Court Rulings/Decisions

In a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences for class actions, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the ubiquitous practice of awarding a class representative an “incentive” payment as part of a class action settlement is impermissible. Johnson v. NPAS Solutions, Inc., No. 18-12344, ___ F.3d ____, 2020 WL 5553312 (11th Cir. Sept. 17, 2020).
Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Rules That Class Representative Incentive Awards Are Impermissible

Attorneys have a duty to preserve evidence when bringing or defending claims.

In many jurisdictions, even accidental losses of evidence can lead to sanctions. For example, last year, an MMA fighter was sanctioned after a bottle of supplements critical to his suit against the manufacturer was lost in transit.[1] The court instructed the jury that it could draw an adverse inference based on the lost evidence.

Courts may also impose these sanctions where evidence is lost before a lawsuit is ever filed, if the litigation was foreseeable. Attorneys must therefore keep this duty to preserve evidence in mind after a dispute arises and remind clients to do the same.
Continue Reading Practice Pointer: Potential Consequences for Inadvertent Spoliation of Evidence

We have previously written about various strategies that defendants use to remove cases to federal court (see here, here, and here). Today we are writing about one that defendants should pursue in cases when the tort occurs on federally owned land: “federal enclave” jurisdiction. Though there is not much case law on the topic, at least three circuit courts and many district courts have held that district courts have original jurisdiction over these matters. And it may be the case that a defendant can make a federal enclave argument in conjunction with other arguments for removal or on its own.
Continue Reading Federal Enclave Jurisdiction: Strategies for Removal to Federal Court When a Tort Occurred on Federal Land

It’s getting more complicated to take and defend depositions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now there is a proposed new change to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that would require parties to confer before a plaintiff takes the deposition of a corporate representative. Specifically, the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules has proposed an amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) that requires parties to confer in good faith before the deposition takes place about both the topics and the identity of the witness or witnesses.
Continue Reading What’s Ahead: An Amendment to Rule 30(b)(6) That Requires Parties to Confer

Personal jurisdiction has always been a thorny and fact-specific topic in civil procedure. But the increasing complexity of transactions – development and manufacture of products across many borders, complicated chains of distribution, and the sale of products or services anywhere over the internet – has made it difficult for due process to keep up with technological and business advances. Courts can exercise jurisdiction over defendants only in locations where constitutional due process protections allow. In January, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two consolidated cases to address the limits of specific personal jurisdiction. See Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Ct., Case No. 19-368; Ford Motor Co. v. Bandemer, Case No. 19-369. These cases likely will clarify the limits of specific personal jurisdiction and whether conduct within the forum state needs to be the conduct that caused a plaintiff’s injury. Oral argument originally was set for April 27, 2020, but has been postponed due to COVID-19.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Will Address Personal Jurisdiction After State Courts Interpret BMS Decision

Civil litigation is a highly deadline-driven activity – statutes of limitation, discovery responses, notices of appeal. The “use it by a date certain or lose it” nature of all of these deadlines pushes the wheels of justice forward, steadily, if sometimes slowly. Over the past 48 hours, in response to the novel coronavirus, state and federal courts across the country have applied the brakes to the judicial system – canceling appellate arguments, postponing jury trials, and pushing out deadlines, sometimes potentially for months. In the short-term, the orders provide welcome relief for firms and clients coping with office closures and directives in many parts of the country to shelter in place. But the relief in many cases may be incomplete – in some instances, courts lack the power to relieve parties from jurisdictional deadlines. As illustrative examples, here we look at a series of orders, all effective March 17, 2020, from a federal court in Chicago, and from state courts in Illinois, California, and New York.
Continue Reading Blanket Deadline Extension Orders: Short-Term Relief and Jurisdictional Risks

When plaintiffs sue companies alleging that their websites do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), courts start by answering two threshold legal questions. Does the ADA apply to websites? And if it does, which websites does it apply to? At least seven federal circuit courts have answered these questions and have reached three different conclusions. Until recently, California courts had provided little guidance. But on September 3, 2019, the Second Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal decided Thurston v. Midvale Corporation (Case No. B291631). Thurston clarifies that commercial websites with a “nexus” to a physical location are subject to the ADA.
Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Aligns with Ninth Circuit on ADA Website Accessibility Standards

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling from last summer may have changed the trajectory of a high-profile pending commercial speech case. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Court modified the traditional commercial speech tests, perhaps placing a greater burden on the government when it seeks to regulate commercial speech. Becerra could influence the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision in Cigar Association of America v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration as to whether FDA-mandated cigar health warnings violate the First Amendment. If cigar regulations are found to violate the First Amendment, it could lead to a new wave of litigation.
Continue Reading You Can’t Make Me Say It: Does Becerra Make it Harder for the Government to Require Product Health Warnings?

Entities regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should have greater confidence in sharing confidential business information with the agency following a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year that addressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s duty to disclose information in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Continue Reading Private Eyes: When is Company Information Shared with the CPSC Confidential?

It has been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court (BMS). In BMS, the Court held that state courts lacked personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants relating to state-law mass tort claims that had no connection to the forum state. We have followed this decision closely on the blog here and here.
Continue Reading On the Road Again: Does Bristol-Myers Squibb Limit Courts’ Jurisdiction Over Claims by Out-of-State Class Members?