Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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In a class action suit, the plaintiffs, a group of patients, alleged that the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), who operate the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), were in violation of Pennsylvania privacy law. The plaintiffs claimed that Penn Medicine shared sensitive health information and online activity of its patients with Facebook through its patient portal. Penn removed the case to federal court, asserting that it was "acting under" the federal government, referencing the federal-officer removal statute. However, the District Court rejected this argument and returned the case to state court.This case was primarily focused on whether Penn was "acting under" the federal government in its operation of Penn Medicine's patient portal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision to remand the case back to state court. The Court of Appeals determined that Penn was not "acting under" the federal government, as it did not demonstrate that it was performing a delegated governmental task. The court declared that Penn was merely complying with federal laws and regulations, which does not qualify as "acting under" the federal government. The court noted that just because a private party has a contractual relationship with the federal government does not mean that it is "acting under" the federal authority. In conclusion, the court determined that the relationship between Penn and the federal government did not meet the requirements for Penn to be considered as "acting under" the federal government, thus the case was correctly returned to state court. View "Mohr v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania" on Justia Law

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A group of current and former inmates, or their representatives, filed a class action lawsuit against Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, and Patrick Allen, the Director of the Oregon Health Authority, claiming that the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which prioritized corrections officers over inmates, violated their Eighth Amendment rights. The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, asserting immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, finding that the defendants were immune from liability for the vaccine prioritization claim under the PREP Act. The court held that the statutory requirements for PREP Act immunity were met because the "administration" of a covered countermeasure includes prioritization of that countermeasure when its supply is limited. The court further concluded that the PREP Act's provisions extend immunity to persons who make policy-level decisions regarding the administration or use of covered countermeasures. The court also held that the PREP Act provides immunity from suit and liability for constitutional claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, even if those claims are federal constitutional claims. View "MANEY V. BROWN" on Justia Law

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This case revolves around the filed rate doctrine and its applicability in instances where rates approved by a municipal board are questioned. The plaintiffs, a group of customers, sued Recology, a waste management company, alleging that the company violated the Unfair Competition Law and other laws by bribing a city official to facilitate the approval of Recology’s application for increased refuse collection rates. The trial court ruled in favor of Recology, holding that the claims were barred by the filed rate doctrine. The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division Three reversed the decision, stating that the California version of the filed rate doctrine does not bar this action because the purposes underlying the doctrine – “nondiscrimination” and “nonjusticiability” strands – are not implicated by plaintiffs’ claims. The court also concluded that the judgment in the prior law enforcement action does not pose a res judicata bar to this putative class action. The court remanded the case for the trial court’s consideration of Recology’s remaining challenges in the first instance. View "Villarroel v. Recology" on Justia Law

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The Municipal Code of Chicago included provisions concerning public parking, including parking meters. The fine for exceeding the time purchased at a parking meter differs depending on whether the violation occurs in the “central business district” or the “non-central business district.” At the time of the alleged violation, failure to comply with the parking meter regulations in the central business district resulted in a $65 fine. A $50 fine applied to similar violations outside the central business district.Pinkston filed a class-action, alleging that Chicago had engaged in the routine practice of improperly issuing central business district tickets for parking meter violations. The circuit court dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies before the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings and voluntarily paying his fine. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The underlying issue—whether Pinkston received an improper parking ticket—is routinely handled at the administrative level; an aggrieved party cannot circumvent administrative remedies “by a class action for declaratory judgment, injunction or other relief.” View "Pinkston v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are three Texas residents whose assets escheated to the State under Texas’s Unclaimed Property Act. Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the Texas Comptroller and a director in the Comptroller’s office, alleging that the State is abusing the Unclaimed Property Act to seize purportedly abandoned property without providing proper notice. The district court dismissed most of Plaintiffs’ claims. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot invoke Ex parte Young because they lack standing to seek prospective relief and have not alleged an ongoing violation of federal law.   The Fifth Circuit agreed with Defendants and reversed the district court’s denial of Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and remanded with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ remaining claims for prospective relief without prejudice. The court explained that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts indicating that Texas’s alleged abuse of the UPA is ongoing or will continue in the future. As there is no ongoing violation of federal law sufficiently pleaded in the complaint, Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the Ex parte Young requirements, and their claims for prospective relief are barred by sovereign immunity. View "James v. Hegar" on Justia Law

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Defendant Klarna, Inc. ("Klarna") provides a "buy now, pay later" service that allows shoppers to buy a product and pay for it in four equal installments over time without incurring any interest or fees. Plaintiff paid for two online purchases using Klarna. Plaintiff incurred $70 in overdraft fees. Plaintiff brought this action on behalf of herself and a class of similarly situated consumers, alleging that Klarna misrepresents and conceals the risk of bank-overdraft fees that consumers face when using its pay-over-time service and asserting claims for common-law fraud and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act ("CUTPA"). Klarna moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied Klarna's motion.   The Second Circuit reversed he district court's order and remanded with instructions to grant Klarna's motion to compel arbitration. The court explained that when Plaintiff arrived at the Klarna Widget, she knew well that purchasing the GameStop item with Klarna meant that she was entering into a continuing relationship with Klarna, one that would endure at least until she repaid all four installments. The Klarna Widget provided clear notice that there were terms that would govern this continuing relationship. A reasonable internet user, therefore, would understand that finalizing the GameStop transaction, entering into a forward-looking relationship with Klarna, and receiving the benefit of Klarna's service would constitute assent to those terms. The court explained that Plaintiff was on inquiry notice that her "agreement to the payment terms," necessarily encompassed more than the information provided on the Klarna Widget, and the burden was then on her to find out to what terms she was accepting. View "Najah Edmundson v. Klarna Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a).   The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Louisiana oil and gas law authorizes the state Commissioner of Conservation to combine separate tracts of land and appoint a unit operator to extract the minerals. Plaintiffs own unleased mineral interests in Louisiana that are part of a forced drilling unit. BPX is the operator. Plaintiffs alleged on behalf of themselves and a named class that BPX has been improperly deducting post-production costs from their pro rata share of production and that this practice is improper per se. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ per se claims, holding that the quasi-contractual doctrine of negotiorum gestio provides a mechanism for BPX to properly deduct postproduction costs. Plaintiffs filed this action as purported representatives of a named class of unleased mineral owners whose interests are situated within forced drilling units formed by the Louisiana Office of Conservation and operated by BPX. BPX removed this action to the district court based on both diversity and federal question jurisdiction. BPX sought dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ primary claim. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss. The district court certified its ruling for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b).The Fifth Circuit wrote that no controlling Louisiana case resolves the parties’ issue. Accordingly, the court certified the following determinative question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court: 1) Does La. Civ. Code art. 2292 applies to unit operators selling production in accordance with La. R.S. 30:10(A)(3)? View "Self v. B P X Operating" on Justia Law

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Several collections of residents near Jefferson Parish Landfill sued the landfill’s owner (Jefferson Parish) and its operators (four companies). This mandamus action arises out of the Eastern District of Louisiana’s case management of two of those lawsuits: the Ictech-Bendeck class action and the Addison mass action. The Ictech-Bendeck class action plaintiffs seek damages on a state-law nuisance theory under Louisiana Civil Code articles 667, 668, and 669. The Addison mass action plaintiffs seek damages from the same defendants, although they plead claims for both nuisance and negligence. The district court granted in part and denied in part Petitioners’ motion for summary judgment against some of the Addison plaintiffs. Then on April 17 the district court adopted a new case management order drafted by the parties that scheduled a September 2023 trial for several of the Addison plaintiffs.   The Fifth Circuit denied Petitioners' petition for mandamus relief. The court explained that mandamus is an extraordinary form of relief saved for the rare case in which there has been a “usurpation of judicial power” or a “clear abuse of discretion.” The court explained that mandamus relief is not for testing novel legal theories. The court wrote that Petitioners’ theory is not merely new; it is also wrong. Rule 23 establishes a mechanism for plaintiffs to pursue their claims as a class. It does not cause the filing of a putative class action to universally estop all separate but related actions from proceeding to the merits until the class-certification process concludes in the putative class action, after years of motions practice. View "In Re Jefferson Parish" on Justia Law

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A settlement agreement generally ends a legal dispute. Here, it was just the beginning. In August 2015, the State of California settled a dispute with a plaintiff class of inmates over alleged constitutional violations. Eight years later, the dispute continues. In settlement, the State agreed to stop housing inmates in solitary confinement for long-term or indefinite periods based on gang affiliation. The inmates’ counsel would monitor the state’s compliance for two years. The settlement agreement and monitoring period could be extended for twelve months if the inmates demonstrated continuing constitutional violations that were either alleged in their complaint or resulted from the agreement’s reforms. The twice successfully extended the settlement agreement before the district court.   The Ninth Circuit reversed in part, vacated in part, and dismissed in part the district court’s extensions of the settlement agreement. The panel reversed the district court’s order granting the first twelve-month extension of the settlement agreement. First, the panel held that there was no basis for extending the agreement based on the inmates’ claim that the CDCR regularly mischaracterizes the confidential information used in disciplinary hearings and fails to verify the reliability of that information. Next, the panel held that there was no basis for extending the agreement based on the inmates’ claim that CDCR unconstitutionally validates inmates as gang affiliates and fails to tell the parole board that old gang validations are flawed or unreliable. The claim was not included in, or sufficiently related to, the complaint. View "TODD ASHKER, ET AL V. GAVIN NEWSOM, ET AL" on Justia Law