Photo of Ashley Simonsen

Ashley Simonsen is a litigator whose practice focuses on defending complex class actions in state and federal courts across the country, with substantive experience in the three hotbeds of class action litigation: New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Ashley represents clients in the technology, consumer brands, financial services, and sports industries through all stages of litigation, including trial, with a strong track record of success on early dispositive motions. Her practice encompasses advertising, antitrust, product defect, and consumer protection matters. Ashley regularly advises companies on arbitration clauses in consumer agreements and related issues, including mass arbitration risks and issues arising under McGill v. Citibank, N.A. And she is one of the nation’s leading experts on “true lender” issues and the related “valid when made” doctrine.

The Southern District of California recently declined to certify a class based on plaintiffs’ failure to offer class wide proof of deception and materiality.  In Gross et al. v. Vilore Foods Company, Inc., plaintiffs alleged that Kern fruit juice products were deceptively labeled as “100% Natural” or made with whole fruit when the drinks in fact contained artificial ingredients.  Plaintiffs brought claims under various California laws, including the UCL, CLRA, and FAL.  To certify a class, plaintiffs were required to offer common proof both that the challenged representations were deceptive or misleading to a reasonable consumer; and that the challenged representations were material, meaning a reasonable person would attach importance to the representations that Kern’s fruit juice is “100% natural” or made with whole fruit.  The court held that plaintiffs satisfied neither burden.

First, as to deception, the only evidence Plaintiffs cited was their expert’s report.  Plaintiffs’ expert purported to assess the importance consumers placed on certain product attributes, and how claims such as “artificially flavored” affected their willingness to pay for a product.  Plaintiffs’ expert concluded that consumers were willing to pay approximately 29% more for a Kern product that did not disclose its use of artificial flavors, and approximately 30% less for a product disclosing that it contained artificial flavors.  The court found this evidence insufficient because consumers’ willingness to pay more or less for a product said nothing about whether the labels at issue would lead consumers to believe that the products did not contain artificial flavors, or contained only natural flavors.  As a result, the court held that Plaintiffs’ expert’s opinion could not constitute common proof of deception.

Continue Reading Consumer Survey Did Not Constitute Common Proof of Deception or Materiality

A recent class action refiled in federal court against Shopify highlights a growing trend  of lawsuits against companies related to the theft of cryptocurrency, particularly as a result of internal company threats.  See Forsberg et al v. Shopify, Inc. et al, 1:22-cv-00436 (D. Del.).  Despite not itself being a repository for or facilitating the sale of any cryptocurrency, the plaintiffs in the Shopify case allege that Shopify is liable for a theft of cryptocurrency after Shopify experienced a data breach caused by its own employees, which exposed a customer list for a cryptocurrency hardware wallet vendor, Ledger SAS.  As cryptocurrency storage and related transactions increasingly feature in companies’ online presence, there is likely to be a growing risk posed by threat actors motivated to target crypto-related assets and data, and more litigation activity in this space.

Continue Reading Companies Increasingly Facing Class Actions Connected to Cryptocurrency Theft

In a major victory for manufacturers of food and beverage products fighting acrylamide litigation under California’s Proposition 65 statute, the Ninth Circuit on March 17 upheld a preliminary injunction barring new lawsuits to enforce Prop. 65’s warning requirement for cancer as applied to acrylamide in food and beverage products, finding that the statute’s compulsory warnings are “likely misleading” and “controversial.”

Prop. 65 provides that “[n]o person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer . . . without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual, except as provided in Section 25249.10.”  Cal. Health & Safety Code § 25249.6.  In October 2019, California Chamber of Commerce (“CalChamber”) filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Attorney General of California, seeking to halt acrylamide litigation brought under Prop. 65.  It argued that Prop. 65’s warning requirement violated its members’ First Amendment right not to be compelled to place “false and misleading” acrylamide warnings on their food products.  Acrylamide is often found in baked or fried foods, and has also been identified in products like coffee, almonds and black olives. 

CalChamber further moved for a preliminary injunction seeking a prohibition on new lawsuits to enforce the Prop. 65 warning requirement for cancer as applied to acrylamide in food and beverage products.  The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (“CERT”) intervened as a defendant and argued that, as a private enforcer of Prop. 65, an injunction would “impose an unconstitutional prior restraint on its First Amendment rights.”  

Continue Reading 9th Circuit Upholds Preliminary Injunction Against Prop. 65 Acrylamide Lawsuits

In the wake of rulings upholding federal regulators’ “valid when made” rules, a new lawsuit serves as a reminder that state regulators and class-action plaintiffs’ lawyers may continue to challenge the bank partnership lending model under the “true lender” doctrine.

Continue Reading Fintech Lawsuit Highlights True Lender Risk for Bank Partnership Lending Model

We previously reported on a surge of mislabeling suits filed in District of Columbia Superior Court, following lower court decisions that purported to grant “tester” plaintiffs—individuals and organizations that purchase products simply to test whether the representations about a product are true—a right to sue on behalf of the general public under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“CPPA”).  A year later, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has endorsed an even more expansive interpretation of the CPPA, permitting a public interest organization to bring such actions even if the organization fails to satisfy Article III’s standing requirements.  We expect even more lawsuits to be filed in the wake of this decision.

Continue Reading A Closer Look: D.C. Court of Appeals Endorses Broad Organizational Standing to Bring Consumer Protection Lawsuits

Keurig has agreed to settle on a nationwide class basis a lawsuit alleging that the labeling of its K-Cup pods misleads consumers into believing that K-Cups are more widely recyclable than the coffee pods actually are.

The complaint, filed in 2018, alleged that Keurig marketed its products as recyclable, despite knowing that they “typically end[ed] up in landfills.” The plaintiff claimed that the packaging conveyed that consumers can “[h]ave [their] cup and recycle it, too,” by following the illustrated instructions to “PEEL,” “EMPTY,” and “RECYCLE” next to the chasing arrow recycling symbol. However, the plaintiff claimed, these labels were deceptive because K-Cups cannot be recycled due to their size, making them per se deceptive under the Green Guides, which state that “if any component [of a recyclable product] limits the ability to recycle the item, any recyclable claim would be deceptive. . . . [If] its shape, size or some other attribute is not accepted in recycling programs, [it] should not be marketed as recyclable.” The plaintiff additionally alleged that even if any pods were incidentally recycled, they would still end up in landfills because there was no downstream market for the recycled pods.

Continue Reading Keurig Settles K-Cup Recycling Claims

Arbitration agreements have become a fixture of American contracts, and companies have turned to them as a strategy for reducing class action exposure.  In recent years, plaintiffs have responded by initiating “mass arbitrations” – individual arbitrations filed on behalf of hundreds or thousands of customers or employees, which may immediately threaten companies with millions of dollars in arbitration-initiating fees alone.  Many companies, however, have been slow to react to the risks posed by mass arbitration.  This post discusses some of those risks, the difficulties companies have encountered in trying to address this issue, and potential strategies for mitigating the threat posed by mass arbitration.

Continue Reading A Closer Look: Avoiding a “Mass”-ive Arbitration Problem

Last week, in Doe #1 et al. v. MG Freesites Ltd. et al., No. 7:21-cv-00220-LSC, 2022 WL 407147 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 9, 2022), the Northern District of Alabama permitted plaintiffs to proceed with a proposed class action against Pornhub for allegedly profiting from child sex trafficking and exploitation videos uploaded to its platform.  The claims were brought under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”) and federal child sexual abuse material statutes.  U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler rejected Pornhub’s defense that section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act shields it from liability for plaintiffs’ claims.  Section 230 generally immunizes “interactive computer service[s]” from liability for content provided by third parties.  47 U.S.C. § 230(c).

Continue Reading Rejecting CDA 230 Defense, District Court Allows TVPRA Claims to Proceed Against Pornhub

Delivering a significant win for the financial services industry, a California federal judge upheld “valid when made” rules promulgated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in California v. OCC, No. 4:20-cv-05200 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2022) and California v. FDIC, No. 4:20-cv-05860 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2022).  Those rules sought to undo the Second Circuit’s 2015 decision in Madden v. Midland Funding—a decision that class-action plaintiffs’ lawyers and state regulators have invoked to bring lawsuits challenging so-called “rent-a-bank” schemes between banks and third parties.  The rules were finalized in June and July 2020, and established a bright-line rule that the interest rate charged on a bank-made loan may still be charged after the loan is sold to a third party.

Continue Reading A Closer Look: Federal Court Upholds OCC’s & FDIC’s Valid-When-Made Rules