Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Shiyang Huang v. Equifax Inc.
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
Smith v. Bokor
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
Cherry v. Dometic Corporation
Putative class representatives do not have to prove the existence of an administratively feasible method to identify absent class members as a precondition for certification of a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Plaintiffs, owners of allegedly defective refrigerators manufactured by Dometic Corporation, as putative class representatives, moved to certify a class of similarly situated owners. The district court denied certification based on plaintiffs' failure to prove administrative feasibility, and dismissed the action because, in its view, the denial of class certification divested it of subject matter jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's order denying class certification and dismissing the action, holding that the doctrines of invited error and forfeiture do not bar the court's consideration of the issue of administrative feasibility; administrative feasibility is relevant under Rule 23(b)(3) but is not a prerequisite of certification; and jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act does not depend on class certification. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cherry v. Dometic Corporation" on Justia Law
Medical & Chiropractic Clinic, Inc. v. Oppenheim
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were sued in at least five class action complaints, each one alleging that the Buccaneers sent telefax advertisements in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In one class action, lawyers from the AW Firm, who had previously filed suit on behalf of a different plaintiff, added another class action representative, M&C. Shortly after an unsuccessful mediation was conducted, defendant, an attorney at the AW Firm who was principally involved in the mediation, left the firm to join the Bock Firm. The Bock Firm then filed a separate class action against the Buccaneers, which resulted in a proposed settlement.M&C then filed suit against the Bock Firm in state court, alleging that they had breached fiduciary duties owed to it as a named class representative. M&C and its counsel claimed that defendant gave attorneys at the Bock Firm confidential information about settlement negotiations in the AW Firm's class action, which assisted the Bock Firm in settling their class action quickly and to the detriment of the class. The district court granted summary judgment for defendant and the Bock Firm.The Eleventh Circuit held that the duties owed to a class representative do not differ from the duties owed to a class. The court also clarified the duties owed by class counsel in class actions generally and in the context of this case specifically. In this case, the court determined that in filing this action M&C and a principal at the AW Firm launched an impermissible collateral attack on the Bock Firm's attempt to certify and settle a class action. The court explained that their assertions should have been made only before the court that was exercising jurisdiction over the Rule 23 putative class action — the court in which the request to certify a settlement class and approve the settlement was made. The court found no error in the district court's determination that M&C failed to establish that it was damaged by any alleged breach of a fiduciary duty owed to it by defendant. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant and the Bock Firm. View "Medical & Chiropractic Clinic, Inc. v. Oppenheim" on Justia Law
Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Godiva chocolate stores had printed too many credit card digits on hundreds of thousands of receipts over the course of several years, and pointed out that those extra numbers were prohibited under a federal law aimed at preventing identity theft. After the parties agreed on a class settlement, the Supreme Court issued Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, which held that a party does not have standing to sue when it pleads only the bare violation of a statute.The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff has no standing because he alleged only a statutory violation and not a concrete injury. In this case, plaintiff alleged that a cashier handed him a receipt containing some of his own credit card information printed on it. Although the receipt violated the law because it contained too many digits, the court explained that plaintiff has alleged no concrete harm or material risk of harm stemming from the violation. Therefore, this amounts to nothing more than a "bare procedural violation, divorced from concrete harm." Consequently, the court cannot evaluate the fairness of the parties' settlement and vacated the district court's order approving it. View "Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc." on Justia Law
Fox v. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC
Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and individually, filed a class action alleging that the Ritz-Carlton violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and Florida's tax regulations. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from allegations that he and others paid illegal automatic gratuities and sales taxes at Ritz-Carlton’s forty-nine restaurants in Florida over the last four years. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on lack of standing. The district court also dismissed the tax refund claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the tax refund claim based on exhaustion grounds. However, the court held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiff did not have standing to represent the class because he only paid the illegal automatic gratuity at three of Ritz-Carlton's restaurants. The court agreed with plaintiff that the class complaint alleged in good faith that the amount-in-controversy for the hundreds of thousands of Ritz-Carlton guests in Florida that unlawfully paid an automatic gratuity over the last four years exceeded $5 million. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fox v. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC" on Justia Law
Johnson v. NPAS Solutions, LLC
The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court, in approving the class action settlement underlying this appeal, repeated several errors that have become commonplace in everyday class action practice. First, the district court violated the plain terms of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(h) by setting a schedule that required class members to file any objection to the settlement—including any objection pertaining to attorneys' fees—more than two weeks before class counsel had filed their fee petition. However, on the record, the district court's error was harmless. Second, the district court ignored on-point Supreme Court precedent by awarding the class representative a $6,000 incentive payment as acknowledgement of his role in prosecuting the case on behalf of the class members.Finally, in approving class counsel's fee request, overruling objections, and approving the parties' settlement, the district court made no findings or conclusions that might facilitate appellate review. Rather, the district court offered only rote, boilerplate pronouncements ("approved," "overturned," etc.). Therefore, the district court violated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the court's precedents requiring courts to explain their class-related decisions. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for the district court to adequately explain its fee award to class counsel, its denial of the interested party's objections, and its approval of the settlement. View "Johnson v. NPAS Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
Cisneros v. Petland, Inc.
After plaintiff bought a puppy from Petland and the puppy died a week later, plaintiff filed suit under the civil provisions contained in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), alleging that the puppy's death was the result of a nationwide racketeering conspiracy. Plaintiff alleged that defendants are involved in a conspiracy to sell sick puppies for premium prices and engaged in a campaign of obfuscation after the sale to aid Petland in avoiding its warranties.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's RICO complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court held that the complaint failed to plead facts that plausibly support the inference that defendants shared a common purpose to commit the massive fraud she alleges. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to allege with particularity that each defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. The court also held that plaintiff adequately alleged in her complaint that the Class Action Fairness Act vested the district court with original jurisdiction over her Georgia RICO claim. Therefore, the court vacated the portion of the district court's order declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and remanded with instructions to dismiss plaintiff's state-law RICO claim with prejudice. View "Cisneros v. Petland, Inc." on Justia Law
Freedman v. MajicJack Vocaltec Ltd.
Plaintiff, a shareholder, filed a putative class action complaint against magicJack and eight individuals who were magicJack current or former directors. Plaintiff alleged that magicJack issued two proxy statements that contained material misrepresentations. The district court dismissed plaintiff's lawsuit because his claims were derivative in nature and he failed to plead that he made a demand on magicJack or that doing so would have been futile.The Eleventh Circuit held that federal courts should look to state law to decide the issue of whether a claim brought under a federal statute is direct or derivative. In this case, because magicJack is incorporated under the laws of Israel, Israeli law controls the court's analysis. However, even if the court applied Florida law, the result would be the same because the two bodies of law are consistent. The court held that plaintiff's claims are derivative in nature because he failed to allege that he suffered damages independent of the damages that magicJack (and all of its shareholders) suffered. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to plead that he personally suffered a special injury, distinct from that experienced by magicJack or its other shareholders. Finally, any recovery sought in the Second Amended Complaint would necessarily be for the benefit of magicJack and its shareholders. View "Freedman v. MajicJack Vocaltec Ltd." on Justia Law
Spencer v. Specialty Foundry Products Inc.
Plaintiffs and 229 former workers at the Grede Foundry filed suit against ten entities that manufactured, sold, supplied, and distributed the products they believe harmed them. After defendants removed the case to federal court, the district court granted plaintiffs' motion to remand to state court.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's grant of plaintiffs' motion to remand, holding that the local event exception to the Class Action Fairness Act's grant of federal jurisdiction applies to any continuing set of circumstances in a single location, regardless of when and how the harm came about. The court held that "an event or occurrence" refers to a series of connected, harm-causing incidents that culminate in one event or occurrence giving rise to plaintiffs' claims. In this case, the complaint does not allege a continuous, related course of conduct culminating in one harm-causing event or occurrence, and thus it does not fall within the local event exception. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Spencer v. Specialty Foundry Products Inc." on Justia Law