Articles Posted in Class Action

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Monk served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. In 2012, Monk sought VA disability benefits, alleging service-connected PTSD, diabetes, hypertension, and strokes. The VA denied the claim, finding that his discharge was “other than honorable.” Monk filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and separately applied to the Board of Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) to upgrade his discharge status. In 2015, the VA informed Monk that it could not process his appeal until it received BCNR records. Monk sought a writ of mandamus with Veterans Court and requested that the court certify a class of all veterans who had applied for VA benefits, had timely filed an NOD, had not received a decision within 12 months, and had demonstrated medical or financial hardship (38 U.S.C. 7107(a)(2)(B)–(C)). The Veterans Court denied the request for class certification, denied another veteran’s request to join the action, and ordered the VA to respond to Monk’s petition regarding the denial of disability benefits. BCNR then granted Monk an upgraded discharge status. The Federal Circuit reversed the denial of class certification, finding that the Veterans Court has authority to certify a class for a class action and to maintain similar aggregate resolution procedures with respect to benefit denials. View "Monk v. Shulkin" on Justia Law

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Under the 1887 General Allotment Act and the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, the U.S. is the trustee of Indian allotment land. A 1996 class action, filed on behalf of 300,000 Native Americans, alleged that the government had mismanaged their Individual Indian Money accounts by failing to account for billions of dollars from leases for oil extractions and logging. The litigation’s 2011 settlement provided for “historical accounting claims,” tied to that mismanagement, and “land administration claims” for individuals that held, on September 30, 2009, an ownership interest in land held in trust or restricted status, claiming breach of trust and fiduciary mismanagement of land, oil, natural gas, mineral, timber, grazing, water and other resources. Members of the land administration class who failed to opt out were deemed to have waived any claims within the scope of the settlement. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 ratified the settlement and funded it with $3.4 billion, The court provided notice, including of the opt-out right. Challenges to the opt-out and notice provisions were rejected. Indian allotees with interests in the North Dakota Fort Berthold Reservation, located on the Bakken Oil Shale (contiguous deposits of oil and natural gas), cannot lease their oil-and-gas interests unless the Secretary approves the lease as “in the best interest of the Indian owners,” 122 Stat. 620 (1998). In 2013, allotees sued, alleging that, in 2006-2009, a company obtained Fort Berthold allotment leases at below-market rates, then resold them for a profit of $900 million. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the government, holding that the allotees had forfeited their claims by failing to opt out of the earlier settlement. View "Two Shields v. United States" on Justia Law

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Landowners filed a class action suit challenging the federal Surface Transportation Board’s approval of King County using a Burlington Northern Railroad corridor as a public trail, pursuant the National Trails Systems Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The Claims Court approved a $110 million settlement agreement and an award to class counsel of approximately $35 million in attorney fees under the common fund doctrine. Two class members challenged the approval and award. The Federal Circuit vacated, noting that the government also challenged the approval, claiming that class counsel failed to disclose information necessary to allow class members to assess the fairness and reasonableness of the proposed settlement. The government had standing to raise its challenge under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (URA), 42 U.S.C. 4654(c) and its arguments were not barred by waiver or estoppel.The Claims Court erred in approving a settlement agreement where class counsel withheld critical information not provided in the mailed notice to class members, but which had been produced and was readily available. Although a “common fund” exists in this case, the URA attorney fee provision provides for reasonable fees and preempts application of the common fund doctrine. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law

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SanDisk allegedly controls the market for NAND flash memory, a computer chip that can be erased and reprogrammed that is widely used in consumer products such as digital cameras, mobile phones, and USB drives. Retailers purchase from SanDisk, the patentee, and its licensees. Ritz filed a class action, alleging that SanDisk violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2 by fraudulently procuring patents by failing to disclose prior art and making misrepresentations to the Patent and Trademark Office and established its monopoly by enforcing patents against competitors and by threatening competitors’ customers. SanDisk asserted that Ritz lacked standing to bring a Walker Process antitrust because Ritz faced no threat of an infringement action and had no other basis to bring a declaratory judgment action challenging the patents. The district court rejected the argument, acknowledging that such claims normally are brought by competitors of the patentee as counterclaims in infringement actions, but noting that the Walker Process decision places no limitation on eligible plaintiffs. On interlocutory appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed that a direct purchaser is not categorically precluded from bringing a Walker Process antitrust claim, even if it would not be entitled to seek declaratory relief against the patentee under the patent laws. View "Ritz Camera & Image, LLC v. Sandisk Corp." on Justia Law

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ASNA is an inter-tribal consortium of federally recognized tribes situated in Alaska. In 1996, 1997, and 1998, ASNA contracted with the Department of Health and Human Services, under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to operate a hospital. ISDA requires the government to pay costs reasonably incurred in managing the programs, 25 U.S.C. 450j-1. There have been three previous class actions concerning payments. One resulted in settlement; in two the courts denied class certification for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because claims had not first been submitted to the contracting officer. ANSA brought its claim, arguing that it was a putative class member in those suits even though it did not individually present claims to the contracting officer within the Contract Disputes Act six-year limitations period and that the limitations period was tolled while those cases were pending. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals dismissed. The Federal Circuit reversed. The class actions involved similar issues and parties, and put the government on notice of the general nature and legal theory underlying ASNA’s claims. ASNA monitored the legal landscape, took action as appropriate, and reasonably relied upon controlling authority, holding that it did not need to exhaust administrative remedies to be a class member. View "Arctic Slope Native Assoc., Ltd. v. Sebelius" on Justia Law

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The Army and Air Force Exchange Service issues credit cards to military personnel to purchase uniforms and other merchandise from post-exchange stores on military bases. During the relevant period balances for uniforms were interest-free. Plaintiff opened an account in 1997 and became delinquent in 2000. In 2009 He filed suit claiming that the interest rate on delinquent debt exceed that specified in the agreement. The Exchange the conducted an audit and adjusted the accounts of 46,851 individuals, including plaintiff, who received a refund. A second audit resulted in adjustments to accounts of an additional 103,320 individuals. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claim as moot and denied class certification. The Federal Circuit vacated. While plaintiff's individual claim was moot, it is unclear whether the claims of all class members were satisfied. View "Russell v. United States" on Justia Law