Court Rulings/Decisions

U.S. companies have been inundated with lawsuits in the past several years alleging that their websites do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and various state laws, including the California Unruh Act. Plaintiffs claim that the websites do not meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) created by the nonprofit World Wide Web Consortium because visually impaired consumers allegedly cannot access the sites using screen-reader software. While it is difficult to determine with precision the number of cases that have been filed, they have increased 75 percent from just over 2,000 reported cases in 2018 to approximately 3,500 in 2020 – and the numbers are steadily rising. The cases target all manner of business across a wide range of industries.
Continue Reading ADA Website Litigation Continues to Proliferate in 2021

On February 2, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit weighed in on the “ascertainability” debate raging in the federal courts – specifically, whether plaintiffs must show that it would be “administratively feasible” to identify class members before the class can be certified. The term “ascertainability” is not in the text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Some courts, however, view ascertainability as an implicit requirement of a properly defined class. Other courts take it a step further and embrace a “heightened ascertainability” standard – i.e., “administrative feasibility” – and deny certification when plaintiffs fail to prove that the process for identifying absent class members will be administratively feasible.
Continue Reading The Eleventh Circuit Joins the Majority in Rejecting a Heightened Ascertainability Requirement for Class Actions

Punitive damages can often multiply a defendant’s potential exposure in litigation. A recent California appellate court decision, however, may make it easier for defendants to obtain summary judgment for punitive damages claims before a jury may consider a possible award. In Morgan v. J-M Manufacturing Company, Inc.,[1] the court vacated a $15 million punitive damages award because there was insufficient evidence to support the award. In fact, the court emphasized that there was no evidence that any corporate officer, director, or managing agent authorized or ratified any wrongful conduct, which a plaintiff must show under California law for a jury to award punitive damages. The ruling could signal that courts are requiring more specific evidence showing corporate defendants authorized or ratified wrongdoing, which in turn could help defendants get punitive damages claims dismissed before trial or awards vacated on appeal.
Continue Reading California Appellate Court Vacates $15 Million Punitive Damages Award

Several state and federal courts have recently addressed a hot-button issue in product liability law: whether the manufacturer of a product that has an asbestos-containing replacement part that causes injury may be liable even if the manufacturer itself did not manufacture or supply the replacement part. Consider this example: a manufacturer produces a steam trap or boiler that contains an asbestos gasket that needs to be replaced from time to time. Third parties supply the replacement gaskets. Is the original product manufacturer liable for injuries allegedly caused by the asbestos-containing replacement gaskets?
Continue Reading Whelan v. Armstrong Int’l, Inc.: Latest Asbestos Ruling Expands Manufacturer Liability for Injuries

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