Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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The Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit lost money when a short seller’s report concluded that Axogen, Inc., had overstated the market for its products, resulting in a precipitous decline in Axogen’s stock price. Specifically, Axogen said that its human nerve repair products had potential because “each year” 1.4 million people in the United States suffer nerve damage, leading to over 700,000 nerve repair procedures. The Retirement System filed this lawsuit against Axogen and related entities, which presents the following question: Were Axogen’s public statements forward-looking? If so, as the district court held, the statements are eligible for a safe harbor from liability.   The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the challenged statements are forward-looking and affirmed the judgment of the district court. The court explained that the Retirement System again does not argue that it meets the statutory “actual knowledge” standard. Instead, it contends that the Supreme Court’s decision in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 575 U.S. 175 (2015) relieves it of that burden. The Retirement System’s argument misunderstands the safe-harbor statute and Omnicare. The “actual knowledge” standard is a non-negotiable part of the statute. The safe-harbor provision expressly requires a plaintiff to prove that a forward-looking statement was made with “actual knowledge that the statement was false or misleading.” Omnicare, on the other hand, addressed whether an opinion may be an actionable misstatement of fact under 15 U.S.C. Section 77k(a). Thus, the Retirement System’s failure to plausibly allege—or even attempt to argue on appeal—Axogen’s actual knowledge dooms its ’33 Securities Act claims. View "Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit v. Axogen, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against GoDaddy.com, LLC (“GoDaddy”) in district court alleging that GoDaddy had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”) when it allegedly called and texted Plaintiff solely to market its services and products through a prohibited automatic telephone dialing system. Her case was consolidated with two other cases.  Plaintiff and the plaintiffs in the two other related cases purported to bring a class action on behalf of similarly situated individuals. After negotiating with GoDaddy, the three plaintiffs submitted a proposed class settlement agreement to the District Court.   The District Court determined that “even though some of the included class members would not have a viable claim in the Eleventh Circuit, they do have a viable claim in their respective Circuit [because of a circuit split]. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s approval of class certification and settlement. The court held that the class definition does not meet Article III standing requirements. The court explained that it has not received briefing on whether a single cellphone call is sufficient to meet the concrete injury requirement for Article III standing and TransUnion has clarified that courts must look to history to find a common-law analogue for statutory harms. Thus, the court concluded its best course is to vacate the class certification and settlement and remand in order to give the parties an opportunity to redefine the class with the benefit of TransUnion and its common-law analogue analysis. View "Susan Drazen v. Godaddy.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his counsel, Anderson + Wanca (“Wanca”), appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for Wanca to receive a portion of the attorneys’ fees resulting from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. Section 227. Wanca, while not appointed as class counsel in this case, began the chain of litigation that resulted in the settlement below and so contends that it provided a substantial and independent benefit to the class justifying a portion of the attorneys’ fees.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that while the court did find that Wanca has shown it provided one substantial and independent benefit to the class, Wanca’s prioritization of its interests over the class’s interests throughout the litigation forecloses the equitable relief Wanca seeks.   The court explained that non-class counsel is generally entitled to a portion of a common fund recovered in a class action as attorneys’ fees under Rule 23(h) if non-class counsel confers a substantial and independent benefit to the class that aids in the recovery or improvement of the common fund.  Here, the mere fact that Wanca devoted substantial time and effort to litigating this class action does not entitle Wanca to attorneys’ fees. Simply put, most of the 671.95 hours Wanca spent litigating Arkin I and II did not aid in the recovery or improvement of the common fund obtained under the Pressman Settlement in Arkin III. View "Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action lawsuit against brokerage firm Hornor, Townsend & Kent (“HTK”) and its parent company The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. The complaint alleged that HTK breached its fiduciary duties under Georgia law and that Penn Mutual aided and abetted that breach. The district court concluded that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (“SLUSA”) barred Plaintiff from using a class action to bring those state law claims.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained that SLUSA’s bar applies when “(1) the suit is a ‘covered class action,’ (2) the plaintiffs’ claims are based on state law, (3) one or more ‘covered securities’ has been purchased or sold, and (4) the defendant [allegedly] misrepresented or omitted a material fact ‘in connection with the purchase or sale of such security.’”Here, the only disputed issue is whether Plaintiff’s complaint alleges a misrepresentation or omission. The court reasoned that the district court correctly dismissed the actions because the complaint alleges “an untrue statement or omission of material fact in connection with the purchase or sale of a covered security." View "Jeffrey A. Cochran v. The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, et al" on Justia Law

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After determining that it has appellate jurisdiction and that the district court has subject matter jurisdiction, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's remand of a putative class action to state court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), concluding that the district court erroneously applied the local controversy exception. The court disagreed with the district court's conclusion that greater than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are Florida citizens. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Simring v. GreenSky, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court's sua sponte remand and therefore denied the petition for permission to appeal under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Plaintiffs, a group of current and former mobile homeowners and their homeowners' association, filed this action in Florida state court against numerous defendants, alleging violations of the Florida Antitrust Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. After removal to federal court, the district court sua sponte remanded back to state court, reasoning that federal-question jurisdiction no longer existed because the amended complaint asserted only state law claims and that CAFA did not provide jurisdiction because a claim brought in a representative capacity under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.222 "is not a class action, as that term is understood for CAFA jurisdiction."The court concluded that when a court sua sponte orders a remand, it is not "granting" its own "motion" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1453(c)(1)—any more than it would be "denying" its own motion in the absence of such an order. Because the remand in this case was not ordered upon the motion of any party, the court concluded that section 1453(c)(1)'s exception does not apply here. View "Ruhlen v. Holiday Haven Homeowners, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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In this maritime negligence case involving a "cruise to nowhere," plaintiff filed a class action complaint against Royal Caribbean, on behalf of other similarly situated cruise ship passengers, alleging several tort theories, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean canceled her cruise because of Hurricane Harvey and offered refunds only on the day the cruise ship was set to sail. Because the ticket contracts provided that no refunds would be given for passenger cancelations within 14 days of the voyage, and because Royal Caribbean repeatedly told passengers that they would lose their entire payments for the cruise if they canceled, the plaintiffs claimed that they were forced to travel to Galveston and nearby areas (like Houston) as Hurricane Harvey approached. Therefore, plaintiff alleged that, while in Texas, they were forced to endure hurricane-force conditions, and suffered physical and emotional injuries.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The court concluded that the district court committed two errors in ruling that diversity jurisdiction was lacking in this case, and each one provides an independent basis for reversal. First, the district court failed to give the plaintiffs notice of its intent to sua sponte address the matter of diversity jurisdiction. Second, putting aside the aggregation of damages issue, the district court failed to consider whether any individual plaintiff had satisfied the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. On remand, the district court should also consider whether there is maritime jurisdiction. Because of the uncertainty over jurisdiction, the court did not address the class action waiver or the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying plaintiffs' motion for class certification and remanded for further proceedings. Plaintiffs' action alleged that Centra Tech and some of its principals violated the Securities Act of 1933 in their efforts related to the initial coin offering of Centra Tokens.The court concluded that, under the circumstances of this case, including the near omnipresence of an automatic discovery stay imposed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA) whenever a motion to dismiss is pending -- in effect for just under fifteen of the eighteen months between the initial complaint and plaintiffs' certification motion -- the district court's timeliness holding was an abuse of discretion. The court also concluded that the district court erred when it denied certification on the alternative ground that plaintiffs had not established an administratively feasible method for identifying class members. The court explained that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 implicitly requires that a proposed class be ascertainable. However, the court's recent decision in Cherry v. Dometic Corp., 986 F.3d 1296, 1304 (11th Cir. 2021), clarified that to meet this ascertainability requirement, the party seeking certification need not establish its ability to identify class members in a convenient or administratively feasible manner. The court noted that considerations of administrative feasibility may still be relevant to Rule 23(b)(3)(D) manageability analysis. View "Rensel v. Centra Tech, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of the 2017 data privacy breach of Equifax and its affiliates. Plaintiffs and Equifax eventually settled their dispute, the district court approved the settlement, certified the settlement class, awarded attorney's fees and expenses, and approved incentive awards for the class representatives. Several of the objectors appealed.After establishing jurisdiction, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's rulings in full, with the exception of the incentive awards for the class representatives, which the court reversed and remanded. In this case, after awarding attorney's fees and expenses to plaintiffs' counsel, the district court approved incentive awards for the class representatives in order to compensate them for their services and the risks they incurred on behalf of the class. However, in Johnson v. NPAS Sols., LLC, 975 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2020), a panel of this court held that incentive awards for class representatives are prohibited. On remand, the court instructed the district court to vacate the incentive award and to otherwise leave the settlement agreement intact. View "Shiyang Huang v. Equifax Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Class Action
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Three plaintiffs, seeking to represent a putative class of 3,000 nursing facility residents, filed a class action complaint against (MMI) and its president in Florida state court. After defendants removed to the district court, the district court removed back to state court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the district court erred in finding that the evidence was sufficient to establish that two-thirds of the putative class were Florida citizens. The court explained that the studies, surveys, and census data that plaintiffs provided, which do not directly involve plaintiffs in this case, are not sufficient to establish that a certain percentage of the plaintiff class are citizens of Florida. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs satisfied the "significant defendant" requirement in 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(4)(A)(i)(II)(aa). Because the court found that plaintiffs failed to meet the local controversy exception's state citizenship requirement, however, the district court erred in remanding this matter to state court. Finally, to the extent that the remand order was based on the discretionary exception, the district court erred in failing to find that MMI is a primary defendant and not a Florida citizen. View "Smith v. Bokor" on Justia Law