Civil Justice/Class Actions
Frank Cruz-Alvarez, a Partner in the Miami, FL office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. with Rachel Forman, an Associate with the firm.
On February 6, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in the consolidated appeal Beck v. McDonald, 848 F.3d 262 (4th Cir. 2017), affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the plaintiff veterans’ putative class-action claims against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center (“Dorn VAMC”) officials for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit held that the plaintiffs “failed to establish a non-speculative, imminent injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing.” Id. at 267. Continue reading
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 Backgrounder—Briseno 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
Partially hydrogenated oil
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
On September 30, just two weeks after hearing oral argument in the case (which we previewed here), the Ninth Circuit released an unpublished opinion in Brazil v. Dole Packaged Foods, partially reversing the district court. The opinion correctly upheld the district court’s dismissal of one of Brazil’s “outlandish theor[ies]” and its decertification of the class. Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit relied on nonbinding FDA guidance and warning letters to evaluate what would mislead a reasonable consumer, reversing the district court’s dismissal of his other claims. Although not officially precedential, the opinion is worth reviewing because it has the potential to guide lower courts and gives insight into the Ninth Circuit’s future food-labeling decisions. Continue reading
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