Posts Tagged ‘class actions’

November 6 roundup

Whirlpool wins first musty-washer class action

Going to trial at all in a class action representing 150,000 Ohio customers was considered highly risky for the company, but a jury returned a defense verdict finding no defect. [Daniel Fisher] However, suits on behalf of statewide classes in states other than Ohio will continue, and the legal process counting the related cases — which has now grown to include two visits to the Supreme Court, not to mention the Sixth and Seventh Circuits — is going to be highly costly for the appliance makers in any event [Paul Karlsgodt] We’ve covered the saga in past posts, noting that the washer designs at issue arose in response to federal regulations that strong-armed appliance makers into finding ways to conserve water and energy compared with earlier designs.

“Former intern drops lawsuit against David Letterman”

Mallory Musallam had been a plaintiff in a class-action suit seeking minimum wage and overtime against the talk-show host on behalf of former interns. Now she has apologized and withdrawn her name, saying “lawsuit-hungry attorneys” had approached her at “a weak vulnerable time, facing student debt” and talked her into taking part in an action whose exact nature she didn’t recognize. “I cannot apologize enough for this debacle. I do not believe in getting something for nothing — that’s not how I was raised.” Her “now-former lawyer, Lloyd Ambinder, did not return a call for comment.” [N.Y. Daily News]

Allstate Insurance Co. v. Jacobsen: SCOTUS should review Montana class-action dodge

The rules for class actions seeking injunctive relief against unlawful conduct are looser in key respects than those for actions in which monetary relief is the object, in part because the consequences for absent class members are less serious. But what happens when shrewd counsel institute an action that is injunctive on its face, but actually crafted to tee up an entitlement to class damages? The Montana Supreme Court approved such a maneuver in a case now called Allstate Insurance Co. v. Jacobsen; now Cato has filed a brief seeking certiorari review of that decision, which raises important issues of class action fairness and practicality leading on from such recent high court decisions as Wal-Mart v. Dukes and Comcast v. Behrend. Read a summary here and the full brief here. More: Legal NewsLine (on Washington Legal Foundation brief).

“The Supreme Court gave consumers a victory on Monday…”

“…by allowing them to proceed with class-action lawsuits alleging that millions of front-loading washing machines they bought suffered from mold or musty odors.” Thus Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley and Jonathan Stempel. Can you spot the two buried assumptions here? One is that moving forward with a class action on behalf of the many millions who bought washers, rather than a narrower class action of those who actually reported problems with their washers, constitutes a “victory” for consumers. That is to presuppose one of the points in dispute, since the defendants argued that consumers as a group would be ill-served that way. (Nor did the Supreme Court resolve the question either way, since it turned away the cases without explanation.) The second buried assumption is that the “consumers” themselves, most of whom have never shown any interest in participating, were the ones who were going to be proceeding. In reality, of course, the ones moving forward, and the ones who won a victory yesterday, were lawyers.

Although organized business worked hard to win Supreme Court review for the cases, and was duly disappointed by yesterday’s denial, the impact on the Supreme Court’s rapidly evolving class action jurisprudence is uncertain at best and perhaps negligible. So many other class actions raise likely issues of typicality, representativeness, or unity of interest among represented classes that the Court is sure to have the chance to visit the area before long, if it wishes, in other cases bubbling up from the lower courts; of the variety of fact patterns these new cases will present, some may be more compelling for the defense side.

More on the mandatory-conservation element of the washing machine saga here.

More on Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler

The Supreme Court’s ruling last month in a case on the limits of jurisdiction, Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler, was on its face a rejection of recently-fashionable notions of “universal jurisdiction” under which disputes labeled as serious human rights matters could be brought to courts more or less anywhere for adjudication. But according to Richard Samp, by clarifying the prerequisites for general jurisdiction, the case could if taken seriously revolutionize (for the better!) some other kinds of litigation for which forum-shopping has been the norm — in particular class action litigation, which is often filed in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions where the defendants would not be considered “at home” under the standard laid out by Justice Ginsburg. [Washington Legal Foundation]