Courts Reject Buyers’ Remorse and Wasted Time as Redressable Class-Wide Injuries

article IIIWe return once again (click here for past posts) to the seemingly banal legal doctrine of standing to sue—a subject that few, if any, likely contemplated when celebrating Constitution Day this week. This doctrine does, however, arise from the Constitution’s ingenious separation of powers among the three branches of government. Article III limits the judiciary’s role to resolving “cases” and “controversies.” From that the U.S. Supreme Court derived the standing doctrine as a way to test whether plaintiffs’ claims are fit for judicial resolution. A key part of the test is whether a plaintiff can factually establish that she suffered a concrete “injury in fact” that can be traced to the defendant’s conduct and can be redressed by a judicial remedy.

Legal claims based on conjectural or hypothetical harm, therefore, should not be inundating federal courts’ dockets. Unfortunately, too many no-injury class actions are passing the standing test, thanks in part to broadly worded state consumer-protection laws (and judges’ reluctance to reject jurisdiction). Just last week, for instance, a federal court ruled that state fraud laws are so broad that consumers who purchased vehicles with faulty ignition switches can recover damages even if the defect never manifested itself. And earlier this year, the Supreme Court refused to review an appellate court decision that allows eye-drop users to sue based on the speculative theory that eye-drop producers would charge the same price for a vial with a smaller dispensing hole.

Given the current trend on standing, it is critical to highlight positive outcomes in this area. We discuss two encouraging decisions here, one from the court that allowed the aforementioned eye-drop suit to proceed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the second from a federal court in California, a state with perhaps the nation’s most permissive consumer-protection laws. Continue reading “Courts Reject Buyers’ Remorse and Wasted Time as Redressable Class-Wide Injuries”

Monkey Selfie Update: 9th Circuit Judge Calls for En Banc Rehearing Vote on Ruling

1525792504758-naruto2Two weeks ago, we posted a commentary on the so-called monkey selfie case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Naruto v. Slater. The court unanimously held that Naruto, a photogenic Indonesian macaque, did not have statutory standing to sue the owner of the selfie-taking camera for copyright infringement. The majority opinion did find that Naruto had Article III standing, a conclusion strongly criticized in a concurring opinion.

Law360 reported yesterday that “an unnamed Ninth Circuit judge had requested sua sponte that the full court vote on whether to rehear the case.” The article speculated that Judge N. Randy Smith, who authored the concurrence in the three-judge-panel opinion, may have made the request. Judge Smith had written that once the court found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals could not act as a “next friend” to Naruto and prosecute the suit on his behalf, the standing inquiry should have ceased.

A second possibility is that the author of the Slater majority opinion, Judge Carlos Bea, called for the en banc vote. His opinion explicitly called for the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its 2004 decision, Cetacean Cmty. v. Bush, which held that non-humans represented by “competent counsel” can have Article III standing to sue without a “next friend.” The court “wrongly decided” Cetacean, Judge Bea wrote in Slater.

The May 25 Slater docket filing called for new briefs on the rehearing issue, which are due on June 15.

“Monkey Selfie” Copyright Ruling Reflects Key Appeals Court’s Wayward Standing-to-Sue Jurisprudence

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve been on a bit of a standing-to-sue kick in this space lately (here, and here, for instance) and in Washington Legal Foundation’s publishing program (here and here). Article III’s standing requirement, the U.S. Supreme Court has explained, is “built on separation-of-powers principles” and “serves to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the political branches.” From a more practical vantage, a predictable body of law that confines courts’ jurisdiction to lawsuits alleging actual, redressable harms helps to limit defendants’—especially business defendants’—litigation costs by facilitating early dismissal of questionable claims.

Two WLF publications referenced above criticize the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for issuing decisions that significantly relax the standing requirement of “injury in fact.” While reaching the right result, another recent Ninth Circuit decision, in the famed “monkey selfie” copyright case, exemplifies how truly off course the court’s standing jurisprudence has wandered. Continue reading ““Monkey Selfie” Copyright Ruling Reflects Key Appeals Court’s Wayward Standing-to-Sue Jurisprudence”

No Matter the Cause, “Public Interest” Groups Merit No Shortcuts on Standing to Sue

DC District CourtTo bring a lawsuit, a plaintiff must, before all else, demonstrate standing under the Constitution. Article III requires a plaintiff have “(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)). Lujan and other U.S. Supreme Court decisions have clarified that cause-oriented organizations get no shortcuts; they must meet roughly the same standing requirements as individuals to bring lawsuits in federal court. A recent U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decision, Environmental Working Group et al. v. Food and Drug Administration, exactingly applied those requirements to deny two environmental groups standing to sue, while at the same time signaling that D.C. Circuit organizational standing precedents should perhaps be reconsidered. Continue reading “No Matter the Cause, “Public Interest” Groups Merit No Shortcuts on Standing to Sue”

Decision’s Permissive Standing Analysis Tags Ninth Circuit as Favorable Forum for Data-Related Suits

Cruz-Alvarez_FFeatured Expert Contributor—Civil Justice/Class Actions

By Frank Cruz-Alvarez, a Partner with Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. in the firm’s Miami, FL office, with Erica E. McCabe, an Associate in the firm’s Kansas City, MO office.

On February 26, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California tracked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s permissive approach to Article III standing when it denied Facebook Inc.’s (Facebook) renewed motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in Patel, et al. v. Facebook Inc., ___F. Supp. 3d ___, 2018 WL 1050154 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 2018).  In rejecting Facebook’s motion, the court held that the putative class properly alleged a concrete injury in fact, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016) (Spokeo I). Continue reading “Decision’s Permissive Standing Analysis Tags Ninth Circuit as Favorable Forum for Data-Related Suits”

A River Runs to Court: Environmental Activists Circumvent Democracy to Impose Agenda

colorado river gorgeThis is a frustrating time for environmental special-interest activists. Their cause is not one the public rates as a national priority. Their allies are no longer in leadership positions in federal agencies. And though they still have friends at the state and local levels, shrinking budgets prevent those regulators and elected officials from pursuing the activists’ agenda. With waning influence in other branches, many environmental organizations now increasingly look to a long-standing and reliable tool of advocacy—the lawsuit—to achieve their ends.

Some groups have gone well beyond such traditional environmental litigation as citizen suits under state or federal laws, and are instead seeking judicial injunctions that would force government regulators to implement activists’ preferred policies. These lawsuits suffer from a number of infirmities, not the least of which is they turn the entire democratic process on its head. Continue reading “A River Runs to Court: Environmental Activists Circumvent Democracy to Impose Agenda”

Eighth Circuit Finds Standing, but Ultimately Rejects Claims, in Data-Breach Suit

Cruz-Alvarez_F

Featured Expert Contributor—Civil Justice/Class Actions

Frank Cruz-Alvarez, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., with Rachel Forman, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.

On August 21, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Kuhns v. Scottrade, Inc., 868 F.3d 711 (8th Cir. 2017), affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a consolidated class action complaint.  The Eighth Circuit disagreed with the district court and held that the plaintiff had Article III standing for the contract-related claims, but nonetheless affirmed the dismissal of the complaint because it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Continue reading “Eighth Circuit Finds Standing, but Ultimately Rejects Claims, in Data-Breach Suit”