Class Action Defense Strategy Blog

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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.…
This article was originally posted in Food Manufacturing on January 6, 2021. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of putative class actions targeting the food and beverage industry increased in 2020 and show no signs of slowing down in 2021. The number of class actions filed against beverage companies in New York increased while the number of cases filed in California decreased. While the Northern District of California, which had become known as the “food court” remained a popular jurisdiction for these suits, filings in New York outpaced those in California. The factual basis of the claims also continues to evolve. Early cases challenged…
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.…
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…
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…
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.…
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…
In a prior post (here), we highlighted some questions that companies may want to ask when evaluating whether their arbitration clauses are enforceable.  If changes need to be made to those clauses, then companies should consider how to implement those changes so as to ensure those are enforceable too.  The following is what you should be thinking about and asking.…
Arbitration clauses with class action waivers remain one of the most effective tools that consumer-facing companies can employ to fend off consumer class action litigation.  Yet many companies stumble both in getting their customers to agree to the arbitration clause and in drafting a clause that captures all claims that they might face.  As we continue to work, shop, and engage with the world from home, companies should perform a quick “health-check” of their arbitration clause, asking themselves at least the following questions:…
The plaintiffs’ bar has continued to challenge sourcing and sustainability claims made by food manufacturers.  In Ehlers v. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80773 (D. Vt. May 7, 2020), however, the court dismissed such a challenge where the allegedly false statement was taken out of context and the plaintiff ignored the totality of the company’s representations.  “A plaintiff who alleges that he was deceived by an advertisement may not misquote or misleadingly excerpt the language of the advertisement in his pleadings and expect his action to survive a motion to dismiss.”  This case should help companies…
In Duran v. LaBoom Disco, Inc., No. 19-600-cv (2d Cir. Apr. 7, 2020), the Second Circuit joined the Ninth Circuit in expansively defining Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The Second Circuit held, like the Ninth Circuit before, that ATDS includes automated texts/calls to consumers from stored lists, while the Third, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits have held the opposite, requiring that an ATDS make texts/calls not only automatically, but from a list of randomly generated numbers.  The Second Circuit decision highlights the growing Circuit split on the issue and potentially foreshadows a date with…
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) generally prohibits automated calls, including text messages, to cell phones without sufficient prior express consent, and imposes a statutory penalty of $500 to $1,500 per call/text in violation.  Calls that serve an “emergency purpose” are completely exempt from the TCPA.  The FCC’s rules define “emergency purpose” to mean “calls made necessary in any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.” See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(f)(4).…
The Seventh Circuit has recently joined the Second, Third, Sixth and Eleventh Circuits in adopting a narrow interpretation of Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), one that excludes equipment that dials numbers from a customer database.  See Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc., No. 19-1738, — F.3d —-, 2020 WL 808270 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2020); see also Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co., 948 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. Jan. 27, 2020); Gary v. Trueblue, Inc., 786 F. App’x 555 (6th Cir. Sept. 5, 2019); King v. Time Warner Cable, 894 F.3d 473 (2d Cir.…
The California Court of Appeal recently made it more difficult for plaintiffs to certify class actions based on false advertising or fraud.  In Downey v. Public Storage, Inc., Case No. B291662, ___Cal.App.5th___ (Feb. 6, 2020), the Court of Appeal affirmed an order denying class certification on the grounds that issues of deception and reliance were not susceptible to common proof. In March 2015, several plaintiffs filed a class action against Public Storage, alleging that its $1 promotional rate was deceptive, violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. § 17200 et seq.), and constituted a false advertisement.  In particular, the…
As one year ends, another begins.  So too it seems with California’s embrace of multi-million dollar privacy class actions.  The purported illegal recording of cellular or cordless phone calls under Section 632.7 of the California Penal Code has long been a favorite of the class action bar due to the availability of staggering statutory damages.  These actions are all but dead, however, following the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Smith v. LoanMe, Inc., 2019 DJDAR 11930, holding that some form of eavesdropping is required to state a cause of action under Section 632.7.  No longer is the simple recording of…