Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Torri Houston v. St. Luke’s Health System, Inc.
Plaintiff, a former employee, sued on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees, claiming that St. Luke’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime provisions by failing to fully compensate employees for work performed. She also brought an unjust-enrichment claim under state law. The district court certified two classes with different lookback periods: (1) an FLSA collective comprised of employees who worked for St. Luke’s between September 2016 and September 2018, 1 and (2) an unjust-enrichment class comprised of all employees who worked for St. Luke’s in Missouri between April 2012 and September 2018. Houston also asserted individual claims, one under the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, and one for breach of her employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment to St. Luke’s on all claims. The Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that Plaintiff has raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy does not average out over time. The court explained that no matter how one slices the data, most employees and the employees as a whole fared worse under the rounding policy than had they been paid according to their exact time worked. Here, the rounding policy did both. It resulted in lost time for nearly two-thirds of employees, and those employees lost more time than was gained by their coworkers who benefited from rounding. The court concluded that the employees have raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy, as applied, did not average out over time. The district court, therefore, erred in granting summary judgment on the FLSA and Missouri wage claims. View "Torri Houston v. St. Luke's Health System, Inc." on Justia Law
H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P.
Alliance Pipeline L.P. (“Alliance”) entered into contracts with four states (“State Agreements”) as well as contracts with individual landowners in order to build a natural gas pipeline. The contracts with landowners provide easements for the pipeline right-of-way. In 2018, some landowners on the pipeline right-of-way filed a class-action lawsuit against Alliance. After the class was certified, Alliance moved to compel arbitration for the approximately 73 percent of plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. Alliance appealed, arguing the district court erred by not sending all issues to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that the district court that the damages issues are subject to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs make two arguments against sending any issues to arbitration: (1) Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be within the scope of the arbitration provisions because the claims allege lack of compensation for “ongoing yield losses,” not “damages to crops” and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims arise under the State Agreements, which do not have arbitration provisions. The court found the arbitration agreements to be enforceable and to cover all issues. The court held that as to the arbitration class members, the claims should be dismissed without prejudice. As to the members of the class without arbitration provisions, the court saw no reason why these class members cannot proceed with the lawsuit in the normal course at the district court. View "H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P." on Justia Law
Scott Burnett v. HomeServices of America, Inc.
HomeServices of America, Inc.; BHH Affiliates, LLC; and HSF Affiliates, LLC (collectively, “HomeServices”) appealed from the district court’s denial of HomeServices’s motion to compel unnamed class members to arbitrate their claims against it. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that here, HomeServices conceded before the district court that “neither the named plaintiffs nor any purported class member has any contract or direct relationship with HomeServices relevant to the claims asserted in this case.” Moreover, the Listing Agreements and their included Arbitration Agreements do not name HomeServices as a party or third-party beneficiary. The court explained that the district court correctly concluded this “narrow, party-specific language . . . does not clearly and unmistakably delegate to an arbitrator threshold issue of arbitrability between nonparties, including HomeServices.” Thus, the court held that the district court correctly concluded that “the court—not an arbitrator—must address whether HomeServices can enforce the Arbitration Agreements.” Moreover, the court held that the district court did not err in denying HomeServices’s motion to compel the unnamed class members to arbitrate their claims against it. View "Scott Burnett v. HomeServices of America, Inc." on Justia Law
Kevin Karsjens v. Jodi Harpstead
This case was brought by a class of sex offenders (Appellants) civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) pursuant to the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act: Sexually Dangerous Persons and Sexual Psychopathic Personalities, codified at Minnesota Statute Section 253D (MCTA). Appellants filed this action against various MSOP managers and officials, as well as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (collectively, Appellees). On remand after a second appeal to this Court, the district court granted judgment in favor of Appellees on all of Appellants’ claims. Appellants appeal, challenging the district court’s judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Appellants contend that the district court erred by declining to address their treatment-related claims, alleging that the district court found them to be duplicative of previously decided counts. The court wrote that in making this finding, the district court did not dismiss or otherwise ignore any of the counts before it, which were all conditions-of-confinement and inadequate medical care claims. While Appellants attempted to “reanimate” these claims in a Fourth Amended Complaint, the district court denied the amendment, and Appellants do not challenge that decision on appeal. Accordingly, the court perceived no error in the district court’s treatment of Appellants’ treatment-related claims. Appellants additionally attacked the district court’s conclusion that the MSOP’s Behavioral Expectation Report policy is constitutional. But Appellants focused only on the impact of the policy on their treatment and fail to address the other legitimate government objectives it addresses—such as preserving institutional order at the MSOP. View "Kevin Karsjens v. Jodi Harpstead" on Justia Law
Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, Missouri. Plaintiff alleged Walmart engaged in misleading and deceptive marketing practices by selling cough suppressants with dextromethorphan hydrobromide (“DXM”) and a “non-drowsy” label. Walmart removed the case to the Eastern District of Missouri, and Plaintiff moved to have the case remanded to state court. The district court remanded, finding Walmart had not met the Class Action Fairness Act’s jurisdictional requirement of showing the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that Walmart has shown the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The court concluded that Walmart’s declaration was sufficient to support a finding that sales exceeded $5 million. The total amount of sales can be a measure of the amount in controversy. The court explained that the declaration was sufficient, particularly when it is very plausible that a company the size of Walmart would have sold more than $5 million in cough suppressants in the state of Missouri over a period of five years. View "Nicholas Brunts v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute
Minnesota sued a litany of fossil fuel producers1 (together, the Energy Companies) in state court for common law fraud and violations of Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes. In doing so, it joined the growing list of states and municipalities trying to hold fossil fuel producers responsible for alleged misrepresentations about the effects fossil fuels have had on the environment. The Energy Companies removed to federal court. The district court granted Minnesota’s motion to remand, and the Energy Companies appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Congress has not acted to displace the state-law claims, and federal common law does not supply a substitute cause of action, the state-law claims are not completely preempted. The court reasoned that because the “necessarily raised” element is not satisfied, the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule does not apply to Minnesota’s claims. Further, the court wrote that the connection between the Energy Companies’ marketing activities and their OCS operations is even more attenuated. Thus, neither requirement is met, there is no federal jurisdiction under Section 1349. View "State of Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute" on Justia Law
Matthew Nagel v. United Food and Com. Workers
Plaintiff opposed a new collective-bargaining agreement that passed by a 119-vote margin. Plaintiff sued the union for breach of its duty of fair representation and a violation of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. At their core, these claims are about whether the union hoodwinked members into ratifying the new collective-bargaining agreement by concealing what would happen to the 30-and-out benefit. The district court dismissed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act claim, denied Plaintiff’s motion for class certification, and granted summary judgment to the union on the fair-representation claim. On appeal, Plaintiff alleged that the union concealed key information, but only nine members said it would have made a difference. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to provide other evidence that the outcome of the vote would have changed. The court reasoned that the ratification vote was overwhelmingly in favor: 228 to 109, a 119-vote margin. Plaintiff offers only nine members who would have voted “no” if they had known about the elimination of the 30-and-out benefit. Even assuming each would have voted the way he thinks, the agreement still would have passed by a wide margin. The court wrote that no reasonable jury could conclude that the union’s alleged bad-faith conduct was the but-for cause of the union’s ratification of the collective-bargaining agreement. View "Matthew Nagel v. United Food and Com. Workers" on Justia Law
Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP
Plaintiff filed suit against Homolka, Homolka P.A., Watts Guerra, and Watts, alleging he is owed (1) $10,000 per month as leasing payments from October 2015, the first month he stopped receiving payments, until the September 2017 settlement; (2) a promised $50,000 truck reimbursement; and (3) a $3.4 million bonus. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for Plaintiff, finding that Homolka breached the oral contract, acting as an agent of Homolka P.A. and Watts Guerra. The jury awarded $175,000 in compensatory damages with no prejudgment interest. The district court denied Watts Guerra’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. Watts Guerra and Plaintiff cross-appealed these rulings. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that it agreed with the district court that the jury reasonably found Watts Guerra liable on an ostensible agency theory for Homolka’s breaches of the contract underlying the jury’s award of $175,000 in compensatory damages. The court reasoned that in considering these issues, “we start with the assumption jurors fulfilled their obligation to decide the case correctly,” and “we defer second to the trial court, which has a far better sense of what the jury likely was thinking and also whether there is any injustice in allowing the verdict to stand.” Applying these deferential standards, the court wrote that it has no difficulty concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The jury verdict awarding $175,000 compensatory damages was neither inadequate nor the product of an inappropriate compromise. View "Lowell Lundstrom, Jr. v. Watts Guerra LLP" on Justia Law
Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
Lindenwood Female College (Lindenwood) asserted class action claims against its casualty insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich), alleging a wrongful denial of coverage for COVID-19 business interruption at its Missouri and Illinois properties. The district court granted Zurich’s motion to dismiss, finding no plausible allegation of coverage. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Lindenwood’s argument fails to identify an ambiguity. The court explained that in its view, no lay person—no reasonable insured—could look at the policy as a whole and fail to appreciate that the state-specific endorsements are intended to apply in the respective states. The references to Louisiana and other states are not mere titles; they serve to establish the structure of the policy as a whole. And it would simply make no sense to define a contamination exclusion with express reference to viral contamination in the main body of the policy only to wholly eliminate that same exclusion nationwide in a later endorsement that references an individual state. View "Lindenwood Female College v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company
Plaintiffs are three skiers who purchased an Ikon Pass for the 2019–20 ski season. Each pass provided purchasers with unlimited ski access at participating Ikon resorts in North America. Along with their Ikon Pass, Plaintiffs purchased an optional Ski Pass Preserver insurance policy from Arch. After Plaintiffs purchased their passes, state and local governments issued orders, colloquially called “stay-at-home orders,” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In response to these orders, ski resorts throughout North America closed with approximately one-third of the ski season remaining. Plaintiffs sought reimbursement for the loss of their ski pass benefits under the policy based on the Season Pass Interruption coverage. Arch denied their claims. The company took the position that the stay-at-home orders were not quarantines under the policy, later posting a “blanket denial” for such claims on its website. Plaintiffs filed one master consolidated class action complaint on behalf of themselves and a nationwide putative class of individuals who purchased the Ski Pass Preserver policy for the 2019–20 ski season. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege a covered loss because the term “quarantined,” as used in the policy, did not encompass stay-at-home orders that merely limited travel and activities. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the ordinary person at the time the Ski Pass Preserver policy was purchased would have understood “quarantined” to mean the compulsory isolation of the insured. Reading the policy as a whole, this is the only reasonable construction, and the court agreed with the district court that the policy language is unambiguous. View "Mark Rossi v. Arch Insurance Company" on Justia Law