A California court has dismissed an intended class action suit against Google claiming that it reaped undeserved profit when users solved CAPTCHA letter-recognition problems that assisted in solving passages that had gone undeciphered in Google’s own OCR scanning. The ruling “reinforces [the principle] that not every asymmetrical economic benefit exchanged online must be compensated. Parties in a mutual exchange rarely get the exact same amount of value from the exchange, but the fact that one party derives more value from the exchange than the other shouldn’t create a federal case.” [Eric Goldman]
Can a defendant in a class action moot the whole proceeding by offering the named plaintiff the full value of his claim, thus “picking him off”? No, or at least not in the case at hand in Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday by a 6-3 margin. I discuss the case in a new post at Cato. More, Alison Frankel/Reuters, Howard Wasserman/Prawfs; earlier here and here]
- Federal Circuit court of appeals says government can’t deny trademark as “disparaging” just because it frowns on its expressive content, implications are favorable for Washington Redskins in their legal case [Eugene Volokh, Paul Alan Levy, In Re Simon Shiao Tam opinion, case won by past Overlawyered guestblogger Ron Coleman]
- Mentally ill man walks into San Diego county recorder’s office, submits properly filled-out deed transferring major sports stadium to his name, chaos ensues [San Diego Union Tribune]
- Lawsuit against prolific California class action firm includes details on how it allegedly recruits plaintiffs, shapes testimony [Daniel Fisher]
- New Jersey: “Man Sues Because Alimony Checks Were Mean To Him” [Elie Mystal/Above the Law, ABA Journal]
- Blustery Texan Joe Jamail, “greatest lawyer who ever lived” or not, was no stranger to Overlawyered coverage [Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly (“We only overpaid by a factor of five, and that felt like a win”), Daniel Fisher (city should have cut down beloved oak tree in road median because “it isn’t open season on drunks”)] Jamail’s best-known case gave me chance to write what still might be my all-time favorite headline, for a Richard Epstein article in what is now Cato’s (and was then AEI’s) Regulation magazine: “The Pirates of Pennzoil.”
- Hotel security camera footage may help decide whether Eloise tainted-sandwich tale will end up shelved as fiction [New York Post]
- Your War on Drugs: shopping at garden store, throwing loose tea in trash after brewing combine with police goofs to generate probable cause for SWAT raid on Kansas family’s home [Radley Balko] More: Orin Kerr.
- Supreme Court agrees to review CRST Vans Expedited v. EEOC (Eighth Circuit) on standard for prevailing-party fee awards in EEOC cases, could mean help for defendants against overzealous government lawyering (and thanks for quote) [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner, earlier here and here]
- 6-3 win for arbitration and freedom of contract in DirecTV case [Deborah LaFetra/PLF, Daniel Fisher, ABA Journal] WSJ editorial: Bravo to Justice Breyer for upholding as precedent what he’d earlier dissented from on substance [Texans for Lawsuit Reform reprint]
- OK to choke off legal defense by freezing all assets before trial, even if not criminally obtained? [Radley Balko]
- South Carolina $124 million penalty against Risperdal maker should be recognized as violating Excessive Fines clause [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- “Supreme Court will review state laws making it a crime to refuse blood-alcohol tests” [ABA Journal, Reason]
- Helpless against the administrative state: revisiting SCOTUS’s awful 1944 Yakus case [James Conde and Michael Greve, SSRN via Michael Greve, Law and Liberty]
- New Akron Law Review symposium on class action jurisprudence of Roberts Court [Paul Karlsgodt]
- Judge Jed Rakoff reviews new book by Columbia lawprof John Coffee on future of class actions [New York Review of Books]
- About that “vaping could cause popcorn lung” scare: “All conventional [cigarette smoke] contains… levels of diacetyl… a lot higher than those produced by e-cigarettes.” [Michael Siegel]
- A peek inside Kinder Surprise eggs, global candy favorite that cannot lawfully be brought into the U.S. [Business Insider, earlier]
- Man’s suit against New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as “too white” raises eyebrows [New York Post, ArtNet]
- Courageous: in Saudi Arabia, lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, who has represented blogger Raif Badawi, imprisoned for doing his job [Scott Greenfield]
- Lawyer’s advice: bosses face legal risk if they let their employees join in #ElderlyChristmasSongs Twitter levity [Jon Hyman]
- Current food labeling standards “provide a big nudge for people to eat less saturated fats and more carbohydrates,” contrary to what many doctors now advise [Ike Brannon, Cato]
- “Definition of Insanity – Expecting Certification of a Personal Injury Class Action” [James Beck on oral contraceptive defective packaging litigation]
- “Noticed something strange. In jury selection, attorneys for two other defendants conferred with attorneys for the plaintiff.” [Madison County Record, more]
- Changes in federal discovery rules effective December 1 [Mathea Bulander and Jason Moore (Redgrave LLP), Washington Legal Foundation] More: Jeff Bennion, Above the Law.
- Eric Turkewitz takes issue with my reference to New York’s Scaffold Law in writing on Sheldon Silver’s downfall [New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog]
- Changes ahead for Rule 23, which governs class actions? [Andrew Trask]
- Behind the attacks on arbitration: plaintiff’s bar, key political player, is “fighting back hard” against threat to its interests [Daniel Fisher, earlier here, here, etc.]
- Not every hot-coffee-spill case is like Liebeck v. McDonald’s. Sometimes defendants actually are negligent [Nick Farr/Abnormal Use, earlier here and many others]
- Nice work: how one lawyer cleans up filing piggyback class actions after the Federal Trade Commission and other enforcement agencies cite marketers for violations [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
- Cites inmate’s 18-year history of frivolous complaints: “Prisoner can’t sue USA Today for not printing gambling odds, Pennsylvania court says” [PennLive]
- Canada’s pioneering cap on regulation could be a model for U.S. [Laura Jones, Mercatus via Tyler Cowen]
- “He had a right to shoot at this drone, and I’m going to dismiss this charge” [Eugene Volokh on Kentucky case noted in July]
- Dear John: Los Angeles may use license-plate readers to go after drivers who enter “wrong” neighborhoods [Brian Doherty]
- Asylum law (which differs in numerous ways from refugee law, among them that it typically addresses claims of persons already here) hasn’t quite solved its own vetting problem [flashback from last year, more]
- Georgia lawyer “sanctioned for ‘deploying boilerplate claims’ and ‘utterly frivolous’ arguments” [ABA Journal]
Game of skill, or game of chance? “The [class-action] suit, filed in Manhattan federal court on behalf of FanDuel and DraftKings players nationwide, accuses Visa, MasterCard, American Express and other defendants of participating in a racketeering scheme to facilitate illegal gambling operations.” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
The New York Times, which can scarcely mention firearms policy without invoking the Gun Lobby, runs a big feature endorsing the claims of arbitration opponents that is curiously evasive about the role of the Litigation Lobby. Daniel Fisher, Forbes:
The writers who penned today’s New York Times Page One expose of arbitration clauses say they examined thousands of court documents and interviewed hundreds of lawyers, yet they fell for a rookie mistake: They confused class-action plaintiffs for the real thing….
The “article splayed across four pages of the Sunday Times” profiles the owner of the Italian Colors restaurant, the named plaintiff in a class action against American Express that went to the Supreme Court, as if he were typical of “plaintiffs [who] sprang up spontaneously and went out and hired lawyers to vindicate their rights?
Who were his lawyers? The Times doesn’t think you need to know. But here’s the main one: Gary B. Friedman, an attorney who specializes in suing credit-card companies. He recently suffered a bit of bad press when a federal judge in New York threw out a proposed settlement of another class action against Amex because Friedman had displayed “improper and disappointing conduct” by communicating sensitive information to a lawyer for the other side. The judge criticized Friedman for “blatant collusion” by negotiating a settlement with the defense that was “contrary to the wishes of the putative class.”
Now why couldn’t the enterprising Times reporters find room in such a large story for a mention of Friedman? Perhaps because he represents the real face of consumer class actions. These aren’t lawsuits by little guys like Carson trying to vindicate their rights against big corporations. Most are lawsuits by wealthy attorneys trying to get wealthier, by using the mechanism of the class action — originally developed to allow courts to declare classes of plaintiffs in civil-rights cases — to present companies with an offer they can’t refuse: Settle and pay us a rich fee, or risk a devastating loss in court.
Fisher summarizes: the Times “reports without skepticism the plaintiff-lawyer version of the story.” That’s a shame on a topic where even such a liberal figure as California Gov. Jerry Brown, who recently vetoed an anti-arbitration bill, acknowledges there are genuine concerns on both sides.
Our coverage of contractually agreed pre-dispute arbitration — including both the practical and the freedom-of-contract arguments for it — goes back to the early days of this site, including Coyote (“Here is how you should think about this proposed law: Attorneys are the taxi cartels, and arbitration is Uber. And the incumbents want their competitor banned.”), James Taranto on the Times as “two papers in one,” Andrew Pincus on arbitration as still pretty much the Litigation Lobby’s number one target. Much coverage also at Point of Law, including Ted Frank on a familiar-sounding law firm’s use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses.
P.S. I’ll bet he has: “Having worked extensively with Silver-Greenberg on this series over the past several months…” [Deepak Gupta, Public Citizen]
And: more thoughts at Cato at Liberty, including links to Cato work and discussion of why consumers so seldom switch from one provider to another in search of more favorable fine print on class action availability.
- SCOTUS takes up oral argument Monday on one of this year’s cases on uninjured plaintiff standing [Anne Friedman/DLA Piper, Richard Samp/WLF on Spokeo, Inc., v. Robins, more from Theodore Olson/Lucas Townsend, WLF on uninjured-plaintiff class actions]
- Time magazine asked law professors to pick best and worst SCOTUS rulings. Much consequentialism ensued [Orin Kerr, Ilya Somin]
- Fisher v. University of Texas, the affirmative action case, returns to the high court [Alison Somin, Federalist Society blog]
- CBIA vs San Jose case could upend some of zoning law [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus, Cato, via @nickzaiac]
- Rebuff to DoJ: “Supreme Court denies cert in US v. Newman insider trading tipping case” [Prof. Bainbridge, more, Peter Van Doren/Cato]
- Will Court agree to revisit Alien Tort Statute in Ivory Coast-related case of Nestle v. Doe? [WLF]
- Can defendant moot a class action by fully satisfying claim of named plaintiff? [Daniel Fisher on Campbell-Ewald v. Gomez] “Gomez Is Not the Slam Dunk You Think It Is” [Andrew Trask]