Posts Tagged ‘class actions’

Class action roundup

Higher education roundup

  • Oops! “Tulane sophomore unknowingly named as plaintiff in lawsuit over college bribery scandal” [John Simerman, New Orleans Advocate] “Admissions scandal class action is ‘fascinating’ but likely doomed – experts” [Alison Frankel, Reuters] Plus advice from Ken at Popehat;
  • Some problems with the idea of a sweeping presidential order to decree free speech on campus — and a promising if more modest step the White House could take instead [Donald Downs, Cato] Two more views on how universities can “fend off outside intervention and, more importantly, be true to their own mission… [by] nurturing a better free speech culture” [Keith Whittington, parts one and two; John McGinnis]
  • “‘If racial preference [in college admissions] is unjust, then it doesn’t magically become just because people notice some other injustice that has different beneficiaries,’ Olson said. ‘Two things can be unjust at the same time, and two injustices do not add up to one justice.'” [John Blake, CNN, quoting me on the argument that the admissions scandal somehow proves preference advocates’ case]
  • Harvard lawprof and residential dean Ronald Sullivan under fire for defending unpopular figures facing MeToo charges
    [Randall Kennedy, Chronicle of Higher Education; Conor Friedersdorf (quoting HLS prof Janet Halley: “Finally, the ‘climate survey’ technique is a dangerous precedent as a matter of employment rights and as a threat to academic freedom. It’s a thinly veiled version of the heckler’s veto.”)]
  • The Snuggle is real: very long list of demands by Sarah Lawrence students occupying campus building includes consistent access to detergent and fabric softener [Sarah Lawrence Phoenix; Pamela Paresky, Psychology Today] Rather more seriously, the students demand the college reconsider the tenure status of a professor who published a mildly conservative op-ed in the NYT [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed]
  • Even if occasionally subverted by dishonest actors, standardized tests remain the gold standard among transparent, objective ways to improve the accuracy of college success prediction [Jenna A. Robinson, Martin Center]

Liability roundup

California moves to curb slack-fill litigation

We’ve posted often about lawyer-driven slack-fill lawsuits, in which class action filers claim that food, cosmetic, and other products sold by weight have excessive empty space in their packaging. (Laws governing food packaging allow for empty space that serves a function such as protecting the product from damage or shoplifting, but there is room for much disagreement on what is or is not needed for functionality.) The suits’ outcomes can seem random if not whimsical: Ferrara Candy recently agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle claims [Douglas Yu, Confectionery News] while the makers of Fannie May and Junior Mints successfully obtained dismissal of suits against them in federal courts [Scott Holland, Cook County Record; Bloomberg]

California has been a hotspot of slack-fill litigation, but now the California legislature has passed a bill, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, expanding the list of safe-harbor defenses that manufacturers (prospectively, in future suits) can assert against slack-fill claims. While the changes are limited in scope and will still allow many suits to go forward, it is noteworthy for California’s legislature to take even symbolic steps against the state’s busy class action industry. [Sarah L. Brew, Tyler A. Young, Emily R. Bodtke and Rita Mansuryan, The Recorder; Robert Niemann and Jill Mahoney, Washington Legal Foundation]

Court dismisses suit claiming McDonald’s should have discounted hold-the-cheese orders

“The court slapped down a South Florida couple’s putative class action lawsuit, which sought $5 million in damages and claimed McDonald’s was wrong to force diners to pay for cheese on Quarter Pounder and Double Quarter Pounder burgers, whether or not they wanted it.” [Raychel Lean, Daily Business Review/Law.com, earlier here and here]

Class action roundup

  • “For instance, linalool, which is cited as a cockroach insecticide by the law firm, is found in plants like mints and scented herbs. While it’s also used in insecticides, it’s not poisonous for humans…” [Aimee Picchi, CBS News on suit claiming that LaCroix flavored water wrongly claims “all natural” status]
  • “Appeals Court Strikes $8.7M in Legal Fees Based on Coupons in Class Action Settlement” [Ted Frank objection in ProFlowers and RedEnvelope class action; Amanda Bronstad, The Recorder] “Judge: Lawyers must justify fee requests for investor suits withdrawn vs Akorn over proxy disclosures” [Ted Frank objection in investor class action against Akorn Inc.; Jonathan Bilyk, Cook County Record]
  • Study: class action lawsuits hit innovative companies the hardest [Alex Verkhivker, Chicago Booth on study by Elisabeth Kempf of Chicago Booth and Oliver Spalt of Tilburg University]
  • “It’s Possible Woman Suing Over Sugar In ONE Protein Bars Never Actually Ate One” [Mary Ann Magnell, Legal NewsLine] And it is surprising how many reports continue to indulge the notion that typical consumer class actions spring from consumer grievance as opposed to lawyers’ entrepreneurial spotting of chances [ABA Journal on slack-fill suits]
  • “DOJ Tells Court: Class Lawyers Already Got $60M in Fees. Now They Want More? [Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal on Native American farmer case] “noting that it was difficult for him to believe the few boilerplate documents entered into the record took hundreds of hours to create. ” [D.M. Herra, Cook County Record; Western Union text messages]
  • “State Street settlement fiasco has Arkansas lawmakers questioning state’s role in class actions” [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine, earlier here, etc.]

Liability roundup

Opponent claims multi-line class action shop compensated plaintiffs

A Southern California class action firm “is accused of bribing cash-strapped 20-somethings to serve as lead plaintiffs and submit false testimony.” The firm, Newport Trial Group, is active in many categories of litigation readers of this site may find familiar, including suits over alleged food and cosmetic mislabeling, slack fill, and failure to advise customers that their phone calls were being recorded, and its founder has also been listed as counsel in multiple suits against large corporations over web accessibility and claims of patent infringement by non-practicing entities. [Jenna Greene, American Lawyer Litigation Daily courtesy Texans for Lawsuit Reform]

Ironically, the complicated and protracted litigation that led to the new setback arose not from the numerous suits the law firm or its founder filed against household-name national companies, but from one against a purveyor of nutritional items and supplements such as colloidal silver. Excerpt:

The district court judge, James Selna, explained his reasoning in a June 12 decision that does not bode well for the firm.

Natural Immunogenics, he wrote, “has put forth sufficient evidence to support its contention that defendants operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture litigation.”

“Specifically, NIC has established that in camera review may reveal evidence that defendants have a pattern of manufacturing litigation, which involves the [Newport Trial Group] defendants identifying companies vulnerable to false advertising or wiretap litigation, recruiting individuals to serve as lead plaintiffs, instructing the individuals on exactly what steps to take to give them the appearance of having suffered actionable injuries, and concealing and misrepresenting the contrived nature of the lawsuits from the courts.”

A “web of concealment and highly questionable ethical practices”

A “web of concealment and highly questionable ethical practices by experienced attorneys who should have known better”: a court has unsealed a scathing report on the conduct in the State Street case of a leading class action firm, Labaton Sucharow, and Garrett Bradley of the Thornton Law Firm in Boston. The court took particular notice of Labaton’s connections through a Houston middleman (to whom it had agreed to pay an undisclosed $4.1 million fee) to the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, which served as institutional plaintiff [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, Amanda Bronstad/NLJ] Earlier here and here.