Class Action Defense Strategy Blog

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Since 2019, a staggering number of “flavor” lawsuits have been filed, with dozens of putative class actions filed in a single month and more than 100 in 2021 alone.  While some lawyers appear to have an insatiable appetite for filing these suits, courts appear to find them mostly unpalatable.  The complaints  allege that packaging on food and beverage items is false and misleading because the challenged products do not contain certain ingredients or because the flavor is achieved by using ingredients other than or in addition to what consumers “expect” to be the source of the flavor.  Manufacturers of plant
Continue Reading Are Flavor Cases Fizzling? Two More Courts Grant Motions to Dismiss

In Brice v. Haynes Investments LLC, No. 19-15707 (9th Cir. Sept. 16, 2021), the Ninth Circuit considered an appeal by shareholders in Native American tribe-linked online lenders of a district court order denying the shareholders’ motion to compel arbitration. The Ninth Circuit reversed the order because, under the terms of the parties’ agreement, the enforceability of the arbitration agreement was a question for the arbitrator, not the judge, to decide.
Continue Reading Class Action Waivers Redux: Ninth Circuit Upholds Arbitration Provision Delegating Enforceability Determination to Arbitrator

Continuing the trend of recognizing Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) as a muscular privacy-protective statute, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has ruled that the most common statutory violations of BIPA are subject to a five-year statute of limitations. BIPA imposes several duties on companies that collect, store or use biometric data—e.g., fingerprints, facial geometry scans—from Illinois residents. Prevailing plaintiffs may recover liquidated damages ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for each BIPA violation (plus attorneys’ fees), and these provisions incentivize plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring BIPA claims as class actions.
Continue Reading Illinois Appellate Court Affirms 5-Year Statute of Limitations Period for Certain BIPA Claims

The Supreme Court further limited consumer lawsuits in TransUnion, LLC v. Ramirez, siding with credit reporting agency TransUnion in a 5-4 decision holding that thousands of consumers improperly flagged as potential terrorists do not have standing to sue the company for damages. TransUnion expands upon Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 2578 U.S. 330, 340 (2016) in limiting standing under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Article III to plaintiffs who have suffered a concrete harm, not just the violation of a statutory right. As a practical matter, TransUnion significantly narrows plaintiffs’ ability to assert claims in federal court on behalf
Continue Reading Supreme Court Addresses Class Action Standing in Ramirez Case: Requires “Concrete” Injury for Article III Standing for Class Members

In Ford v. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 12008 (8th Cir. Apr. 23, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a district court’s order certifying a class of customers who had used the defendant’s brokerage services to trade securities and were allegedly injured by defendant’s undisclosed “order routing practices.”  The Eighth Circuit determined that plaintiff’s expert’s proposed algorithm could not overcome the complex, trade-by-trade inquiry needed to adjudicate each class member’s economic loss, and so failed to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3)’s requirement that common issues of law
Continue Reading Eighth Circuit Holds Rule 23(b)(3)’s Predominance Requirement Not Met in Securities Fraud Action Against Brokerage Firm

On April 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court in the class action case of Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, No. 19-511, resolved a circuit court split on the meaning of automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) by unanimously reversing the Ninth Circuit’s broad definition and narrowly interpreting ATDS.  Bringing much needed clarity the Federal Communications Commission has not been able to provide to date, the Supreme Court held that to qualify as ATDS “a device must have the capacity to store a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator, or to produce a
Continue Reading The U.S. Supreme Court Limits TCPA Liability By Narrowly Interpreting ATDS

In a resounding victory for public-private partnerships, the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Cunningham v. Lester, et al., No. 20-1086, — F.3d —- (4th Cir. Mar. 4, 2021) has affirmed federal employees’ immunity from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) when acting in furtherance of a government mandate.  The TCPA imposes strict statutory penalties for unsolicited robocalls ranging from $500 to $1,500 per violation.  But the Supreme Court has held the TCPA does not contain a waiver of sovereign immunity. See Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 577 U.S. 153, 166 (2016).  The question presented in Cunningham was whether a plaintiff can avoid
Continue Reading Strengthening the TCPA’s Sovereign Immunity Shield—Fourth Circuit Rules Federal Employees Are Not Liable for Government-Mandated Robocalls

Arbitration clauses with class action waivers remain one of the most effective lines of defense against consumer class actions.  They are also one of the most challenged.  As we have discussed in prior posts, including here, here, and here, consumer arbitration clauses have come under fire in California if they prohibit plaintiffs from obtaining “public injunctive relief” in any forum.  This is the so-called McGill rule, which comes from the California Supreme Court’s decision in McGill v. CitiBank, N.A., 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017).
Continue Reading More on McGill: Ninth Circuit Affirms Order Enforcing Arbitration of Public Injunctive Relief Claims

This article was originally published on Food Navigator on January 13, 2021.

If your company sells any vanilla-flavored food or beverage product, then you are probably aware of the innumerable class action cases that have been filed over the last 18 months attacking these products – 67 cases by our count.  Here, we trace the history of this litigation and the outcomes achieved to date.
Continue Reading The Scoop on All that Vanilla Flavor Litigation

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari on December 16, 2020 in TransUnion, LLC v. Ramirez on the question of “[w]hether either Article III or Rule 23 permits a damages class action where the vast majority of the class suffered no actual injury, let alone an injury anything like what the class representative suffered.” Ramirez will give the high court the opportunity to clarify how Article III standing requirements apply to class members in class actions.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Address Class Action Standing in Ramirez Case: To Recover, Must Absent Class Members Establish Actual Injury?

The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in McGee v. S-L Snacks Nat’l,., confirms that nutrition fact panel and ingredient disclosures provide information that can be used to support a motion to dismiss and remain important tools for defeating consumer class actions.
Continue Reading It’s Not Pop Secret, Ninth Circuit Affirms that Plaintiff Didn’t Have a Leg to Stand On

On July 29, 2020, the Sixth Circuit joined the Second and the Ninth Circuits in expansively defining Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  In Allan v. Pa. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, No. 19-2043 (6th Cir. July 29, 2020), the Sixth Circuit held that “devices that dial from a stored list of numbers”—i.e. “predictive dialers”—qualify as an ATDS under the TCPA.  The Third, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits have applied a more stringent definition, requiring that an ATDS have the capacity to generate random or sequential telephone numbers and to dial them.  Now the Circuit Courts
Continue Reading The Sixth Circuit Broadly Defines ATDS, Widening The Split Among Circuits Before The Supreme Court Rules Next Year

In prior posts (here and here), we raised questions that companies may want to ask when evaluating their arbitration clauses and making changes to them.  In this third installment, we look at what companies should be doing to ensure that they can present proof of their arbitration agreements if ever required to do so in court.  Your company may have a perfect arbitration clause, but if a customer claims never to have signed the arbitration agreement or not to have seen the website providing notice of the terms and conditions, you will have to present evidence that the
Continue Reading Avoiding Formation Challenges To Your Arbitration Clause With Consumers

On July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, to resolve a split in authority on the meaning of Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  In TCPA class actions, millions of dollars of potential liability often turn on this one issue, and different courts have rendered different results.  A Supreme Court decision should establish a uniform definition that will almost certainly alter TCPA litigation nationwide.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court to Address Circuit Split on Definition of ATDS Under The TCPA

On July 6, 2020, the United States Supreme Court affirmed a ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which found that an exception allowing government debt-related robocalls to cell phones is unconstitutional and must be severed from the rest of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”).  Barr v. Am. Assn. of Political Consultants, Inc., No. 19-631, — S.Ct. —- (2020).  Though the Court severed the offending exemption from the rest of the TCPA rather than invalidating the entire TCPA, the Court’s opinion provides a roadmap to making similar constitutional attacks on other portions of the
Continue Reading Death by a Thousand Cuts? Supreme Court Finds Government Debt Exception to TCPA Unconstitutional, Opening Door to Similar Attacks on FCC Regulations