The Supreme Court’s NOT Top 10: October Term 2015 Petitions the Justices Should Have Granted

supreme courtThis 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

Federal Court in NY Cites Obstacle Preemption in Dismissing State-Law Fraud Suit Against Organic Producer

Cruz-Alvarez_FFeatured 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

California Supreme Court Continues Its “Grasping” and “Exorbitant” Personal Jurisdiction over Nonresident Defendants

California supreme courtIn its seminal 2014 decision, Daimler AG v. Bauman, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed strict limits on the authority of courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over out-of-state corporate defendants.  It condemned as “grasping” and “exorbitant” a California court’s efforts to exercise jurisdiction over claims lacking any connection with the State based solely on a corporate defendant’s regular conduct of business there.  But apparently the California Supreme Court did not get the message.  This week it ruled 4-3 that out-of-state plaintiffs whose tort claims arose outside the State could sue an out-of-state corporation in California courts simply because other plaintiffs who live in California have filed similar claims against the corporation.  Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court (BMS).  That decision conflicts both with Daimler and basic notions of due process.  The U.S. Supreme Court ought to reverse it in short order. Continue reading

When Prices for an App Increase, There’s a Lawsuit for That

LogMeInBy Trey Wassdorf, a Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation in the summer of 2016 who is currently a third-year student at Texas Tech University School of Law.

Recently, online video-on-demand service Hulu decided to migrate from a business model that had provided either a free ad-supported service or a subscription-based premium service. The new service is a bit complicated; there will be a $7.99 per month ad-supported service, an $11.99 per month ad-free service, and users will still be able to watch some Hulu content for free through their distribution partners, most notably Yahoo’s new Yahoo View.  Hulu will also offer customers that currently use its free service a 30-day free trial to the subscription service.

Hulu’s decision is one that many digitally-based businesses, especially developers of mobile-device applications, are making. They accept that some users won’t be thrilled with having to pay for what they previously got gratis, but it’s unlikely that many businesses have contemplated the threat of litigation when making such a move. Recent litigation against app developer LogMeIn, however, should act as a wake-up call to digital businesses large and small. Continue reading

Texas Supreme Court Restricts Scope of Common-Law Nuisance

New Faulk photoFeatured Expert Column − Toxic Tort and Environmental Litigation

Richard O. Faulk, a Partner with Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP serving clients in Texas and Washington DC.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do necessarily represent or reflect the views of Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP.

In a unanimous decision, the Texas Supreme Court recently clarified key points regarding the common-law doctrine of private nuisance.  See Crosstex North Texas Pipeline v. Gardiner.1 Although the doctrine of public nuisance has given rise to a great deal of litigation over the past decades,2 private nuisance cases have been considerably less conspicuous.  The distinction between the two torts is based not upon the defendant’s conduct, but rather on the nature of the interest the conduct affects.  Historically, a public nuisance is “an act or omission ‘which obstructs or causes inconvenience or damage in the exercise of rights common to all,”3 while a private nuisance is a condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities attempting to enjoy it.”4 Continue reading

Second Circuit Upholds Decertification of Class Action After Jury Award

Cruz-Alvarez_FFeatured Expert Contributor — 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 July 15, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Mazzei v. Money Store (2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12994) affirmed a district court’s decision, issued after a jury verdict for the plaintiff, to decertify the underlying class action. Based on its analysis of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23’s plain language and the Seventh Amendment, the Second Circuit confirmed that so long as final judgment has not been entered, district courts have the authority to decertify a class post-verdict.  Id. at *3.

The plaintiff had entered into a loan agreement with The Money Store and defaulted on the loan, causing the defendant servicer to accelerate the loan, and commence foreclosure proceedings.  Id. at *4.  Ultimately, the plaintiff paid the balance of the loan and certain fees, including fees incurred after acceleration.  Id. at *4–5.  The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendants, purporting to represent a putative class of borrowers, for breach of contract based on the defendants’ alleged violation of the mortgage agreement by imposing post-acceleration late fees.  Id. at *5.  The district court certified a class that included “all borrowers who signed form loan agreements on loans which were owned or serviced by the defendants and who … were charged … (A) late fees after the borrower’s loan was accelerated, and where the accelerated loan was paid off.”  Id. at *5–6. Continue reading

California Appeals Court Protects Outside Counsel’s Factual Investigation as Privileged

City of Petaluma

City of Petaluma

In early June, a California court of appeal held in City of Petaluma v. Waters that the report resulting from a fact-finding investigation conducted by outside counsel for the City of Petaluma’s (the City) City Attorney was protected by attorney-client privilege and therefore undiscoverable.  The holding is notable because the court refused to read the privilege so narrowly as to only protect legal opinions and would not further encroach upon the outside-counsel relationship. Continue reading