Fifth Circuit Rejects Rigid Interpretation of Removal Statute in Asbestos-Liability Case

5thCirWhen attempting to remove civil lawsuits from state to federal court, business defendants often must contend with not one, but two opponents. One opponent, of course, is the plaintiff, who prefers the home cooking of a local judge and jury. The second opponent is the federal district court judge, who may be loath to inflate the size of his docket. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit late last month reversed one district court judge’s crabbed interpretation of a removal statute which consigned an asbestos-liability defendant to the notoriously pro-plaintiff Louisiana state courts. Continue reading

With Ninth Circuit Exacerbating Judicial Discord on “Ascertainability,” Time For SCOTUS to Resolve Split

sellingerdvannostrandaGuest Commentary

By David E. Sellinger and Aaron Van Nostrand, Greenberg Traurig LLP

In a closely watched appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has squarely weighed in on the “ascertainability” of class members in a class-action lawsuit. The three-judge panel further widened a rift among federal courts of appeal on the issue, holding that plaintiffs need not demonstrate an administratively feasible way to identify class members at the class-certification stage.

In an August, 2016 WLF Legal Backgrounder, we predicted that a trio of class actions then-pending in the Ninth Circuit could prompt the US Supreme Court to resolve the circuit split on the ascertainability issue. Although that issue was briefed in all three cases, it was not decided in Brazil v. Dole Packaged Foods, LLC (No. 14-17480), and a hold placed on Jones v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. (No. 14-16327) pending a Supreme Court decision in Microsoft v. Baker is still in effect. The Ninth Circuit did address ascertainability in the third case discussed in that Legal BackgrounderBriseno v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. The January 3 decision presents a view sharply in contrast with that of certain other circuits, most notably the Third Circuit. Continue reading

The Government Should Stop Using ‘Operation Choke Point’ to Bully Banks into Cutting Ties with Legitimate Businesses

imagezOn the eve of the inauguration, many industries and businesses await the changes a new administration will bring.  In particular, payday lenders are hoping that they will once again be able to enjoy unrestricted banking access, as for the past several years their banking relationships have slowly been severed as a result of a government initiative known as “Operation Choke Point.”

Operation Choke Point began—without any Congressional approval or even knowledge—as a product of President Obama’s 2009 executive order to eliminate fraudulent and illegal businesses.  Not surprisingly, however, the initiative quickly expanded.  By 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had started quietly launching the now-infamous federal initiative unconstitutionally cutting off countless legitimate businesses from banking services. Continue reading

A 2017 Food-Court Resolution: End Regulation-through-Litigation Crusade Against Trans Fat

Partially hydrogenated oil chemical structure

Partially hydrogenated oil
chemical structure

In 2016, class-action lawsuits alleging that a processed food product or its labeling violated state consumer-protection laws continued to clog the federal courts, especially in California. The number of new food-related consumer class actions filed last year nearly equaled the number filed in 2015, according to a report in Food Navigator USA. It’s unclear whether these trends will hold in 2017, but there is one set of blatantly frivolous claims that should disappear this year: those that seek judicial regulation of products that contain partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), the main source of trans fat. A December 13, 2016 Southern District of California decision should frustrate such claims in the short term, and a forthcoming US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision in a pending case may (and should) end them permanently. Continue reading

Supreme Court Given Opportunity to Clarify Specific Personal Jurisdiction

eric-millerGuest Commentary

By Eric D. Miller, Partner, Perkins Coie LLP*

A pending petition for a writ of certiorari presents the United States Supreme Court with an opportunity to clarify whether a state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant based solely on the defendant’s sale of components to third parties who incorporate those parts into finished products that are then sold in the forum State.

That question has divided the lower courts since Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). In that case, Asahi, a Japanese manufacturer, had delivered tire-valve assemblies to a Taiwanese tire manufacturer that sold tires throughout the world, including in California. After a California resident was injured in an accident caused by a defective valve, he sued Asahi in California state court. The Supreme Court held that Asahi was not subject to personal jurisdiction in California, but no rationale commanded a majority of the Court. Justice O’Connor, writing for four justices, concluded that the connection between the defendant and the forum state necessary to establish specific personal jurisdiction “must come about by an action of the defendant purposefully directed toward the forum state.” In her view, placing a product “into the stream of commerce, without more,” is not such an act. Justice Brennan, on the other hand, wrote for four justices who believed that placement of goods into the stream of commerce, with the knowledge that they will ultimately be sold in a state, can be sufficient for jurisdiction in that state. Continue reading

District of Columbia’s Court of Appeals Adopts “Daubert” as Test for Expert Testimony

Tager_09181Featured Expert Column: Judicial Gatekeeping of Expert Evidence

By Evan M. Tager, Mayer Brown LLP, with Carl J. Summers, Mayer Brown LLP

Nearly a century ago, in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia—the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit—announced the general acceptance test for evaluating the admissibility of expert testimony. Over the next several decades, the general acceptance test itself became generally accepted. But since the US Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and the adoption of that standard in Federal Rule of Evidence 702, many states have replaced Frye with Daubert. In Motorola, Inc. v. Murray, __ A.3d __, 2016 WL 6134870 (D.C. Oct. 20, 2016), the en banc District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the District of Columbia’s appellate court, distinct from the federal DC Circuit) expressly dispensed with the Frye standard and adopted Rule 702. Continue reading

Friday Finger on the Pulse: From Our Blogroll and Beyond

  • Class-action defendants can learn much from plaintiff-leaning law-review article on “statistical adjudication” after Tysons Food v. Bouaphakeo (Class Action Countermeasures)
  • By the Justice Department’s own measure of success, its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act “pilot program” is failing (FCPA Professor)
  • The case for why FTC, not FCC, should regulate internet privacy (Truth on the Market)
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau joins the ranks of government censors with proposed gag rule on investigation targets (Overlawyered)
  • Online database IMDb.com files First Amendment challenge against California law banning inclusion of actors’ ages, citing rights of customers to receive information (Hollywood Reporter)
  • Suit claiming air emissions that fall to the ground constitute hazardous waste under Superfund proves too ambitious even for the Ninth Circuit (Marten Law Newsletter)
  • A new regulatory paradigm for SEC in 2017? (California Corporate & Securities Law via ProfessorBainbridge.com)
  • Competitors and whistleblowers will be the likely beneficiaries of FDA’s new online regulatory misconduct reporting tool (FDA Law Blog)