose that “household members” be identified by public records. “Because the District Court confused ascertainability with other relevant inquiries under Rule 23,” it “erred in determining that the Byrds’ proposed classes were not ascertainable.”

Halliburton Gives Defense Bar New Tool to Defeat Class Certification

The Supreme Court has raised the class certification stakes yet again, holding in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund that defendants in securities class actions may rebut the fraud-on-the-market presumption of reliance at the class certification stage. Over the objections of Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito, the Court declined to toss out the presumption altogether.

New Authority for Class Action Defendants Allowing Merits-First Bifurcated Discovery

The cost and burden of class action discovery often puts undue pressure on defendants to settle cases that have little or no merit. To relieve this pressure, courts sometimes permit bifurcated discovery, with the parties first addressing class certification issues and later, if warranted, merits issues. Recently, in Physicians Healthsource, Inc. v. Janssen Pharms., Inc., the District of New Jersey ordered bifurcated discovery but reversed the normal mechanics, limiting the first phase to merits issues before permitting any class discovery. The result is the same, though: potentially enormous time- and cost-savings. This strategy may be worth considering in cases where there are potentially dispositive merits issues.

Third Circuit Emphatically Enforces Last Year’s Ruling in Marcus on Rule 23(a) Prerequisites

In Hayes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Third Circuit determined that the plaintiff consumer failed to satisfy Rule 23’s ascertainability and numerosity requirements for class actions as articulated in Marcus v. BMW of North America, LLC and remanded the matter to the District Cout so that the plaintiff could address the clarified requirements expressed in Marcus, which was not yet decided at the time of the District Court proceedings in Hayes. By doing so, the Third Circuit demonstrated that it intends to continue vigilantly enforcing Rule 23’s threshold requirements for plaintiffs.