Commercial Litigation Alert Blog

Ninth Circuit Reverses $200 Million Settlement and Class Certification For Lack of Proper Choice of Law Analysis

Ninth Circuit Reverses $200 Million Settlement and Class Certification For Lack of Proper Choice of Law Analysis

In a decision that may make it harder to settle cases on behalf of nationwide classes, the Ninth Circuit recently overturned a $200 million class action settlement and vacated the certification of a nationwide class of consumers, finding the district court failed to examine whether different states’ laws applied to the class members’ claims and whether Rule 23’s predominance requirement was satisfied. The dispute was rooted in a 2012 investigation which found that Hyundai and Kia deviated from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy testing protocols and overstated the fuel efficiency estimates in advertisements and car window stickers for certain 2011, 2012, and 2013 vehicles. A California federal court approved the settlement in June 2015. However, in In re Hyundai and Kia Fuel Economy Litigation, a split three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit vacated the District Court’s approval order and certification of a nationwide class of consumers. Five objectors appealed from the class settlement arguing, among other things, that the settlement violated consumer rights in states other than California. The Ninth Circuit held that the District Court erred by failing to apply California’s choice of law rules to determine whether California law could apply to all plaintiffs in a nationwide class...

Class Certification Denied in Tropicana Orange Juice Labeling MDL

Class Certification Denied in Tropicana Orange Juice Labeling MDL

In the Tropicana Orange Juice multidistrict litigation (MDL), plaintiffs’ bid for class certification has been rejected due to the need for individualized proofs and inability to ascertain class members. On January 22, 2018, U.S. District Judge William J. Martini (DNJ) denied class certification in the multidistrict litigation, In re Tropicana Orange Juice Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation. The lawsuit claimed that “Tropicana Pure Premium” (TPP) orange juice was mislabeled and misbranded as “100% pure and natural” because the juice contains undisclosed natural flavoring in violation of FDA standards of identity for pasteurized orange juice. Plaintiffs also attacked the marketing of TPP as “pure, natural and fresh from the grove” as demonstrably false given the added flavoring. The MDL judge, however, concluded that plaintiffs’ common law and N.J. Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) claims were “plainly unsuitable for class certification” because each claim “requires individualized proof.” Plaintiffs argued that their unjust enrichment claim was uniform because it focused on the TPP label and consumers uniformly paid for pasteurized orange juice that they did not receive. But the court held that defendant would be unjustly enriched only if a consumer did not receive the benefit of the bargain for which she paid, thus...

Second Circuit Clarifies Burden of Rebutting the Basic Presumption Under Halliburton II

Second Circuit Clarifies Burden of Rebutting the Basic Presumption Under Halliburton II

In In re Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Sec. Litig., the Second Circuit confirmed that, at the class-certification stage in a securities-fraud class action, the defendant bears the burden of persuasion to rebut the presumption of reliance under Basic v. Levinson by a preponderance of the evidence. The decision follows on the heels of a separate Second Circuit panel’s similar decision in Waggoner v. Barclays PLC and clarifies that a defendant need not provide “conclusive evidence” to rebut the presumption. Goldman Sachs is one of several federal court decisions interpreting Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc. (Halliburton II), which declined to dispense with the Basic presumption of reliance – which is premised on the “fraud-on-the-market” theory – but held that the presumption can be rebutted by “any showing that severs the link between the alleged misrepresentation and either the price received (or paid) by the plaintiff, or his decision to trade at a fair market price.” Since Halliburton II was handed down, courts have wrestled with the proof a defendant must offer to rebut the presumption. In Waggoner v. Barclays PLC, issued in November 2017, the Second Circuit resolved the question by holding that a defendant bears the burden of...

New Jersey Poised to Mandate Across-the-Board Information and Data Security Preparedness

New Jersey Poised to Mandate Across-the-Board Information and Data Security Preparedness

The New Jersey Assembly is considering legislation that will require individuals and businesses that own or license personal information about a New Jersey resident to create and maintain a comprehensive information security program (“ISP”). The bill, A-5206, was introduced by Assemblywoman and Deputy Majority Leader Annette Quijano (D-Union) on November 30, 2017, and referred to the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee. If passed, New Jersey would join other states including Massachusetts (see 201 CMR 17.01 to 17.05) and Rhode Island (R.I. Gen. L. § 11-49.3-2), and sector-specific regulatory schemes including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (16 CFR 314), New York Department of Financial Services Cybersecurity Regulation (23 NYCRR 500), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Security Rule (45 CFR 164), that require a written information security program. The bill as currently drafted includes a minimum of 28 data security policies and practices that must be included in any company’s ISP. These include: Designating one or more employees to be in charge of the ISP; Ongoing employee training regarding risks to the security, confidentiality, and integrity of any records containing personal information, and imposing disciplinary measures for violation of ISP rules; Obligating a company to conduct...

Class Certification of TCCWNA Claims Dealt a Serious Blow by NJ Supreme Court in Dugan v. TGI Fridays and Bozzi v. Restaurant Partners, LLC

Class Certification of TCCWNA Claims Dealt a Serious Blow by NJ Supreme Court in Dugan v. TGI Fridays and Bozzi v. Restaurant Partners, LLC

On October 4, 2017, the Supreme Court of New Jersey dealt a subtle but serious blow to “no injury” TCCWNA class actions. In consolidated appeals, Dugan v. TGI Fridays and Bozzi v. Restaurant Partners, LLC, the plaintiffs had argued that the defendant restaurant operators violated the plaintiffs’ clearly established rights by failing to list prices for beverages on their menus, that the restaurants were required to plainly mark the prices, and that when the restaurants’ employees presented menus to customers (class members), they “offered” contracts that violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) and the Truth-in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”). However, the Court concluded that class certification was not appropriate because individual, rather than common, issues would predominate in proving TCCWNA’s “aggrieved consumer” and “clearly established legal right” requirements. The fundamental take-away from the Supreme Court’s analysis of TCCWNA’s “aggrieved consumer” requirement is that simply demonstrating that a consumer contract offends TCCWNA does not establish liability under the Act, because “[b]y its very terms, TCCWNA . . . does not apply when a defendant fails to provide the consumer with a required writing.” Rather, “at a minimum, a claimant must prove that he or she was...

Gibbons Ranked Best Law Firm and Best Lobbying Firm in Inaugural NJBIZ Reader Rankings

Gibbons Ranked Best Law Firm and Best Lobbying Firm in Inaugural NJBIZ Reader Rankings

Gibbons P.C. has been selected as the best law firm and the best lobbying firm in New Jersey in the inaugural NJBIZ Reader Ranking Awards. The Reader Rankings were compiled through an online survey seeking the best of the best in a wide range of categories and subcategories. According to NJBIZ, “The publication of the 2017 Reader Rankings by NJBIZ is our way of recognizing the regard our readers have for the businesses in their communities. What makes the companies listed here distinct is the devotion they inspire among our region’s business leaders.” Gibbons has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications for the firm’s work on behalf of clients, including being named among the New Jersey Law Journal’s Litigation Departments of the Year, earning the top overall honors in 2014, as well as recognition for the practice areas of class actions (2017), products liability (2016), and commercial litigation (2013). The Gibbons Government Affairs Department has ranked as the #1 lawyer-lobbying firm in New Jersey for nine consecutive years, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission In addition, the firm and Gibbons attorneys are also consistently recognized in annual client-review publications such as the Chambers USA Guide to...

Dos and Don’ts for Online Retailers Listing Terms and Conditions on Their Websites

Dos and Don’ts for Online Retailers Listing Terms and Conditions on Their Websites

A recent California federal decision states clear guidelines for consumer-focused companies’ online terms and conditions. In McKee v. Audible, Inc., the plaintiff signed up on his smartphone for a free one-month trial with Audible, an Amazon subsidiary offering audiobook subscription services. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a putative class action against Audible and Amazon.com taking issue with Audible’s policy regarding unused credits. Defendants then filed a motion to compel arbitration. The motion to compel arbitration was granted as to Amazon, but denied as to Audible. The court found that while both companies’ arbitration agreements were valid and enforceable, Audible’s customer user agreements were not clearly displayed when consumers signed up for the service online and were blocked by certain images when using the Audible app. Therefore, customers were not given the requisite actual or constructive notices of the terms of service, such that they could mutually assent to the terms of service in order to create a valid and enforceable contract. The court offered the following guidelines for constructive notice in internet commerce: (1) “terms of use” will not be enforced where there is no evidence that the website user had notice of the agreement; (2) a user should be encouraged...

Slow Down You’re Moving Too Fast: Third Circuit Directs District Court to Resolve Motion to Compel Arbitration Before Motion to Dismiss

Slow Down You’re Moving Too Fast: Third Circuit Directs District Court to Resolve Motion to Compel Arbitration Before Motion to Dismiss

In a recent decision, the Third Circuit made it abundantly clear that a motion to compel arbitration must be decided before a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Joshua Silfee filed a lawsuit against ERG Staffing Service, his former employer, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, claiming the company’s payroll policies violated state law because workers were required to use a fee-carrying debit card. ERG filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act, asserting that the arbitration agreement between Silfee and ERG’s payroll vendor precluded the suit against ERG. ERG also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Silfee’s complaint based on the merits of his state law claims against the company. The district court decided to delay consideration of ERG’s motion to compel arbitration and denied the company’s motion to dismiss the case. ERG appealed. The Third Circuit concluded that the district judge erred in delaying the arbitrability inquiry, explaining that arbitrability is a “gateway” issue and that, after a motion to compel arbitration is filed, a court “must refrain from further action until it determines arbitrability.” The Third Circuit noted that “[t]he seeds of the District Court’s confusion may have been sown...

Third Circuit Clarifies Focus of Preliminary Injunction Standard

Third Circuit Clarifies Focus of Preliminary Injunction Standard

Describing its precedent as “confus[ing]” and “inconsistent,” the Third Circuit recently clarified the test for deciding whether to issue a preliminary injunction. Since the 1970’s, courts in the Third Circuit have decided preliminary injunction applications based upon the following factors: (1) the likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant will be irreparably harmed in the absence of relief; (3) the possibility of harm to others from grant or denial of the relief; and (4) the public interest. However, courts differed as to how these four factors should be applied. In Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, the Third Circuit shed light on how these factors are to be weighed and, at least in part, who bears the burden on each. The Third Circuit held that a movant seeking a preliminary injunction bears the burden of “meet[ing] the threshold for the first two ‘most critical’ factors.” To satisfy the first prong, the movant “must demonstrate that it can win on the merits” by showing that its chances of success are “significantly better than negligible but not necessarily more likely than not.” To satisfy the second prong, however, the movant must show “that it is more likely than not to...

Do You Like What You’re Reading? Rate Our Blog: The ABA Journal’s “Web 100” Award

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