Our annual briefing was moderated by WLF Legal Policy Advisory Board Chairman Jay Stephens and featured commentary on free-enterprise-oriented cases the Court will hear this Term by Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells and Daryl Joseffer of King & Spalding LLP.
The following materials were provided to attendees:
Featured Expert Column: Judicial Gatekeeping of Expert Evidence
By Evan M. Tager, Mayer Brown LLP, with Carl J. Summers, Mayer Brown LLP
Expert testimony is typically thought of as providing an insight into the evidence in the case, or drawing a conclusion from the evidence, that requires knowledge beyond the ken of a typical judge or juror. But expert testimony also can be used as a substitute for evidence that a party cannot, or does not want to, present through traditional evidentiary methods. Although courts have allowed such expert testimony in certain contexts, there is cause for concern when a party offers an expert whose function is to fill a gap in the evidence.
Notable among this category of expert testimony are opinions offered during class-certification proceedings in an effort to show that a case can be efficiently managed on a class-wide basis. Such testimony often takes the form of surveys or other statistical sampling techniques designed to establish liability or damages on a class-wide basis without requiring adjudication of each individual claim. Continue reading
This Monday the U.S. Supreme Court will conduct its Long Conference, so named for the larger than usual number of certiorari petitions it considers there. With the fate of so many cert petitions hanging in the balance—and the overwhelming majority of them about to be denied—now is an opportune time to look back at the top 10 cases that were wrongly denied cert in the Court’s last term.
As with the previous installments of my “Not Top 10” list (see here and here), no more than half the cases discussed below will be ones in which Washington Legal Foundation filed a brief in support of certiorari. Also, the cases will once again be limited to those that affect economic liberty, including the need for legal certainty around key legal policies and regulatory regimes. From WLF’s free-enterprise perspective, those cases that implicate competition in the marketplace, limited and accountable government, individual and business civil liberties, or rule of law concerns matter the most. Continue reading
Featured Expert Contributor — Civil Justice/Class Actions
Frank Cruz-Alvarez, a Partner in the Miami, FL office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. with Ravika Rameshwar, an Associate with the firm.
On August 23. 2016, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a class-action suit that alleged the makers of Similac® Advance® Organic Infant Formulas fraudulently misrepresented the products as “organic,” holding that the state claims are preempted by federal law—specifically, the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Marentette et. al. v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc., 2016 WL 4444787 (E.D.N.Y Aug. 23, 2016). The court stated that Congress designed the OFPA to create a national standard for organic labeling that would be “disrupted, if not thwarted,” by inconsistent state and federal court decisions. Marentette, 2016 WL 4444787, at *8. Continue reading
Today, September 12, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear oral arguments in two class-action food-labeling cases. The issues before the court are similar and the cases arise from nearly identical facts: the plaintiffs allege that the defendants’ product labels are false or misleading in violation of various state laws because they claim to be “natural.” The appeals will also be heard by the same panel—Judges Fletcher, Christen, and Friedland. In considering these two appeals, the Ninth Circuit will have a chance to set a major precedent that could either reduce the flow of food-labeling suits into California-based federal courts or open the spigot even wider.
The similarities between the two cases, Brazil v. Dole Packaged Foods, LLC and Briseno v. ConAgra, Inc., are striking. The plaintiffs filed putative class actions alleging that the defendants violated various statutory and common-law causes of action by labeling some of their products as “All Natural” or “100% Natural.” Brazil claims that Dole’s use of “All Natural” on several of its juices’ labels is false or misleading because the company added ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and citric acid. Both additives occur naturally in the juice products. Similarly, Briseno claims that ConAgra’s “100% Natural” label is false or misleading because the Wesson Oil in question contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Continue reading
“Enough is enough.”
That is how Judge Clay D. Land, Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, concluded the first paragraph of a scathing five-page order in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceeding In re Mentor Corp. Obtape Transobturator Sling Products Liability Litigation. The September 7, 2016 order includes three-and-a-half pages of what Judge Clay himself labeled “Obiter Dictum.” For non-lawyers or those not fluent in Latin, obiter dictum is that part of a judicial opinion that is not necessary to the holding of the case.
Dicta it may be, but those three-and-a-half pages offer a spot-on critique of the MDL process by an experienced judge who has garnered significant criticism from defense-side lawyers for some of his pro-plaintiff rulings in the In re Mentor litigation. Continue reading
Warning: Includes Ice
Since its inception in the spring of 2010, the WLF Legal Pulse has routinely cast aspersions upon (mostly California-based) class-action lawsuits alleging fraudulent food labeling and the shopping-cart-chasing lawyers who file them. The blog even has a tag devoted entirely to posts on these suits: Food Court.
Of all the lawsuits we’ve discussed here, few cases epitomize the absurdity of this litigation trend better than the recently decided Forouzesh v. Starbucks Corp. Filed not in the “Food Court” (aka the Northern District of California), but rather in the Central District of California, this suit alleged that Starbucks committed, among other wrongs, fraud, false advertising and breach of warranty by misrepresenting the specific number of ounces in an iced drink. In other words a “Grande” iced coffee or tea, which is 16 ounces, actually contains 12 ounces of coffee plus 4 ounces of ice. As reflected by the grainy photos of a Starbucks cup and a Pyrex bowl in the complaint, Forouzesh actually measured this out. He sought to represent a class of California Starbucks iced-drink purchasers and demanded compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. Continue reading