The D.C. Circuit recently deepened a circuit split over whether district courts may certify a “fail-safe” class. In In re White, 64 F.4th 302 (D.C. Cir. 2023),the D.C. Circuit agreed that fail-safe classes are generally improper, but rejected the views of other circuits that categorically forbid such classes . Instead of what it described as an “extra-textual” limitation on class certification, the D.C. Circuit held that the existing requirements of Rule 23 (and a district court’s discretion to alter proposed class definitions) should be used to prevent certification of fail-safe classes.
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.) …
Last Friday, the Supreme Court reversed the class-wide judgment in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez (pdf), concluding that the lower courts had not properly applied the Court’s holding in Spokeo Inc. v. Robins and that the vast majority of the class members failed to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for Article III standing. (Our firm, including the three of us, represented the petitioner in Spokeo, and we filed an amicus brief (pdf) in support of TransUnion.)
The Court’s holding has enormous practical significance for defendants facing class actions seeking statutory damages. The Court reinforced Spokeo’s core holding that Congress’s creation…
Continue Reading Supreme Court adopts robust view of Article III standing limitations in TransUnion, reaffirming and fortifying Spokeo
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument (pdf) (audio) in TransUnion, LLC v. Ramirez, a Fair Credit Reporting Act case in which a federal court entered a class-wide judgment awarding statutory damages for two practices that TransUnion ended years ago.
The case boils down to two issues:
- Can “risk” of harm confer Article III standing on all members of a class when the challenged policy has ended and the risk never materialized for the overwhelming majority of the class? And, if so, how much of a “risk” is needed?
- Can a class representative satisfy Rule 23(a)’s typicality
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
On December 1, 2018, the amendments to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 took effect. These amendments primarily alter rules governing federal class action notice, settlement, and appeal. The following is an overview of key changes.
Continue Reading December 2018 amendments to Rule 23 are now in effect
Plaintiffs frequently seek to certify class actions where the proposed classes contain a significant number of uninjured persons. The First Circuit recently reversed the certification of such a class in In re Asacol Antitrust Litigation, concluding that a class cannot be certified where the “individual inquiries” necessary to resolve whether each class member has suffered an injury-in-fact “overwhelm common issues.” When such inquiries are needed to ensure that a defendant’s due process and jury trial rights are honored, a plaintiff cannot satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s proposal to outsource these individualized inquiries to claims administrators.
We discuss the opinion in detail after the jump, but here are key takeaways for busy readers:
- The decision explains why a proposed damages class likely fails the predominance test—and therefore cannot be certified—if there are more than a negligible number of uninjured class members and there is no administratively feasible way to weed out those uninjured class members without individualized inquiries.
- The use of affidavits by class members to establish injury (or any other element of their claim) does not suffice to avoid individualized inquiries so long as the defendant plans to contest those affidavits, because a class cannot be certified on the premise that a defendant will not be entitled to challenge a class member’s ability to prove the elements of his or her claim.
- Policy justifications for consumer class actions cannot relax the requirements of Rule 23 or defendants’ due process and jury trial rights.
Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has heard several cases involving class action procedure, including China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh; CalPERS v. ANZ Securities, Inc.; and Microsoft Corp. v. Baker. Today, the Supreme Court continued this trend, granting review to decide whether Rule 23(f)’s 14-day deadline to file a petition for permission to appeal an order granting or denying class certification is subject to equitable exceptions. Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, No. 17-1094.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Will Review Whether Rule 23(f) Deadline To Appeal From Class Certification Orders Is Subject To Equitable Exceptions
Another Ninth Circuit panel has roiled the class certification waters, this time rejecting a class action settlement because the district court did not conduct a meaningful analysis of predominance.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit rejects nationwide class settlement
We have repeatedly discussed in this space the ongoing debate among the federal courts about ascertainability—a red-hot topic in class action litigation these days. (For a more detailed look at our views on the ascertainability doctrine, see the amicus brief (pdf) that we filed on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers in support of a pending cert petition.) That topic—and the debate among the lower courts—shows no sign of slowing down, as evidenced by new decisions issued by the Second, Sixth, and Third Circuits over the past two months. The central takeaway from these decisions is that while ascertainability is not a panacea for defendants facing consumer class actions, the doctrine (or variations on the ascertainability theme) should help defeat class actions in many circuits when class members cannot be identified without individualized inquiries.
Continue Reading Making sense of the cascade of appellate decisions on ascertainability