Photo of Kevin Ranlett

Kevin Ranlett is a partner in the firm's Supreme Court & Appellate and Consumer Litigation & Class Actions practices. He has defended businesses in numerous complex class and representative actions in state and federal courts across the country and in proceedings before the American Arbitration Association. In addition to drafting critical trial motions, Kevin has a substantial appellate practice. He has written merits or amicus briefs in appeals involving issues of class certification, arbitration, securities law, federal preemption, the Alien Tort Statute, punitive damages, and employment discrimination. He also advises businesses in drafting and enforcing consumer and employee arbitration agreements.

Read Kevin's full bio.

State consumer-protection statutes frequently authorize claims for class-wide injunctive relief; notably, California courts have fashioned a similar remedy allowing for injunctions on behalf of the “general public.” Plaintiffs bringing class actions alleging that a company’s advertising is deceptive or misleading frequently tack on to their damages claims a request to enjoin the disputed marketing—sometimes to halt allegedly false advertising and sometimes to require the company to disclose some allegedly concealed fact about its product or service. These types of injunction claims are especially common in cases against food and beverage companies. But it is difficult to square these injunction claims with Article III standing requirements, and companies defending against class actions in federal court should be aware of the potential for seeking dismissal of requests for injunctive relief on standing grounds.

Continue Reading The importance of scrutinizing standing to seek injunctive relief in defending or settling false-advertising suits

A common feature in class action settlements is an incentive (or service) award for each named plaintiff—an extra payment above and beyond what they would receive as ordinary class members that is in theory designed to compensate them for the work of being a named plaintiff. A circuit split has developed over whether incentive awards are permissible in federal class action lawsuits.  But the Supreme Court’s guidance on whether these awards are improper will have to await another day, because the Court recently denied the petitions for review in Johnson v. Dickenson, No. 22-389, and Dickenson v. Johnson, No. 22-517.

Continue Reading Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to validity of incentive awards

The plaintiffs’ bar has been trying to kill arbitration for more than a decade. But the courts have repeatedly rejected efforts to invalidate arbitration agreements. These lawyers have therefore switched to a different tactic: mass filing of arbitration demands.

When a single law firm or group of firms files 20,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 demands, does it really intend to resolve those claims on the merits? Or is the goal to use the costs of instituting an arbitration—which are disproportionately borne by companies when consumers or employees initiate arbitration—to coerce a settlement without regard to the merits of the underlying claim? If, for example, a company would immediately have to pay more than $10 million in fees upon the filing of 5,000 arbitration demands, just to be able to contest the merits, and thousands more for each claim that actually goes to arbitration—then paying a hefty settlement can seem like the only realistic option.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute of Legal Reform just issued a 75-page in-depth analysis of the mass arbitration phenomenon—Mass Arbitration Shakedown: Coercing Unjustified Settlements—that we authored. It documents the rise of mass arbitrations, the abusive consequences of these filings, and the ethical problems they present. We also suggest solutions that preserve the key benefit of arbitration—speedy, less-costly merit-based decisions—while also ensuring access to fair resolution of claims for injured consumers and employees.

Below the fold is a summary of the white paper.

Continue Reading US Chamber of Commerce Institute of Legal Reform releases report on mass arbitration, its abuses, and how to prevent them

Win or lose, class actions that make it past the pleadings threaten businesses with enormous defense costs, especially the costs associated with class-wide discovery. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, one powerful tool for defendants to avoid these costs is to file an early motion to strike class allegations, taking a shot at nipping the class action in the bud when it is apparent from the pleadings that a class cannot be certified.

We were therefore pleased to see the Fifth Circuit recently join the growing ranks of courts that have endorsed pre-discovery motions to strike class allegations. In Elson v. Black, 56 F.4th 1002 (5th Cir. 2023), the court affirmed the district court’s order striking plaintiffs’ class allegations in their entirety. (The court also affirmed in large part the dismissal of the individual plaintiffs’ claims.)        

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit affirms striking class allegations at the pleadings stage

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana (pdf) that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts a California rule invalidating arbitration agreements that provide for arbitration of an employee’s own claims under California’s Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), but waive the employee’s ability to assert PAGA claims affecting others.

The decision is enormously important to companies seeking to enforce workplace arbitration agreements in California. The decision also provides businesses with powerful arguments that California laws restricting arbitration in the consumer setting are preempted as well. (Disclosure: we filed an amicus brief (pdf) in support of the petition

Continue Reading Supreme Court strikes down California rule barring individualized arbitration of California PAGA claims

It’s pretty common in consumer class actions in California for the plaintiffs to assert causes of action seeking damages as well other causes of action for various equitable remedies (such as restitution).  Sometimes, plaintiffs abandon the damages claims in order to get a bench trial on the equitable claims or in an effort to improve their chances of certifying a class.  In Sonner v. Premier Nutrition, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of consumer-protection claims seeking solely equitable relief because legal damages were available in the same amount for the same alleged harm.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit holds that California consumers who abandon damages claims can’t get restitution

In a very big deal for TCPA class actions, the Supreme Court granted review today in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid. The petition (pdf) raises the most significant issue in litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA): what kind of equipment constitutes an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ADTS) triggering the TCPA’s restrictions on calls and texts? (The other question presented by the petition—the constitutionality and severability of the exception for government debts—was decided by the Court earlier this week.)

As we have reported, there is a deep circuit split over how to read the statutory language defining
Continue Reading Supreme Court to decide what constitutes an autodialer under the TCPA

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, a First Amendment challenge to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The bottom line:  The TCPA as we know it lives on (at least for now).

The plaintiffs who challenged the statute contended that because the TCPA’s bar on unsolicited autodialed calls or texts contained an exception for communications aimed at collecting U.S. government debt, that differing treatment amounted to is an impermissible content-based restriction on speech.  The Court splintered on two issues: (1) whether this exception was a First Amendment violation, and (2) if so, what’s the remedy?  A group of six Justices concluded that the TCPA contravened the First Amendment, and a differently composed group of seven Justices agreed that the proper remedy was to sever the government-debt exception rather than invalidate the autodialing restriction across the board.

Continue Reading Supreme Court holds that the TCPA violates the First Amendment but only severs the government-debt exception as a remedy

One of the key issues in any case under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is whether the plaintiff consented to be called or texted.  If the recipient has provided “prior express consent,” the TCPA permits calls or texts to either (i) wireless numbers using autodialers or artificial or prerecorded voices; or (ii) residential telephones using artificial or prerecorded voices.  47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) (cellular telephones); id. § 227(b)(1)(B) (residential telephones).  Courts currently are divided on the impact of contracts specifying that consumers agree in advance to receive such calls or texts.

Continue Reading Courts in Telephone Consumer Protection Act cases Are divided on plaintiffs’ ability to revoke their contractual consent to be called

One of the most hotly-contested issues in litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is what equipment counts as an “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) triggering the TCPA’s restrictions.  In 2018, the D.C. Circuit threw out the FCC’s interpretation of the statutory definition of an ATDS—which was so broad as to encompass smartphones—as arbitrary and capricious.  (See our report on the D.C. Circuit’s ACA International v. FCC decision.)  In the wake of that decision—while parties await the FCC’s new rule—courts around the country have been weighing in how best to interpret the statutory text.

The issue is now the subject of a deep circuit split.  In recent months, both the Seventh Circuit in Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc. and the Eleventh Circuit in Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co. (pdf) have concluded that equipment that dials from a pre-selected list of phone numbers does not qualify as an ATDS.  (Disclosure: Mayer Brown represented AT&T in Gadelhak; Archis was on the briefs in the Seventh Circuit.) The Seventh and Eleventh Circuits thus rejected the Ninth Circuit’s more expansive interpretation of ATDS in Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC.  (See our report on Marks.)  The Second Circuit, in contrast, recently followed the Marks interpretation in Duran v. La Boom Disco.

In light of this growing divide, lawyers on both sides of the “v.” are waiting for the Supreme Court to step in.

Continue Reading Seventh and Eleventh Circuits Reject, But Second Circuit Follows, Ninth Circuit’s Expansive Autodialer Definition in Marks