Data-Breach Class Actions Feel the Effects of “Spokeo v. Robins”

supreme courtBy Jeryn Crabb, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law

With Spokeo v. Robins the US Supreme Court clarified the requirements necessary for plaintiffs to establish standing in federal court.  Federal district courts are only beginning to explore those parameters, but the early applications are generally encouraging in one key area: data-breach class-action litigation.

In Spokeo, Mr. Robins alleged that Spokeo, a “people search engine,” violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by inaccurately reporting that he was married, employed, and in good financial standing.  The Court held that a plaintiff bringing suit under a federal law that defines a statutory violation as harm must allege the existence of a concrete and particularized injury in order to have standing to sue. Continue reading

Pfizer False Claims Victory May Embolden Other Pharma Defendants

By Todd Hobbs, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law

2nd CircuitIn May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal of a qui tam lawsuit in U.S. ex rel. Polansky v. Pfizer, Inc.  Polansky, a former Pfizer Medical Director, brought suit under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) on behalf of the U.S. government. He alleged that Pfizer submitted a false claim for Medicare payment by illegally marketing its product for an off-label use.  The Second Circuit held that the complaint at issue failed to allege any off-label promotion and affirmed the district court’s dismissal on that basis.  Federal appeals courts have not considered many FCA lawsuits related to off-label marketing allegations, making the Polansky result worth closer review.

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Side-stepping the Issue: Federal Judge Makes Unprecedented Move in Rejecting Google’s First Amendment Defense

first-amendmentBy Erin Garza, Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation and a rising third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law

Business success in America not only generates increased dividends for shareholders and opportunities for consumers, but it also, regrettably, attracts litigation. Take, for instance, the constant flow of lawsuits search-engine companies face from individuals and organizations unhappy with their placement in search results. Search-engine businesses have consistently prevailed in such suits, arguing that the First Amendment protects how they design and apply their search algorithms.

However, a May 12, 2016 federal district court decision, which rejected Google’s motion to dismiss and allowed a search-engine optimization firm’s lawsuit to proceed, departed from this positive First Amendment trend. Was the decision in E-Ventures Worldwide, LLC v. Google an aberration or has this plaintiff found a creative new way to avoid the First Amendment defense? Continue reading

Post-“Spokeo,” More Suits Should Be Vulnerable to Article III Standing Attacks

supreme courtIn the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo Inc. v. Robins, defendants in pending cases where the only harm the plaintiff alleged is violation of a federal statute should be filing new motions to dismiss due to lack of Article III standing.  A Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) case decided recently by the First Circuit could provide an immediate opportunity to witness the impact of the Spokeo decision.

In Spokeo, the Court reaffirmed that plaintiffs must possess Article III standing to bring suit, and held that such standing required plaintiffs to allege that they were concretely injured by defendants’ actions.  The Court held that the Spokeo plaintiff’s mere allegation that the defendant violated the terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was not necessarily enough to provide standing.  Because Congress cannot abrogate standing requirements, even by providing private rights of action, each plaintiff must allege a concrete and particularized harm.  A “bare procedural violation” is not sufficient to confer standing, the Court explained.  Because the Ninth Circuit did not apply the correct standing test, the Court remanded the case for the lower court to determine whether the plaintiff could allege a concrete injury. Continue reading

Will Popular Proposition 65 Carcinogen-Listing Device Survive Constitutional Challenge?

grimaldi-bio-photo-warmGuest Commentary

By Ann Grimaldi, Principal, Grimaldi Law Offices

In a significant challenge to the so-called “Labor Code mechanism” of adding chemicals to the California Proposition 65 list, Monsanto Company filed a lawsuit against the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) in response to the agency’s September 2015 proposal to list glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup® weed and grass herbicide products—as a carcinogen. Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al. (Fresno County Superior Court). Asserting violations of the U.S. and California Constitutions, Monsanto seeks an injunction against the agencies’ listing of glyphosate and a court declaration that the Labor Code listing mechanism violates the U.S. and California Constitutions as applied to the proposed listing. Continue reading

Federal Circuit Has an Opportunity to Curtail Patent Litigation Tourism in TC Heartland Case

Fairfield Inn, Tyler, Texas

Fairfield Inn, Tyler, Texas

This afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will hear oral arguments in In re: TC Heartland, LLC. The case implicates the fundamental issue of where plaintiffs alleging patent infringement can file suit. Washington Legal Foundation was one of only two institutions to file an amicus brief in support of TC Heartland’s mandamus petition. WLF agrees that the patent venue statute does not permit TC Heartland to be sued in the District of Delaware. But our brief asks the Federal Circuit to also overrule its 1994 Beverly Hills Fan Co. v. Royal Sovereign Corp. decision. That decision, which allows nationwide corporations to be sued in any federal district where it does business, has precipitated the current epidemic of forum shopping by patent trolls. The availability of forum shopping inspires frivolous litigation that diverts businesses’ resources from innovation. Continue reading

The Future of Class-Action Litigation in a Post-Scalia World

Cruz-Alvarez_FFeatured Expert Contributor – Civil Justice/Class Actions

By Frank Cruz-Alvarez, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. (co-authored with Rachel A. Canfield, an associate with the firm)

Over the last thirty years, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia established a powerful presence on the Supreme Court on issues of interest to the business community. WLF’s General Counsel, Mark Chenoweth, deftly addressed this from a broader perspective in a recent interview with Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. In the specific area of class-action litigation, Justice Scalia repeatedly thwarted the plaintiffs’ bar’s efforts to encourage liberal interpretation of Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and broadly applied the preemptive effect of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). His death and vacancy have generated much speculation about how the post-Scalia high court will address class actions and other related cases in the terms ahead. Continue reading