Justia Oregon Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc.
Plaintiff Jeff Gist worked as a driver for defendant Driver Resources, LLC. The other two defendants were related companies. In November 2013, plaintiff filed a class-action complaint against defendants, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated drivers. At issue was defendants’ compliance with Oregon’s wage and hour laws. In January 2014, defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration, on the basis of an agreement that plaintiff had signed with one defendant. Plaintiff responded to the petition by arguing that the agreement was unconscionable, and therefore that arbitration should not be compelled. The trial court granted defendants’ petition, requiring plaintiff to proceed to arbitration. Plaintiff made several attempts to obtain appellate review of the trial court’s order compelling arbitration. This case required the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed plaintiff’s appeal of a judgment dismissing his complaint with prejudice on the grounds that the appeal was barred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Steenson v. Robinson, 385 P2d 738 (1963). That decision set out the common-law rule that a party may not appeal from a voluntarily-requested judgment. The Court concluded the judgment was appealable and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. View "Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Pearson v. Philip Morris, Inc.
Plaintiffs were two individuals who purchased Marlboro Light cigarettes in Oregon. Defendant Philip Morris was the company that manufactured, marketed, and sold Marlboro Lights. Plaintiffs brought this action under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA), alleging that defendant misrepresented that Marlboro Lights would deliver less tar and nicotine than regular Marlboros and that, as a result of that misrepresentation, plaintiffs suffered economic losses. Plaintiffs moved to certify a class consisting of approximately 100,000 individuals who had purchased at least one pack of Marlboro Lights in Oregon over a 30-year period (from 1971 to 2001). The trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion after concluding that individual inquiries so predominated over common ones that a class action was not a superior means to adjudicate the putative class’s UTPA claim. On appeal, a majority of the Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s predominance assessment, concluding that the essential elements of the UTPA claim could be proved through evidence common to the class. The majority remanded to the trial court to reconsider whether, without the trial court’s predominance assessment, a class action was a superior means of litigating the class claims. In granting defendant’s petition for review, the Supreme Court considered whether common issues predominated for purposes of the class action certification decision, and what a private plaintiff in a UTPA case of this nature had to prove. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court properly denied class certification, and accordingly, it reversed the contrary decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on the individual plaintiffs’ claims. View "Pearson v. Philip Morris, Inc." on Justia Law
Strawn v. Farmers Ins. Co. Â
Plaintiff Mark Strawn, the plaintiff in a class action case, petitioned for an award of attorney fees and costs incurred for the appellate work done on review before the Supreme Court in the underlying matter. In addition, Strawn sought two supplemental fee awards: one for the cost of litigating the fee petition, and the other for the cost of defending against a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court after the Oregon court issued its decision. Further, Strawn sought a $5,000 incentive fee for his service on review as class representative. The issues raised by this appeal included: (1) the appropriate method for determining the amount of a reasonable fee award in a case that involved both a statutory fee-shifting award and a common-fund award; (2) the propriety of applying a multiplier to the awards; (3) how fees should be apportioned between the fee-shifting and the common-fund awards; (4) whether this court has authority to award attorney fees for work done in opposing a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court; (5) whether a court has authority to award post-opinion, prejudgment interest on court-awarded attorney fees; and (6) whether an appellate court may award a class representative a class incentive fee on appeal and review. Strawn filed a class action against Farmers raising two contractual claims (breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith) and one common law claim (fraud) in connection with auto insurance policies written by Farmers. The jury found for the class on the contractual claims and the fraud claim, and it made a single award of compensatory damages on those claims. In addition, and for the fraud claim only, the jury awarded punitive damages. The Supreme Court took the opportunity of this case to discuss the methodology appropriate to award fees based on the issues raised in the appeal, and made adjustments as deemed necessary in compliance with the limits of Oregon law. View "Strawn v. Farmers Ins. Co. Â " on Justia Law
Strawn v. Farmers Ins. Co.
Defendants Farmers Insurance Company of Oregon, Mid-Century Insurance Company and Truck Insurance Exchange (Farmers) petitioned the Supreme Court to reconsider an opinion that affirmed a trial court's judgment against it for approximately $8.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Farmers contended that the Court's resolution of certain state law issues violated its federal due process rights. Farmers was required by statute and contract to provide personal injury protection to its insureds by covering all reasonable and necessary medical expenses within a year of the insured's injury. Plaintiff Mark Strawn filed a class action suit against Farmers, alleging that Farmers' claims handling process breached its contractual obligations to its insureds. According to Farmers, the Court, in its prior decision, created an "irrebuttable presumption" that altered what was required under state law to prove a fraud claim in a class action in a way that violated due process. The Court held that "Farmers's argument misses the mark" by characterizing the Court's conclusion in its prior holding as "novel" by "assuming the answer to one of the legal questions that [the] Court had to resolve." The Court concluded that Farmers' premises on appeal were incorrect, and that "Farmers's legal arguments therefore fail." View "Strawn v. Farmers Ins. Co." on Justia Law