Category: Class Action Defense

Dos and Don’ts for Online Retailers Listing Terms and Conditions on Their Websites

Dos and Don’ts for Online Retailers Listing Terms and Conditions on Their Websites

A recent California federal decision states clear guidelines for consumer-focused companies’ online terms and conditions. In McKee v. Audible, Inc., the plaintiff signed up on his smartphone for a free one-month trial with Audible, an Amazon subsidiary offering audiobook subscription services. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a putative class action against Audible and Amazon.com taking issue with Audible’s policy regarding unused credits. Defendants then filed a motion to compel arbitration. The motion to compel arbitration was granted as to Amazon, but denied as to Audible. The court found that while both companies’ arbitration agreements were valid and enforceable, Audible’s customer user agreements were not clearly displayed when consumers signed up for the service online and were blocked by certain images when using the Audible app. Therefore, customers were not given the requisite actual or constructive notices of the terms of service, such that they could mutually assent to the terms of service in order to create a valid and enforceable contract. The court offered the following guidelines for constructive notice in internet commerce: (1) “terms of use” will not be enforced where there is no evidence that the website user had notice of the agreement; (2) a user should be encouraged...

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...

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...

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...

California District Court Dismisses Facebook’s TCCWNA “Website Terms and Conditions” Lawsuit in Light of Valid Choice-of-Law Provision

California District Court Dismisses Facebook’s TCCWNA “Website Terms and Conditions” Lawsuit in Light of Valid Choice-of-Law Provision

New Jersey’s Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”) ushered in a wave of class actions last year, targeting various provisions in retailers’ websites “terms and conditions.” Broadly speaking, the TCCWNA prohibits “consumer contracts” from containing language that violates any “clearly established legal right[s].” New Jersey courts have not been alone in adjudicating these cases, however, as a number of similar lawsuits have been brought in other jurisdictions, including California federal district courts. For example, on September 7, 2016, the Central District of California dismissed the complaint in Candelario v. Rip Curl, Inc. on standing grounds, holding that because the plaintiff’s “only connection to the Terms and Conditions appears to be her decision to read them” and because her complaint essentially alleged only “bare procedural violation[s]” of the TCCWNA – without more – she could not satisfy “the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III.” Even more recently, although on different grounds, the Northern District of California dismissed a “website terms and conditions” class action against Facebook. In Palomino v. Facebook, Inc., as in Candelario, the plaintiffs alleged that the social media company’s website terms and conditions violated the TCCWNA because of “provisions that purport to ‘1) disclaim liability for claims brought for...

New Jersey Federal Court Relies on Spokeo to Dismiss FACTA Class Action For Failure to Allege Concrete Harm 0

New Jersey Federal Court Relies on Spokeo to Dismiss FACTA Class Action For Failure to Allege Concrete Harm

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey recently relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Spokeo v. Robins to grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss a statutory violation-based class action complaint for failure to allege a concrete injury. In Kamal v. J. Crew Group Inc., et al. the Court concluded that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (“FACTA”) because, as in Spokeo, the claims were based on a purely statutory injury, i.e., the plaintiff did not allege a “concrete and particularized” injury.






Third Circuit Sets Framework for Numerosity Inquiry and Lists Factors to Consider When Determining “Whether Joinder would be Impracticable” Under Rule 23(a)(1) 0

Third Circuit Sets Framework for Numerosity Inquiry and Lists Factors to Consider When Determining “Whether Joinder would be Impracticable” Under Rule 23(a)(1)

One of the prerequisites for class certification under Rule 23(a) is that “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable,” which is commonly referred to as the “numerosity” requirement. Notably, Rule 23(a)(1) is “conspicuously devoid of any numerical minimum required for class certification.” For the first time, the Third Circuit has “provide[d] a framework for district courts to apply when conducting their numerosity analyses” in a recent precedential opinion. Defendants opposing class certification must be aware of this framework, particularly since numerosity is an often overlooked prerequisite yet may provide ample grounds for defeating certification in certain actions.