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A litigator with three decades of experience, Sonya Winner handles high-stakes civil cases for clients in a wide range of industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals and professional sports. She has handled numerous antitrust and consumer disputes, many of them class actions, in state and federal courts across the country.

Sonya’s cases typically involve difficult technical issues and/or complex legal and regulatory schemes. She is regularly able to resolve cases before the trial phase, often through dispositive motions. But when neither summary judgment nor a favorable settlement is an option, she has the confidence of her clients to take the case all the way through trial and on appeal. Her recent successes have included a cutting-edge decision rejecting a “true lender” challenge to National Bank Act preemption in a class action involving interest rates on student loans, as well as the outright dismissal of a putative antitrust claim against the National Football League and its member clubs asserting an unlawful conspiracy to fix cheerleader compensation.

Sonya has been recognized as a leading trial lawyer by publications like Chambers and the Daily Journal. She is chair of the firm’s Class Action Litigation Practice Group.

On May 23, 2022, the Supreme Court unanimously held that a party opposing arbitration is not required to demonstrate prejudice to show that the other party has waived its contractual arbitration rights. 

Before today’s decision, nine federal courts of appeals had adopted the rule that a “party can waive its arbitration right by litigating only when its conduct has prejudiced the other side.”  Morgan v. Sundance, 596 U.S. __ (2022).  Two other circuits had held no showing of prejudice was required.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Decision Makes It Easier to Waive Right to Arbitration

One of the most common failings of plaintiffs’ counsel is inadequate due diligence on the individuals they put forward as putative class representatives.  Defense counsel should not repeat that mistake.

It is not unusual for putative class representatives to have flawed personal claims or to be subject to important individual defenses.  A named plaintiff may also present facts that make his claim demonstrably atypical of the class, or he may have baggage – such as a past criminal conviction for fraud – that make him facially inadequate as a class representative.  Sometimes it turns out a named plaintiff isn’t even a member of the proposed class. 

Continue Reading Practice Pointers:  Know Your Plaintiff

A recent Fifth Circuit decision continues the trend of courts rejecting putative class and collective actions where absent class members are subject to arbitration agreements.

Exotic dancers sued A&D Interests, Inc. (doing business as the “Heartbreakers Gentlemen’s Club”) in a putative Fair Labor Standards Act collective action for allegedly misclassifying the club’s dancers as independent

Companies that include arbitration agreements in online terms and conditions may want to take note of a recent Ninth Circuit opinion that refused to enforce an arbitration agreement on lack-of-consent grounds even though the arbitration agreement contained an opt-out provision.

In Berman v. Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s

There are numerous ways that a class action may be won through an effective litigation strategy.  But in some instances a corporate defendant will conclude that the most cost-effective approach is to pursue settlement rather than to take on the risks and costs of further litigation.  Before going down that road, one of the first things that will need to be evaluated is whether to pursue a class-wide settlement, complete with court approval under Rule 23(e) or its state equivalent, or instead to try the simpler route of settling with the named plaintiff only.

Continue Reading Practice Pointers: Should a Putative Class Action Be Settled on an Individual Basis?

The Ninth Circuit has again confirmed that predominance may be absent if an individualized analysis is required to determine whether each class member has suffered actual injury.  In Lara v. First National Insurance Co. of America, — F.4th —, 2022 WL 414691 (9th Cir. Feb. 11, 2022), the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant breached its insurance contracts with consumers when it failed to apply the formula required under Washington law to determine the pre-accident market value of totaled vehicles.  The record showed that that the payments the defendant made to its policyholders were not consistently affected adversely by its failure to apply the allegedly required methodology, and that some class members could have received amounts equal to or greater than what they were entitled to under the plaintiffs’ theory of the case. 

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Affirms Denial of Class Certification for Contract Claims Requiring Individualized Findings of Injury

Last year, in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 141 S.Ct. 2190 (2021), the Supreme Court confirmed that every class member must have Article III standing to recover damages in a class action.  As we have previously written, the Court’s decision – summed up as “[n]o concrete harm, no standing” – presents major obstacles to plaintiffs asserting class claims based on “bare procedural violation[s]” of statutes.  But Ramirez left unanswered some important questions about class action standing, and we offer some thoughts here on what the answers are likely to be.

Continue Reading A Closer Look: Standing at Class Certification After TransUnion v. Ramirez