Business Litigation Alert Blog

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Thank you for visiting the Gibbons Business Litigation Alert blog! Content on our site, authored by members of the Gibbons Business & Commercial Litigation Department, provides timely analysis and discussion on legal and business developments within the vast litigation arena. How are we doing? To review our blog and nominate the Gibbons Business Litigation Alert for this year’s ABA Journal’s “Web 100” award, please visit abajournal.com/blawgs/web100 and share why you are a “fan” of our site (Please note: the voting process closes on Sunday, July 30). Thank you in advance for your support.

Wrap Up of United States Supreme Court’s 2016-17 Term

Wrap Up of United States Supreme Court’s 2016-17 Term

With the close of the United States Supreme Court’s 2016-17 term, we offer this wrap up of the term’s most important business and commercial cases (excluding patent cases): Kindred Nursing Ctrs, L.P. v. Clark: The Supreme Court continued its full-throated support of arbitration agreements, again rejecting a state supreme court’s effort to apply an ostensibly arbitration-neutral rule of law to invalidate an arbitration agreement. In Kindred, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that an arbitration agreement signed by an attorney-in-fact under a broad power of attorney was invalid because the power of attorney did not expressly give the attorney-in-fact the right to waive the principal’s right to a jury trial. According to the Kentucky Supreme Court, to grant an attorney-in-fact the authority to waive a “fundamental constitutional right,” a power of attorney must grant that authority expressly and unambiguously. Because the right to access the courts and the right to a jury trial are such “fundamental constitutional rights” and because the power of attorney did not expressly and unambiguously waive them, the attorney-in-fact was not authorized to agree to arbitrate the principal’s claims, and no enforceable arbitration agreement was created. The Supreme Court found that the Kentucky Supreme Court’s facially arbitration-neutral...

Supreme Court Rules That Statute of Repose Trumps Class Action Tolling

Supreme Court Rules That Statute of Repose Trumps Class Action Tolling

The Supreme Court has given a boost to companies defending against securities claims, ruling in California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities that a statute of repose cannot be extended by the doctrine that the filing of a class action tolls the statute of limitations for the claims of absent class members. The case emanated from a prior class action that had alleged, in connection with certain offerings by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., violations of Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, which relates to misrepresentations and omissions made in a securities registration statement. Section 13 of the Act provides that any such claim must be brought within “three years after the security was bona fide offered to the public.” CalPERS, which was an absent class member in the original class action, filed its own class action complaint more than three years after the transactions at issue and then opted out of the original class action. Affirming the decisions of the Southern District of New York and the Second Circuit, the Supreme Court held that the three-year limit in Section 13 is a statute of repose, and that such a limit cannot be extended by any court-made tolling doctrine....

Supreme Court Rejects Class Action Plaintiffs’ Attempts to Circumvent Rule 23(f)

Supreme Court Rejects Class Action Plaintiffs’ Attempts to Circumvent Rule 23(f)

As previously discussed on this blog, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to address the question of whether federal courts of appeals have jurisdiction to review an order denying class certification after the named Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims with prejudice. In the June 12, 2017 decision in Microsoft Corp. v. Baker, the high court answered this question with a very resounding “no.” In Baker, a putative class of owners of Microsoft Corporation’s Xbox 360® video game console filed suit, alleging that the console suffered from a design defect that gouged game discs. Microsoft opposed Plaintiffs’ motion to certify the class. The District Court denied certification, citing comity considerations and relying on the class certification denial in a similar case. The Ninth Circuit denied the Plaintiffs’ 23(f) petition for interlocutory appeal. Plaintiffs then voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice for the express purpose of obtaining immediate Ninth Circuit review of the District Court’s denial of class certification. Plaintiffs filed an appeal from the final judgment, challenging the denial of class certification, but not the order dismissing the case with prejudice. The Ninth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because the stipulated dismissal did not involve a...

Proper Planning Means You Do Not Need to Shed Tears When Hit with the Likes of WannaCry

Proper Planning Means You Do Not Need to Shed Tears When Hit with the Likes of WannaCry

Since Friday, May 12, over 200,000 companies from over 150 countries have become victims of a massive cyber-attack from the ransomware variant WannaCry (also known as WCry or WanaCryptor). The attackers demanded payment of $300 in Bitcoin from each victim to restore access to files that the ransomware encrypted. The attackers stated that the price of file retrieval would elevate to $600 after a short period of time, and if the company-victim refused to pay, the files would be permanently deleted. Notably, this particular ransomware appears to have been propagated primarily due to a failure to patch a Windows software vulnerability known as EternalBlue, and potentially gave the attackers access to the files they encrypted. Organizations large and small, domestic and international, are among the victims. The WannaCry attack is a stark reminder of the need to have comprehensive information governance and incident response plans in place. Planning for such an attack can be just as important, if not more so, than the response itself, and can block the threat or mitigate the damage, disruption, and liability suffered in the event the organization is a victim of a successful attack. Implement a Written Information Security Program. Knowing how to mitigate the...

California Supreme Court’s McGill Decision Creates Confusion Over the Enforceability of Arbitration Clauses That Limit Public Injunctive Relief

California Supreme Court’s McGill Decision Creates Confusion Over the Enforceability of Arbitration Clauses That Limit Public Injunctive Relief

In McGill v. Citibank, N.A., the California Supreme Court unanimously held that arbitration clauses that waive the right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum are contrary to public policy and therefore unenforceable under California law. The decision is significant, as it potentially limits the type of the relief that is subject to arbitration. It also raises questions regarding the Federal Arbitration Act’s (“FAA”) preemption of California’s so-called Broughton-Cruz rule, which holds that agreements to arbitrate claims for public injunctive relief under the California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), unfair competition law (“UCL”), or the false advertising law are unenforceable in California. Overall, however, the case raises more questions regarding the enforceability of arbitration clauses than it resolves. Plaintiff Sharon McGill (“McGill”) opened a credit card account with Citibank, N.A. (“Citibank”) and purchased a “credit protector” plan (“Plan”) for a monthly premium, which deferred certain credit balances when a qualifying event, such as unemployment, occurred. Although McGill’s original credit card agreement did not contain an arbitration provision, Citibank sent McGill notices in 2001 and 2005 which stated that all claims were subject to arbitration, regardless of the remedy sought, and waived the cardholder’s right to bring any claims on...

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Class Action Plaintiffs Can Ring Their Own “Death Knell” Bell

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Class Action Plaintiffs Can Ring Their Own “Death Knell” Bell

The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument last month on the issue of whether a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction to review an order denying class certification after the named plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their individual claims with prejudice. The case comes to the Supreme Court from the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Baker v. Microsoft Corp. In Baker, a putative class of owners of Microsoft Corporation’s (Microsoft) Xbox 360® video game console filed suit, alleging that the console suffered from a design defect that gouged game discs. Microsoft opposed Plaintiffs’ motion to certify the class. The District Court denied certification, citing comity considerations and relying on the class certification denial in a similar case. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a 23(f) petition for interlocutory appeal with the Ninth Circuit, which was denied. The Plaintiffs then voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice, with the express purpose of obtaining immediate Ninth Circuit review of the District Court’s denial of class certification. Plaintiffs filed an appeal from the final judgment, challenging the denial of class certification. On appeal, Microsoft argued that the Ninth Circuit lacked jurisdiction because a voluntary dismissal with prejudice does not sufficiently affect the merits of the substantive claims to constitute...

U.S. Supreme Court Requires Schools to Provide a Special Needs Student More Than a “De Minimis” Education

U.S. Supreme Court Requires Schools to Provide a Special Needs Student More Than a “De Minimis” Education

On March 22, 2017, the United States Supreme Court handed down a unanimous ruling in Endrew F., et al. v. Douglas County School District RE-1. In a decision that will have far-reaching implications in the area of special education, the Court held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) “requires that students with disabilities be provided with an educational program that is reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” In 1982, the Supreme Court determined in Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist., Westchester Cty. v. Rowley that the IDEA requires that every child be provided with a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”). The Rowley Court did not, however, adopt a standard for determining whether a child is receiving a sufficient educational benefit to satisfy this mandate. Rather, the Court stated that a child has received a FAPE if the Individual Education Plan (“IEP”) provides an education program “that is reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits,” and otherwise limited its analysis to the facts of the Rowley case. Endrew F., an autistic child, was enrolled in a public school and educated pursuant to...

Another TCCWNA “Website” Terms & Conditions Class Action Dismissed

Another TCCWNA “Website” Terms & Conditions Class Action Dismissed

Over the last year – and as we have previously reported – online retailers have repeatedly been targeted by threatened or filed class actions, premised on their website terms and conditions purportedly containing unlawful terms that violate the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”). Many of these cases have been dismissed by trial courts on state law grounds and, in federal court actions, for failure to demonstrate “injury in fact,” a fundamental requirement for Article III standing. Continuing this trend, the District of New Jersey recently dismissed yet another website terms and conditions class action grounded in the TCCWNA, Hite v. Lush Internet Inc. In Hite – as in so many of these lawsuits – “Plaintiff visited Defendant’s website . . . and purchased one of Defendant’s cosmetic products.” Yet, she “[d]id not allege she has any claim about the product that she purchased, such as fraud, product liability or tort.” Instead, “[h]er quarrel [was] with the provisions of the terms of use of the website” in that she “generally allege[d] that the exculpatory clauses contained in the Terms of Use violate . . . the TCCWNA because they unlawfully disclaim all tort liability.” Chief Judge Simandle dismissed...

Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Data Privacy Class Action on Article III Standing Grounds

Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Data Privacy Class Action on Article III Standing Grounds

Since the United States Supreme Court decided Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins in May 2016, lower courts have struggled to consistently determine whether a plaintiff has standing to sue in federal court, which, as the Spokeo court explained, “requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation.” That is, even when Congress has made something unlawful and authorized an award of statutory damages for the unlawful act, the mere violation of that law is not itself sufficient to confer standing to sue under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. But precisely what is required to demonstrate sufficient “injury” under Article III remains unclear after Spokeo, especially in the data-breach and data-privacy contexts. In Gubala v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., however, a unanimous Seventh Circuit decision, authored by Judge Posner, held that the defendant’s possible failure to comply with a requirement contained in the Cable Communications Policy Act (requiring the destruction of personally identifiable information (“PII”) if the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected) did not afford the plaintiff Article III standing to sue for violation of the statute where his personal information was not released or disseminated in any way. The plaintiff...