Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Plaintiffs brought a class action complaint against Cellular Sales of New York, LLC and Cellular Sales of Knoxville, Inc. (“Cellular”) for unfair wage deductions, unpaid compensable work, untimely commissions, unjust enrichment, and failure to pay minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA and New York Labor Law. Essentially, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees as defined by the FLSA and [New York Labor Law], thus depriving them of employee benefits required by law.   Cellular appealed the district court’s order granting attorney’s fees to Plaintiffs. Cellular argued that (1) the district court abused its discretion in finding that Plaintiffs’ successful minimum wage and overtime claims were sufficiently intertwined with their unsuccessful unfair wage deduction, unpaid compensable work, and untimely commissions claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law; and (2) regardless of whether the claims were intertwined, that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the attorney’s fees award by only 40 percent given Plaintiffs’ relative lack of success. 
 The Second Circuit affirmed. The could be explained that Plaintiffs brought wage-and-hour statutory claims that clearly arise from a common nucleus of operative fact regarding their time working for Cellular. Thus, the district court’s finding that the discovery involved in litigating the unpaid overtime wage claims is inseparable from the discovery involved in the unfair wage deductions, unpaid compensable work, or untimely commissions claims is well supported.  Further, the court affirmed the attorney’s fee awards explaining that fee awards are reviewed under a deferential abuse of discretion standard. View "Holick v. Cellular Sales" on Justia Law

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In a putative class action, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Fourteenth Amendment, and they sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s dismissal of claims brought by a group of students and parents who alleged that every school district in California failed to adequately accommodate special needs students after California public schools transitioned to remote instruction in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   The panel held that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue school districts in which they were not enrolled and the State Special Schools, which they did not attend because they did not allege that those Defendants injured them personally. The panel held that even if the “juridical link” doctrine, provides an exception to the rule that a named plaintiff who has not been harmed by a defendant is generally an inadequate and atypical class representative for purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, ever applies outside of the Rule 23 context, it would not apply here.   The panel held that the California public schools’ return to in-person instruction mooted Plaintiffs’ claims against the California Department of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Education, as well as their claims against other defendants seeking injunctions requiring a return to in-person instruction or reassessment and services until students return to in-person instruction. The panel vacated the district court’s judgment dismissing on the merits the claims that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring and remanded with instruction to dismiss those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "DANIELLE MARTINEZ V. GAVIN NEWSOM" on Justia Law

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This class action arises out of claims by commercial truck drivers who assert that they were not paid proper amounts while working for Werner Enterprises, Inc., and Drivers Management, LLC, (collectively Defendants) as part of Defendants’ Student Driver Program. In a previous appeal, we considered Defendants’ challenge to a jury verdict in favor of Philip Petrone and others (collectively, Plaintiffs) on some of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the district court erred in amending the scheduling order to allow Plaintiffs to submit an expert report past the disclosure deadline without good cause.   Because the expert evidence was integral to the jury’s verdict, the Eighth Circuit determined that this error was not harmless, and vacated the judgment. The case returned to the court after the district court, on remand, entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The court then vacated the judgment. The court explained that read in its entirety, the decision left the door open for the district court to consider how to proceed in light of the Circuit Court’s ruling that the district court should not have granted the motion to amend the scheduling order. The court explained that its mandate thus did not direct the district court to affirmatively find in Defendants’ favor, and their suggestion to the contrary is without merit.   Finally, while the district court properly determined that Plaintiffs could not present evidence of damages through summary evidence pursuant to Rule 1006, it failed to conduct an analysis pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1) and failed to address Plaintiffs’ request for appointment of an expert pursuant to Rule 706. View "Philip Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s approval of a settlement between Defendant Monsanto and Plaintiffs. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding the notice to the class was sufficient or in concluding that payment to class members of 50% of the average weighted retail price of the items they purchased fully compensated the class members.    Plaintiffs filed suit pleading multiple claims arising out of the allegedly deceptive labeling of Roundup products manufactured by Monsanto. The parties agreed to a total Common Fund. They agreed that Monsanto would not object to Plaintiffs’ counsel seeking 25% of that amount as an attorney’s fee. Class members who filed claims were to receive 10% of the average retail price for the product(s) they bought, and any remaining funds after the costs of administration would be distributed cy pres. The parties executed a Second Corrected Class Action Settlement Agreement that made four changes to the initial agreement.   Appellant, a party injured by Roundup, made three objections to the settlement, all of which she renewed on appeal. First, she argued that the district court should have (1) required the parties to take additional steps to identify additional class members and (2) increased the pro-rata portion of the Common Fund up to 100% of the weighted average retail price. The court held the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that notice to the class was sufficient in light of the comprehensive notice plan and the estimated results from the claims administrator.Further, the court wrote that cy pres distribution of residual funds pursuant to the settlement agreement neither constitutes speech by any individual class member nor infringes on their First Amendment rights. View "Lisa Jones v. Anna St. John" on Justia Law

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Appellants, Medicaid providers and former members of public-sector unions, challenge the district courts’ dismissals of two cases, consolidated on appeal. When Appellants joined the unions, they authorized the California State Controller to deduct union dues from their Medicaid reimbursements. Appellants now contend that, when the Controller made these deductions, she violated the “anti-reassignment” provision of the Medicaid Act, which prohibits state Medicaid programs from paying anyone other than the providers or recipients of covered services.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court explained that California uses some of its Medicaid funding to provide assistance with daily activities to elderly and disabled beneficiaries under a program called In-Home Support Services (IHSS). The recipients of these services are responsible for employing and overseeing the work of their IHSS providers, who are often family members. The Controller makes a variety of standard payroll deductions, including for federal and state income tax, unemployment compensation, and retirement savings. California law also authorizes the Controller to deduct union dues from the paychecks of IHSS providers.   Thus, the court held that the Medicaid Act’s anti-reassignment provision, 42 U.S.C. Section 1396a(a)(32), does not confer a right on Medicaid providers enforceable under Section 1983. The text and legislative history of the anti-reassignment provision make clear that Congress was focused on preventing fraud and abuse in state Medicaid programs rather than on serving the needs of Medicaid providers. Because Congress did not intend to benefit Medicaid providers, the anti-reassignment provision did not confer a right as enforceable under Section 1983. View "DELORES POLK V. BETTY YEE" on Justia Law

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In January 2019, Ali brought this civil rights action against Chicago and several police officers, alleging that the officers followed a city policy “of refusing to release on bond an arrestee taken into custody on an arrest warrant issued by an Illinois state court outside of Cook County.” Days before the deadline for completing fact discovery, Ali moved to certify a class. The district court granted the city’s motion to strike, noting that Ali had not added class allegations to his complaint. Ali sought leave to amend his complaint to include class allegations, arguing that he did not have evidentiary support for the existence of the city policy until a November 2019 deposition. The city replied that it had acknowledged the policy months earlier. The district court denied Ali's motion. Weeks later, Ali settled his case.On January 25, the district court dismissed the case without prejudice. Also on January 25, Miller moved to intervene under Rule 24, asserting that he was a member of Ali’s proposed class. With his motion to intervene pending, Miller filed a notice of appeal from the January 25 order. On March 24, with that appeal pending, the district court denied Miller’s motion to intervene as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no operative class action complaint. Miller’s motion to intervene was untimely; he is not a party to the lawsuit and cannot pursue other challenges. View "Miller v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Inmates who were housed by three Illinois Department of Corrections centers between April-July 2014, alleged that the prison-wide shakedowns conducted violated their constitutional and statutory rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The shakedowns involved uniformed tactical teams called “Orange Crush” that operated according to a uniform plan, which involved a loud entry, strip searches, handcuffing, and other procedures involving allegedly humiliating physical contact. The inmates allege that the planning and execution of the shakedowns violated the Eighth Amendment because it was designed to inflict pain and humiliation.The Seventh Circuit affirmed class certification. The plaintiffs satisfied the “commonality” requirement because they alleged that the defendants acted pursuant to a common policy and implemented the same or similar procedures at each institution and that the challenge was to the constitutionality of that common plan as enacted. The claims require resolution of key common factual and legal questions, specifically: “whether Defendants developed and carried out a uniform policy and practice that had the effect of depriving the putative class members of their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; whether the shakedowns were executed in the manner Defendants contend or as Plaintiffs claim; whether Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to deprive the putative class members of their constitutional rights through the shakedowns; and whether the Defendants knew of, approved, facilitated and/or turned a blind eye to the alleged unconstitutional shakedowns.” Those questions do not require individualized consideration. View "Ross v. Gossett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought Title IX claims for failure to provide equal treatment and benefits, failure to provide equal opportunities to male and female athletes, and retaliation against female athletes when they brought up Title IX compliance to high school administrators. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion for class certification, finding that they failed to meet the numerosity requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a).The Ninth Circuit reversed. Rule 23(a)(1) requires a party seeking class certification to prove that “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” The proposed class of plaintiffs at the time of filing exceeded 300. Additionally, the district court failed to consider the future students who also fell within the class. To satisfy the numerosity element of Rule 23(a) Plaintiffs do not need to show that the joinder of all possible class members is impossible, only that it is impracticable. The court also found Plaintiffs’ other claims met Rule 23(a)’s requirements, remanding the case for the district court to determine whether Plaintiffs satisfied Rule 23(b). View "A. B. V. HAWAII STATE DEPT OF EDUC." on Justia Law

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Simpson unsuccessfully applied to work as a Correctional Officer at the Cook County Department of Corrections four times in 2014-2017. Simpson believed the hiring practices underlying those rejections violated his rights—and those of other unsuccessful Black applicants—under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1). Invoking disparate treatment and disparate impact theories, Simpson’s class action complaint alleged that, through the use of a five-step hiring process for correctional officers, the Department both intended to discriminate against Black applicants and succeeded in producing that result. The district court denied Simpson’s motion for class certification, finding that none of his proposed classes—a general class of all unsuccessful applicants and five subclasses of candidates dismissed at each step of the hiring process—satisfied Rule 23(a)(2)’s requirement that they present “questions of law or fact common to the class.”The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court’s analysis apparently merged Simpson’s disparate impact claims with his disparate treatment claims for intentional discrimination. While disparate treatment claims may require a more searching commonality inquiry, disparate impact claims most often will not: the common questions are whether the challenged policy has in fact disparately impacted the plaintiff class and, if so, whether that disparate impact is justified by business necessity. The court did not clearly delineate its reasoning for declining to certify three of Simpson’s disparate impact subclasses. View "Simpson v. Dart" on Justia Law

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Santiago, a severely disabled Chicago resident, would leave her van parked on the street near her home for extended periods of time. In 2018, pursuant to the Chicago Municipal Code, her van was towed, impounded, and destroyed. She sued the city on her own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, challenging the constitutionality of various aspects of the ordinance. The district court granted, in part, her motion to certify her suit as a class action. With respect to the “Tow Class,” the court concluded that Santiago “is asserting only a facial challenge: the ordinance is unconstitutional because it fails to require adequate notice before a vehicle has been towed.” Concerning the Vehicle Disposal Class, the court rejected Chicago’s assertion that state law requires the class to show prejudice from the city’s failure to strictly follow its ordinance.The Seventh Circuit vacated. The class certification order does not fully demonstrate the “rigorous analysis” required by FRCP 23 and constituted an abuse of discretion. Considering whether questions of law or fact common to class members predominate begins with the elements of the underlying cause of action. The district court did not discuss any of the elements of the underlying causes of action or what the causes of action are. View "Santiago v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law