Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Reliance Health Care, Inc. v. Mitchell
The Supreme Court dismissed this interlocutory appeal of a vacated class certification order and directed the circuit court to remand the case to address motions to compel arbitration, holding that this appeal was moot.Plaintiffs, who represented the estates of former residents of fourteen different nursing homes, alleged breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims against the nursing homes, in violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights act and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The nursing homes moved to compel arbitration for all but two of the named plaintiffs, after which the plaintiffs moved for class certification. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification without ruling on the motions to compel arbitration. The nursing homes brought an interlocutory appeal of the class-certification order and petitioned for writ of prohibition, mandamus, and certiorari. The Supreme Court granted the writ petition, vacating the order granting class certification, and ordered the circuit court to rule on the motions to compel before ruling on class certification, holding that the interlocutory appeal of the vacated class-certification order was moot. View "Reliance Health Care, Inc. v. Mitchell" on Justia Law
Sepanossian v. Nat. Ready Mix Co.
Gary Sepanossian, dba G.S. Construction (Sepanossian), individually and as class representative, filed a class action against National Ready Mix Concrete Co., Inc. (Ready Mix), alleging Ready Mix charged its customers an “energy” fee and an “environmental” fee “wholly untethered to any actual cost for ‘energy’ or ‘environmental’ issues” that Ready Mix instead “recognize[s] as profit.” The complaint alleges causes of action for (1) violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) under the fraudulent and unfair business practices prongs; (2) breach of contract; and (3) “unjust enrichment.” After Ready Mix answered the complaint, Sepanossian filed a motion for class certification. The trial court granted class certification but expressed doubts about Sepanossian’s legal claims and invited the parties to present a motion for judgment on the pleadings to address the merits before class notice. The parties agreed to do so, and Ready Mix subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the trial court granted on the UCL and unjust enrichment causes of action. The Second Appellate District reversed because Sepanossian alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action under the UCL but affirmed dismissal of the unjust enrichment cause of action. The court explained that here, Ready Mix customers cannot buy concrete from it while avoiding being charged energy and environmental fees. On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court wrote that it must accept as true Sepanossian’s allegation the fees were unavoidable for customers who wished to purchase concrete from Ready Mix. View "Sepanossian v. Nat. Ready Mix Co." on Justia Law
Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative shareholder class action complaint in New York State Supreme Court, alleging Maryland state law claims on behalf of himself and all similarly situated preferred stockholders of Cedar Realty Trust, Inc. (“Cedar”), a New York-based corporation incorporated in Maryland, following its August 2022 merger with Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc. (“Wheeler”) (collectively, “Defendants”). The complaint alleged Cedar and its leadership breached fiduciary duties owed to, and a contract with, shareholders such as Plaintiff and that Wheeler both aided and abetted the breach and tortiously interfered with the relevant contract. The Defendants collectively removed the case, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but the district court remanded the case to state court after Krasner argued that an exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied to his claims. The Second Circuit dismissed Defendants’ appeal and concluded that the “securities-related” exception applies. The court explained that here, the securities created a relationship between Cedar and Plaintiff that gave rise to fiduciary duties on the part of Cedar and the potential for additional claims against those parties who aid and abet Cedar’s breach of those duties. Thus, the aiding and abetting claim—and by the same logic, the tortious interference with contract claim—“seek enforcement of a right that arises from an appropriate instrument.” As such, the securities-related exception applies, and the district court properly remanded the case to state court. View "Krasner v. Cedar Realty Trust, Inc." on Justia Law
Hagey v. Solar Service Experts
Plaintiff Phil Hagey appealed a judgment of dismissal entered following the sustaining of a demurrer to his second amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff owned a home with a solar energy system (the system). At the time he purchased the home, the prior homeowner was party to a contract with a company, Kilowatt Systems, LLC (Kilowatt), which owned the system (the solar agreement). Among other terms, the solar agreement required the prior homeowner to purchase the energy produced by the system through monthly payments to Kilowatt. In the event of a sale of the house, the solar agreement afforded the prior homeowner three options. The prior homeowner and plaintiff agreed to an option which allowed prepayment of all remaining monthly payments and a transfer of all solar agreement rights and obligations to plaintiff, except for the monthly payment responsibility. In conjunction with the sale of the house, prepayment occurred and the parties entered into the requisite transfer agreement. At some later point in time, defendant Solar Service Experts, LLC began sending plaintiff monthly bills on Kilowatt’s behalf, demanding payments pursuant to the solar agreement. After receiving a bill, plaintiff spoke to a representative of defendant who told him he should not have received the bill and the issue would be resolved. Plaintiff received additional bills and at least one late payment notice which identified defendant as a debt collector. Plaintiff communicated with defendant’s representatives about the errors by phone and email, all to no avail. Plaintiff thereafter filed a class action lawsuit against defendant. The trial court concluded plaintiff did not, and could not, allege facts sufficient to constitute a consumer credit transaction, as statutorily defined. Plaintiff argued the court erroneously focused on the undisputed fact he did not owe the debt which defendant sought to collect and, in doing so, failed to recognize the Rosenthal Act applied to debt alleged to be due or owing by reason of a consumer credit transaction. To this the Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment. View "Hagey v. Solar Service Experts" on Justia Law
Peter Maldini v. Accenture LLP
In November 2018, Marriott International, Inc., announced that hackers had breached one of its guest reservation databases, giving them access to millions of guest records. Customers across the country began filing lawsuits, which were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in Maryland. Plaintiffs then moved to certify multiple class actions against Marriott and Accenture LLP, an IT service provider that managed the database at issue. The district court obliged in part. It certified classes for monetary damages on breach of contract and statutory consumer-protection claims against Marriott under Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It also certified “issue” classes on negligence claims against Marriott and Accenture under Rule 23(c)(4), limited to a subset of issues bearing on liability. The Fourth Circuit granted Defendants’ petitions to appeal the district court’s certification order and now concludes that the order must be vacated. The court found that the district court erred in certifying damages classes against Marriott without first considering the effect of a class action waiver signed by all putative class members. And because the existence of damages classes against Marriott was a critical predicate for the district court’s decision to certify the negligence issue classes, that error affects the whole of the certification order. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s certification order. View "Peter Maldini v. Accenture LLP" on Justia Law
Torri Houston v. St. Luke’s Health System, Inc.
Plaintiff, a former employee, sued on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees, claiming that St. Luke’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime provisions by failing to fully compensate employees for work performed. She also brought an unjust-enrichment claim under state law. The district court certified two classes with different lookback periods: (1) an FLSA collective comprised of employees who worked for St. Luke’s between September 2016 and September 2018, 1 and (2) an unjust-enrichment class comprised of all employees who worked for St. Luke’s in Missouri between April 2012 and September 2018. Houston also asserted individual claims, one under the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, and one for breach of her employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment to St. Luke’s on all claims. The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that Plaintiff has raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy does not average out over time. The court explained that no matter how one slices the data, most employees and the employees as a whole fared worse under the rounding policy than had they been paid according to their exact time worked. Here, the rounding policy did both. It resulted in lost time for nearly two-thirds of employees, and those employees lost more time than was gained by their coworkers who benefited from rounding. The court concluded that the employees have raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy, as applied, did not average out over time. The district court, therefore, erred in granting summary judgment on the FLSA and Missouri wage claims. View "Torri Houston v. St. Luke's Health System, Inc." on Justia Law
H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P.
Alliance Pipeline L.P. (“Alliance”) entered into contracts with four states (“State Agreements”) as well as contracts with individual landowners in order to build a natural gas pipeline. The contracts with landowners provide easements for the pipeline right-of-way. In 2018, some landowners on the pipeline right-of-way filed a class-action lawsuit against Alliance. After the class was certified, Alliance moved to compel arbitration for the approximately 73 percent of plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. Alliance appealed, arguing the district court erred by not sending all issues to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that the district court that the damages issues are subject to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs make two arguments against sending any issues to arbitration: (1) Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be within the scope of the arbitration provisions because the claims allege lack of compensation for “ongoing yield losses,” not “damages to crops” and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims arise under the State Agreements, which do not have arbitration provisions. The court found the arbitration agreements to be enforceable and to cover all issues. The court held that as to the arbitration class members, the claims should be dismissed without prejudice. As to the members of the class without arbitration provisions, the court saw no reason why these class members cannot proceed with the lawsuit in the normal course at the district court. View "H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P." on Justia Law
Andrea Juncadella, et al v. Robinhood Financial LLC, et al
In January 2021, many customers of the online financial services company Robinhood were aggressively buying specific stocks known as “meme stocks” in a frenzy that generated widespread attention. Robinhood suddenly restricted its customers’ ability to buy these meme stocks (but not their ability to sell them). Some Robinhood customers who could not buy the restricted stocks brought this putative class action, seeking to represent both Robinhood customers and all other holders of the restricted meme stocks nationwide who sold the stocks during a certain period. As Robinhood customers, they allege that they lost money because Robinhood stopped them from acquiring an asset that would have continued to increase in value. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the claims. The court explained that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim. The court explained that its contract with Robinhood gives the company the specific right to restrict its customers’ ability to trade securities and to refuse to accept any of their transactions. Thus, the court wrote that because Robinhood had the right to do exactly what it did, Plaintiffs’ claims in agency and contract cannot stand. And under basic principles of tort law, Robinhood had no tort duty to avoid causing purely economic loss. View "Andrea Juncadella, et al v. Robinhood Financial LLC, et al" on Justia Law
Hogan v. Southern Methodist Univ
Plaintiff, on behalf of a putative class of students, sued Southern Methodist University (“SMU”) for refusing to refund tuition and fees after the university switched to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim. The Fifth Circuit reversed that decision in light of King v. Baylor University, 46 F.4th 344 (5th Cir. 2022), which was issued after the district court’s ruling and which teaches that Hogan adequately pled a breach-of-contract claim. Alternatively, the district court held that Texas’s Pandemic Liability Protection Act (“PLPA”) retroactively bars Plaintiff’s claim for monetary relief and is not unconstitutionally retroactive under the Texas Constitution. That latter ruling raises a determinative-but-unsettled question of state constitutional law, which the court certified to the Texas Supreme Court: Does the application of the Pandemic Liability Protection Act to Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim violate the retroactivity clause in article I, section 16 of the Texas Constitution? View "Hogan v. Southern Methodist Univ" on Justia Law
Hoosier Contractors, LLC v. Gardner
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court denying Hoosier Contractors, LLC's motion for summary judgment, denying Sean Gardner's motion for partial summary judgment, and denying Hoosier's motion to decertify a class of Hoosier's similarly situated customers, holding that Gardner, on behalf of himself and as class representative, lacked standing to bring his counterclaim against Hoosier.When Gardner asked Hoosier to inspect the roof of his home Hoosier made Gardner sign a contract for Hoosier to perform any needed work. When Gardner refused to let Hoosier repair his roof Hoosier brought this action for breach of contract. Gardner filed a counterclaim, on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated customers, alleging that the contract violated the Indiana Home Improvement Contractors Act and that the violations were deceptive acts under the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The Supreme Court held (1) Gardner lacked standing to bring his counterclaim against Hoosier, and this disposition mooted the class-action issues; and (2) the court of appeals properly affirmed the denial of Gardner's motion for partial summary judgment as to Hoosier's breach of contract claim. View "Hoosier Contractors, LLC v. Gardner" on Justia Law