Fifth Circuit

On April 15, the U.S. Supreme Court declined a request by Visa and Mastercard to review a D.C. Circuit decision that appeared to add to a circuit split about how lower courts are to determine whether common issues predominate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). 

The case, Visa Inc. v. Nat’l ATM Council, Inc., Case No. 23-814, was part of a long-running dispute between the card companies and ATM operators about ATM fees.  In July, the D.C. Circuit upheld the certification of three different Plaintiff classes over the card companies’ argument that the district court had failed to perform a “rigorous analysis” about whether class-wide issues predominated.  Nat’l ATM Council, Inc. v. Visa Inc., 2023 WL 4743013 (D.C. Cir. 2023).  Although it noted that the district court’s analysis was “notably terse,” the D.C. Circuit found no error in the lower court’s holding that Plaintiffs need only demonstrate a “colorable” method of proving class-wide injury and that the Plaintiffs’ evidence satisfied that test.  Rejecting the card companies’ argument that Plaintiffs’ class-wide injury methodology failed to weed out uninjured class members, the court observed that “Defendants’ contention that their model showing unharmed members is more accurate and credible than Plaintiffs’ different models showing that all members were harmed is … precisely the kind of material factual dispute” that should be resolved at the merits, not class certification, stage.  Id. at *11.    Continue Reading Supreme Court Declines to Wade into Class Certification “Predominance” Issue

In a recent published decision, the Fifth Circuit declined to articulate a rule for the “order and depth in which” it “grapples with constitutional standing and the Rule 23 inquiry.”  Chavez v. Plan Benefit Services, Inc., __ F.4th __, No. 22-50368, 2023 WL 5160393 (5th Cir. Aug. 11, 2023).  The court concluded that the plaintiffs—three employees who participated in health and retirement plans administered by the defendants—had standing to sue on behalf of absent class members who participated in thousands of different benefits plans administered by the defendants.  The court went on to affirm the district court’s certification of two classes, each under both Rules 23(b)(1)(B) and 23(b)(3).Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Declines to Wade Into Circuit Split on Relationship Between Standing and Class Certification

Defendants often consider whether weak class allegations can be stricken at the pleading stage, leaving just a low-exposure individual claim to defend.  That tactic may have a great chance of success—especially when a complaint asserts state-law claims on behalf of a nationwide class or challenges multiple misrepresentations—in light of a recent Fifth Circuit decision approving that strategy.

In Elson v. Black, __ F.4th __, 2023 WL 111317 (5th Cir. Jan. 5, 2023), plaintiffs brought a putative class action alleging that the defendants made various misrepresentations about a massager.  Plaintiffs sought a nationwide class and, in the alternative, seven subclasses representing the seven states where they reside.  The district court granted the defendants’ motion to strike the class allegation, a decision the Fifth Circuit upheld on several grounds.Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Upholds Early Dismissal of Class Allegations at Pleading Stage

If a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound?  Philosophers disagree.  If a product contains a contaminant but no one gets sick, did it cause an injury?  Judges disagree.

In the 2000s, enterprising plaintiffs’ attorneys attempted to push the boundaries of existing tort law by arguing that plaintiffs are entitled to damages for defects even when they cause no physical injury.  These so-called “no-injury” theories of liability were largely rejected by courts.  E.g., Rivera v. Wyeth-Ayerst Lab’ys, 283 F.3d 315, 320–21 (5th Cir. 2002) (dismissing “no-injury products liability law suit”); Johnson v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 2014 WL 4494284, at *7 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 12, 2014) (recognizing that in the “consumer product context, courts routinely find lack of standing where—while a product may have been defective in the hands of others—the individual plaintiffs did not suffer the defect and, therefore, suffered no injury”).

While these cases closed the door on “no-injury” product liability claims, they left open the possibility of other “no-injury” claims, such as claims that a manufacturing defect breached a warranty or constituted fraud.  E.g., Cole v. Gen. Motors Corp., 484 F.3d 717, 723 (5th Cir. 2007) (“Notably in this case, plaintiffs may bring claims under a contract theory based on the express and implied warranties they allege.”).

Whether and when “no-injury” claims are viable is a hotly debated question.  As more fully discussed below, courts disagree on whether a plaintiff who has purchased a contaminated or defective product—but who has successfully used the product for its intended purpose while suffering no physical injury—can maintain a claim.Continue Reading A Closer Look: Does Purchasing a Defective or Contaminated Product Always Cause an Article III Injury?

The Fifth Circuit reversed a class certification order for claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) because the plaintiff lacked Article III standing.  Perez v. McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, P.C., No. 21-50958, 2022 WL 3355249 (5th Cir. Aug. 15, 2022).  The Court held that merely sending a letter to collect a time-barred debt, although a violation of the FDCPA, does not satisfy Article III’s injury-in-fact requirement.Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Applies TransUnion To Conclude Plaintiff Lacked Standing To Assert FDCPA Claims.

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