Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Brown v. United Airlines, Inc.
These consolidated appeals comprised two putative class actions brought by skycaps affiliated with two major airlines. After Defendants, the airlines, each introduced a $2 per bag fee for curbside service for departing passengers at airports that did not inure to the benefit of the skycaps, Plaintiffs sued the airlines for unjust enrichment and tortious interference, among other claims. The district court dismissed the unjust enrichment and tortious interference claims as preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA). Plaintiffs appealed, contending that the ADA does not preempt common-law claims. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed after an analysis of statutory language, congressional intent, and case law, holding that the ADA preempted Plaintiffs' common-law claims. View "Brown v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Silverstrand Invs. v. Amag Pharms., Inc.
Plaintiffs brought this putative class action under sections 11, 12, and 15 of the Securities Act, alleging that a prospectus and registration statement (the offering documents) issued by AMAG Pharmaceutical, Inc. in connection with a secondary stock offering held in 2010 contained two serious omissions: (1) a failure to disclose almost two dozen reports of serious adverse effects linked to a make-or-break drug for AMAG's future; and (2) failure to disclose information the FDA revealed in a warning letter issued after the offering. The district court dismissed the entire complaint on the ground that Plaintiffs failed sufficiently to plead section 11 claims pursuant to an SEC regulation. The First Circuit Court of Appeals (1) reversed the dismissal of the claims of actionable omissions because of the undisclosed reports because the reports gave rise to uncertainties AMAG knew would adversely affect future revenues and risk factors that made the offering risky and speculative; (2) affirmed as to the claims of omissions regarding the FDA information; and (3) reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs' sections 12 and 15 causes of action. Remanded. View "Silverstrand Invs. v. Amag Pharms., Inc." on Justia Law
Trainor v. HEI Hospitality, LLC
In this case a corporation abruptly cashiered a member of senior management, which prompted the employee to file suit for age discrimination and retaliation. After a protracted trial, the jury found the employer guilty of retaliation and returned a seven-figure verdict in the employee's favor. The district court allowed the liability finding to stand, trimmed the damages but doubled what remained, refused to grant either judgment notwithstanding the verdict or an unconditional new trial, and awarded the prevailing plaintiff attorneys' fees and an equitable remedy. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment below except vacated the previously remitted award of emotional distress damages and directed the district court to order the plaintiff either to remit all of that award in excess of $200,000 or else undergo a new trial on that issue. The Court also directed the district court to adjust its award of multiplied damages to reflect the plaintiff's response to this remittitur. View "Trainor v. HEI Hospitality, LLC" on Justia Law
Kolbe v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP
This putative class action was one of a number of breach-of-contract suits being brought against financial institutions nationwide by mortgagors who claimed that they were improperly forced to increase flood insurance coverage on their properties. The plaintiff in this case asserted that Bank of America's demand that he increase his flood coverage by $46,000 breached both the terms of his mortgage contract and the contract's implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court concluded that the pertinent provision of the mortgage unambiguously permitted the lender to require the increased flood coverage and, hence, it granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of dismissal in favor of the Bank, holding that the mortgage was reasonably susceptible to an understanding that supported the plaintiff's breach of contract and implied covenant claims. Remanded. View "Kolbe v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP" on Justia Law
Volkswagen Grp of Am. v. McNulty Law Firm
In a suit alleging engine defects in Volkswagen and Audi vehicles, the district court awarded $30 million in attorneys' fees to several groups of plaintiffs' attorneys who achieved a class action settlement agreement. The award was based in federal law. The First Circuit vacated the fee award and remanded for calculation using Massachusetts law. In a diversity suit, where the settlement agreement expressly states that the parties have not agreed on the source of law to apply to the fee award and there is an agreement that the defendants will pay reasonable fees, state law governs the fee award. View "Volkswagen Grp of Am. v. McNulty Law Firm" on Justia Law
In re: Boston Scientific Corp. Sec. Litigation
A substantial portion of Boston Scientific's sales in 2008-2009 were of cardiac rhythm management devices handled by a group within the company devoted to such products. In August 2009, Boston Scientific began an audit of CRM sales expense reports from recent trips of sales representatives who accompanied physician customers on tours of Boston Scientific manufacturing facilities; in September Boston Scientific received a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requesting information about contributions made by CRM to charities with ties to physicians or their families. Neither the audit nor the subpoena were initially disclosed to the public. After stock prices dropped, a purported class of shareholders sued for securities fraud, Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78t(a)), and associated regulations, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5, alleging that statements made by the company were materially false or misleading. The district court dismissed. The First Circuit affirmed, noting other possible causes of loss and finding that plaintiffs did not establish scienter.View "In re: Boston Scientific Corp. Sec. Litigation" on Justia Law
Fantastic Sams Franchise Corp. v. FSRO Ass’n, Ltd.
In 2011, FSRO filed a Demand for Arbitration against Fantastic Sam's Franchise Corporation, on behalf of its members, who are franchisees, holding individual license agreements with Fantastic Sams. FSRO alleged that the Corporation had breached those license agreements. The Corporation filed a petition pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 4, to stay FSRO's arbitration and to compel FSRO members to arbitrate their claims individually. The district court allowed the petition as to license agreements that specifically prohibit class-arbitration. The decision in favor of the Corporation was not appealed. The court denied relief as to other agreements, which state: “Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating in any way to this Agreement or with regard to its formation, interpretation or breach shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association." The First Circuit affirmed. Whether the language permits group arbitration, as requested by FSRO, is a question for the arbitrators. View "Fantastic Sams Franchise Corp. v. FSRO Ass'n, Ltd." on Justia Law
Downing v. Globe Direct LLC
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles sought proposals from contractors to print and send registration renewal notices along with advertisements to raise revenue to defray costs. RMV would provide the contractor with information (name, address, date of birth, and license number) that was generally exempt from public disclosure under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721-25, and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 4, sect. 7, cl. 26(n), that the contractor would need to safeguard from unlawful public disclosure. Defendant's winning bid indicated that it understood and accepted the terms. The contract specified that Massachusetts would continue to exercise ownership over all personal data, and that a violation of the DPPA or the Massachusetts privacy law would cause the contract to terminate. Plaintiff, who received a registration renewal notice that included advertisements, filed a putative class action on behalf of himself and other drivers who, without providing consent, had received advertisements from defendant. The district court granted defendant judgment on the pleadings based on failure to join the Commonwealth as an indispensable party. The First Circuit affirmed, finding no violation of the DPPA. Defendant does not disclose the information it legitimately receives, as the state's contractor, to others. View "Downing v. Globe Direct LLC" on Justia Law
Liu v. Amerco
A proposed consent order from an FTC investigation indicated that U-Haul attempted to implement a scheme to collude with competitors, Budget and Penske, to raise prices for truck rentals. The FTC concluded that U-Haul's conduct violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1). The proposed consent order was designed to prevent collusion. U-Haul consented to the relief, but did not admit the conduct or violation. A consumer filed a complaint charging U-Haul with violating Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A by engaging in an attempted price-fixing scheme and seeking damages on behalf of a large class. The suit, a follow-on action after a proposed government consent decree, is common in antitrust cases. Because the FTC Act contains no private right of action and the Sherman Act is of doubtful application to price-fixing, the suit rested chapter 93A, which prohibits "[u]nfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices," and permits consumer class actions. The complaint alleged that U-Haul's actions caused plaintiff to pay at least 10 percent more for truck rentals than she would have absent the unlawful action. The district court dismissed, stating that the complaint failed plausibly to allege injury. The First Circuit vacated, finding the claim plausible. View "Liu v. Amerco" on Justia Law
Rohn v. Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Ctr.
Plaintiffs are a dissident group, within a larger class of medical patient consumers in a case alleging fraud in overcharging for the medication Lupron. The patients, along with insurers and private health care providers, obtained a $150 million settlement agreement that was approved by the district court, of which $40 million was allocated to consumers. That agreement provided that if there were unclaimed monies from the $40 million consumer settlement pool after full recovery to consumer plaintiffs, all unclaimed funds would go into a cy pres fund to be distributed at the discretion of the trial judge. Dissident plaintiffs appealed distribution of the $11.4 million cy pres fund to the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and the Prostate Cancer Foundation for work on the treatment of the diseases for which Lupron is prescribed. They have already recovered more than 100% of their actual damages. The First Circuit affirmed. After expressing concern about distribution of such funds by judges and adding an audit requirement, the court noted the importance of avoiding windfalls for plaintiffs who have already been fully compensated. View "Rohn v. Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Ctr." on Justia Law