Practice/Industry Group Overview
Our Class Actions practice group comprises experienced members of our various substantive litigation practice groups. This group includes attorneys with significant jury and bench trial experience in federal courts, state courts and arbitration forums nationwide.
Our class actions experience includes representing companies in the airline, natural gas, real estate, insurance and banking industries in cases brought by customers alleging a wide variety of causes of action. Allegations in recent class actions cases handled by our firm include claims that a trust company committed fraud and breached fiduciary duty in the administration of IRAs, claims that a publicly traded company made misrepresentations in connection with a spin-off of operations, claims that an educational institution improperly rounded numbers used to calculate a tax rate ceiling, claims that the board of directors acted improperly in approving the acquisition of a company owned by the majority shareholder, and many others. Successes include:
- Obtaining a dismissal of a consumer class action against three natural gas utilities alleging failure to properly distribute price refunds. Hill v. Kansas Gas Service Co., et al., 323 F.3d 858 (10th Cir. 2003)
- Obtaining summary judgment for an airline company on a claim that the company misrepresented terms of travel vouchers given to customers who gave up their seats on oversold flights. Jeans v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., Case No. 99-CV-221372 (Jackson County, Missouri)
- Defeating class certification in a case alleging that the entire natural gas pipeline industry under-measured natural gas throughout the United States. Price v. Gas Pipelines, Case No. 99-C-30 (Stevens County, Kansas)
- Compelling arbitration of claims by class representative, thus causing dismissal of class action and then successfully arguing that the arbitration could not proceed as a class action. Albert v. Advisor’s Capital Investments, Inc., Case No. 01 WY 1117 CB (U.S. District Court, District of Colorado)
- The plaintiffs in a class action securities fraud suit alleged that Aquila made material misrepresentations during an IPO of a subsidiary operating Aquila’s nonregulated businesses. We represented all defendants and were successful in securing summary judgment in favor of all defendants after the court granted a motion in limine striking the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness. Carpe v. Aquila, Inc., Case No.02-0388 (U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri)
- Class action plaintiffs alleged federal securities law violations in connection with restated financial statements. Summary judgment was granted in favor of our clients. In re DT Industries., Inc., Civ. Action No. 00-CV-3369 (U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri 2001)
- Class action plaintiffs claimed fraud and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the administration of their individual retirement accounts by our client. The trial court granted summary judgment on all claims in favor of defendants. Munoz v. Sterling Trust Co., Case No. SCVSS-85420 (Superior Court of San Bernardino County, California)
- We represented the board of directors of a corporation in a shareholder class action alleging the board acted improperly in approving the acquisition of a company owned by a majority shareholder. The matter was settled shortly before trial. Raider v. Ash Grove Cement Co., Civil Action No. 19357 (Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware)
- Plaintiffs in a class action alleged federal securities law violations in connection with restated financial statements. The case was favorably settled. In re Atchison Casting Corp. Case No. 01-2013-JWL (U.S. District Court, District of Kansas 2001)
- Plaintiff in a class action securities fraud case alleged that defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme concerning the best execution of trades. We represented Knight Trading Group and successfully obtained a 12(b)(6) dismissal of the case. Denton L. Keener v. Ameritrade Holdings, Inc., et al., Case No. 8:03-CV-421 (U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska)
- Plaintiffs in a class action securities fraud case alleged that Edward D. Jones fraudulently sold oil and gas limited partnership interests in the mid-1980’s. Thomas H. Dahlk represented Edward D. Jones and defeated class certification. The case was subsequently dismissed. Channing D. Schwartz v. Edward D. Jones, et al. (U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska)
- In a class action against one of our large banking clients, we defended charges that illegal kickbacks were paid to secure mortgage loans. The court initially denied our motion for summary judgment and granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. We filed a motion to reconsider, which the court ultimately sustained, decertifying the class and awarding the bank summary judgment.
- We defend of one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit management companies in litigation throughout the country. In more than thirty current cases, including more than a dozen cases challenging the company's business model, we have aggressively battled class action law firm consortiums on a nation-wide basis. Significant results include transferring a key case out of the pro-plaintiff Ninth Circuit, denial of class certification in another case, summary judgment for the client in a putative class action challenging classification of a drug as a brand rather than a generic, and summary judgment for the client in state consumer fraud claims.
- We also represented two of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit management companies in six suits challenging the industry's classification of a particular cancer drug. These suits were filed in courts from coast to coast under a variety of legal theories, each seeking certification of a nationwide class. All suits resulted in complete victories for our clients, prior to the certification of any class and prior to any trial. These results, obtained from 2002 through 2006, included the dismissal of two such suits (one each brought under RICO and ERISA), including affirmance of the ERISA dismissal on appeal, summary judgment in two others (brought under state consumer fraud law), denial of class certification plus summary judgment for our client in another (brought under state common law), and the voluntary dismissal by the plaintiff of another such suit.
Employer Class & Collective Actions
We regularly represent large regional and national employers in class and collective actions in federal and state courts. In several cases, we have successfully defeated attempts at initial class certification. We have also been successful in obtaining decertification of previously certified classes.
In those cases where complete victory is unlikely, we have taken steps to minimize damages and then negotiate favorable resolutions for our clients. We also proactively counsel employers, assessing their risk for class action claims, identifying areas of vulnerability, and advising new workplace policies and procedures to address areas of weakness.
We have experience defending employers in a wide variety of claims amenable to class or collective action treatment, including:
- FLSA and comparable state law wage & hour claims
- California meal and rest break, split shift, and reporting time pay claims
- Sex discrimination, particularly in the area of failure to promote (glass ceiling) and Equal Pay Act claims
- Race and national origin discrimination
Examples of some recent successes include:
- Defeated class certification in a case alleging wage and hour violations. Flynn v. Home Instead, Inc., Case No. BC 326448, Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County
- Defeated a nationwide class of store managers alleging misclassification and other wage and hour violations under federal and state law. Smith et al v. Heartland Automotive, Case No. 404 F. Supp. 2nd 1144, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota
- Defeated attempts to obtain discovery on putative class members, thereby defeating ability to obtain certification of a class. Kittleson v. A. Fanticola Cos. et al, Case No. BC 317904, California
- Obtained favorable resolution of sex discrimination class action. EEOC v. Oil Express Inc., Case No. 03-2943-RSM, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington