Class action litigation is a major focus at Leonard, Street and Deinard. The attorneys in our Class Action Litigation practice have litigated numerous class action cases throughout the United States, with particular focus in the areas of consumer protection, antitrust, insurance and securities fraud.
Because of our proven track record in class action cases, we are asked to represent clients in courts across the country. In addition, we routinely handle cases involving multiple lawsuits that come before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Our clients include some of the largest and best known companies in the world.
The elite group of senior attorneys in our class action litigation practice come from high profile law firms in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and from premier law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Justice. Similarly, our associates come from the top law schools across the country and from prestigious clerkships in federal courts. Our former federal prosecutors enhance our team’s expertise with their wealth of trial experience.
Getting an Early Command
Because class action lawsuits can be costly and burdensome, we identify strategies to win – and win early. By getting an early command of the facts and applicable law, we have frequently prevailed on early motions to dismiss lawsuits in their entirety or to strike class action allegations. We have even convinced opposing parties to dismiss their lawsuits voluntarily based on the findings of our early fact investigation.
Our clients turn to us because of our record in achieving results. Our class action court victories in recent years have ranged from a precedent-setting Minnesota Supreme Court decision affirming the dismissal of discrimination and antitrust claims to a defense verdict in the trial of a multi-billion dollar fraud case. In addition, by gaining the upper hand in litigation, we have been able to negotiate favorable settlements that have enabled clients to achieve their objectives at minimal cost and burden.
Mastering Complex Issues
From the crash in the market for collateralized mortgage obligations in the 1990s to the crash in auction-rate securities that followed the events of 2008, clients have turned to our attorneys in the cases that have involved the most complex financial instruments of each successive era. Our team, which includes attorneys with graduate-level training in economics and finance, has extensive experience in advocating for our clients in a way that is understandable and compelling to judges and juries. We also work closely with the leading economic expert witnesses in the country.
Class Action Fairness Act: On the Cutting Edge
Since the enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) in 2005, we have been involved in groundbreaking cases that have put the new statute to work for our clients. Our success in winning key motions under CAFA has set the stage for favorable orders and settlements. For example, in one recent case against a national insurer, after we defeated a motion challenging a federal court’s jurisdiction under CAFA, we successfully opposed a motion to certify a class of policyholders.
Innovative Fee Structures
We work closely with our clients to make the costs of class action litigation more manageable and predictable. In addition to creative variations on the conventional hourly billing model, we have offered clients the option of flat-free structures that provide for a fixed payment each month or quarter, regardless of the level of activity. Our clients have expressed great appreciation for our flexibility and innovation in selecting or developing a fee structure that meets the needs of each individual client.
Schermer, et al. v. State Farm Fire and Casualty, et al.
We represented State Farm in a Minnesota-based class action that challenged the legality of its homeowner insurance premiums. The complaint accused State Farm of redlining, price fixing and numerous other state law violations and was prosecuted aggressively for nearly two years. In a landmark decision adopting the “Filed Rate Doctrine,” the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed a summary judgment order that dismissed all claims against our client. 721 N.W.2d 307 (Minn. 2006).
Mooney et al v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of N. Am.
We represented Allianz Life in this consumer fraud class action. Plaintiffs alleged that Allianz Life violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act by misrepresenting certain product features in connection with the marketing and sale of a series of “bonus” annuity products. The case grew to be one of the largest class actions against an insurance company, implicating over 400,000 policies. Plaintiffs sought over $2 billion in damages. In October 2009, after a three-week trial, the jury found that our client’s conduct had not caused loss or damage to any class member. Judgment was entered in the defendant’s favor and plaintiffs did not appeal.
GBL & Associates v. USAllianz Investor Services, LLC
We represented Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America and related entities in this class action alleging that defendants sent the plaintiffs unsolicited advertisements in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, a state statute and common law. Denying the plaintiff’s motion to certify a class, the court agreed with our argument that common questions of law or fact did not predominate because of the individualized factual determinations that would be required to resolve each class member’s claim. 2007 WL 4462240 (Cal. Superior Apr. 30, 2007).
Mills, et al. v. Roto-Rooter Services Co.
Over more than a year, we represented Roto-Rooter Services Company in a class action that included claims for violations of the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Action. After two adverse rulings on preliminary motions, class counsel agreed to dismiss the action and agreed to no longer pursue class allegations or class certification in any action relating to the same or similar subject matter.
Uhr v. Responsible Hospitality Institute, Inc. et al.
We represent Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America in an antitrust case alleging a conspiracy among restaurants and others to eliminate certain types of promotional discounts in the sale of alcoholic beverages. In September of 2011, a Minnesota federal district court judge issued an order granting our joint motion to dismiss the case, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim. The case is on appeal.
Egg Products Antitrust Litigation
We are defending Michael Foods in a collection of class action and individual antitrust lawsuits
brought against egg producers and other entities. In a multidistrict proceeding consolidated in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the plaintiffs allege that egg producers conspired to reduce the supply of shell eggs in an effort to drive up the price.
Potato Antitrust Litigation
We are defending R.D. Offutt Company is a collection of class action antitrust lawsuits brought against potato producers and other entities. In a multidistrict proceeding consolidated in Idaho federal court, the plaintiffs allege that potato producers conspired to reduce the supply of potatoes in an effort to drive up the price.
We successfully represented VISA in a class action antitrust lawsuit alleging that VISA and Mastercard violated Minnesota’s antitrust laws by imposing certain eligibility requirement on merchants that accepted credit cards as a form of payment. The court granted our client’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, brought on behalf of indirect purchasers, for lack of standing. 2004 WL 2114991, 2004-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 74,553 (Minn. Dist. 2004).
Microsoft antitrust class action
We represented Microsoft in a class action antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota that attracted national attention. After several weeks of trial, the case settled.
Martin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co
We represented State Farm in a class action lawsuit alleging that State Farm failed to comply with a state law requirement to offer underinsured motorist coverage to each policyholder. Denying the plaintiff’s motion to certify a class, the court agreed with our contention that the case failed to satisfy the commonality requirement because of the individual fact-finding that would be required to resolve each class member’s claim. The Court also granted our client’s motion for an order dismissing the claims against two of the named plaintiffs on the merits. 2011 WL 3667456 (S.D.W.Va. Aug. 22, 2011).
Cornette v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.
We represented State Farm in a class action lawsuit alleging that State Farm misled policyholders regarding the coverage provided under a hospital/surgical insurance policy. At the outset of the case, we successfully moved to strike the class action allegations, leaving the plaintiff with only an individual claim. 2010 WL 2196533 (N.D.W.Va. May 27, 2010).
Jarrett v. State Farm
We represented State Farm in a class action lawsuit alleging that, following an automobile accident, State Farm made an offer to settle a claim that was inadequate based on alleged bad faith and race discrimination. The court granted our early motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. 2007 WL 2069902 (E.D. Ark. July 16, 2007).
Benacquisto v. IDS Life Ins. Co.; Mork v. IDS Life Ins. Co.; and Thoresen v. American Express Financial Corporation
We represented IDS Life Insurance Company and American Express Financial Corporation in three related class action lawsuits involving allegations of improper replacement of life insurance policies and the improper sale of fixed and variable deferred annuities to retirement plans. These lawsuits were brought on behalf of a putative, nationwide class of customers and were ultimately settled.
Aden v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company
We represented Allstate in a putative nationwide class action lawsuit filed in state court in Minnesota, alleging that Allstate’s insurance contract required payment of “diminished value” to policyholders in addition to cost of repairs. We obtained an order dismissing the plaintiffs’ lawsuit with prejudice and before any written discovery had commenced.
Vasquez v. Allianz Life Ins. Co. of North America
We represented Allianz in a class action lawsuit venued in Texas challenging how Allianz computed benefits under group disability income insurance policies. After a three-day evidentiary hearing, the court issued an order in Allianz’s favor and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.
Baker v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, N.A.
We represented Chase in a putative class action lawsuit alleging violations of the National Bank Act and state law. We succeeded in having the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice (and attorneys’ fees awarded against the class representative and class counsel), all before any discovery began.
Johnson v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation
We represented Chase in a putative class action lawsuit alleging that the collection of tax service fees at closing violated applicable statutes. While other mortgage lenders settled similar lawsuits for substantial sums and agreed to change their business practices, we were successful in having the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice.
Jahner v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation and Chase Mortgage Services
We represented Chase in a putative class action lawsuit filed against it and more than a dozen other mortgage lenders. Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated state foreclosure law by including certain fees and charges in the redemption price. We removed the lawsuit to federal court and were successful in having all claims against Chase dismissed with prejudice prior to discovery.
Kananack v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corporation
We represented Chase in a putative class action lawsuit filed against it in Ventura County, California, alleging that Chase violated state statutes and regulations by charging and collecting interest prior to the close of escrow. We settled the lawsuit early in the proceedings.
Baughman v. Mellon Mortgage Corporation
We represented Mellon Mortgage Corporation in a putative class action lawsuit filed in state court in Minnesota. The plaintiffs alleged that the collection of “tax service fees” at closing violated Minnesota law. We were successful in having the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice, and the dismissal was subsequently affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Fischl v. Metris Companies, Inc., and Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank
We represented Metris Companies and Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank in a putative nationwide class action, in collaboration with four other national class action firms. The plaintiffs alleged a series of statutory and common-law violations related to late fee, over-limit fee and related card practices, and based on the telemarketing and direct-mail marketing of fee-based products and services. We negotiated a settlement of this litigation that resulted in our client paying a fraction of 1% of the damages claimed.
Schubach v. Corinthian Mortgage Corporation
We represented Corinthian Mortgage Corporation in a putative, nationwide class action lawsuit. The complaint alleged violations of certain HUD regulations that limited the amount of fees that may be collected at closing in connection with an FHA loan.
Mfalingundi v. WMC Mortgage Corporation, et al.
We represented WMC Mortgage Corporation in a putative national class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Minnesota alleging violations of Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and certain state laws. The plaintiffs asserted that yield spread premiums paid from the lender to the mortgage broker were illegal kickbacks and were prohibited under federal law. The court granted our early motion to strike the class allegations in the complaint and the individual dispute was subsequently resolved.
Starks v. Old Kent Mortgage Corporation, et al.
We represented Old Kent Mortgage Corporation (now Fifth Third Mortgage) in four nationwide class actions that were consolidated in U.S. District Court in Minnesota by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The plaintiffs in each case alleged violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act by the payment of yield spread premiums to a mortgage broker. The court granted our motion to strike the class allegations, and later entered summary judgment in Old Kent’s favor with regard to remaining individual actions.
Securities Class Action
Russell v. Spanlink Communications, Inc.
We represented Spanlink Communications in two national securities fraud class actions after the company was taken private through a $45-million investment by Cisco Systems, Inc. We were successful in staying the first lawsuit and, after filing a substantial motion to dismiss, settling the subsequent lawsuit.
Robert Roberts v. Sunrise International Leasing Corporation
We represented a special committee of outside directors who were named as defendants in a national securities fraud class action in Delaware after Sunrise was taken private and the public stockholders were bought out through a tender offer. That lawsuit settled for our clients, the outside directors.
Piper Collateralized Mortgage Obligation Cases
We represented Piper Jaffray, Piper Capital Management Incorporated and related Piper companies in numerous federal class action lawsuits stemming from the 1994 crash of the market for collateralized mortgage obligations. These cases, brought by investors in mutual funds, included claims under the Securities Act, the Securities Exchange Act, the Investment Company Act, RICO, and various state and common law claims. We negotiated settlements of all of these lawsuits.
Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”)
Martin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.
After our client, State Farm, removed a class action lawsuit to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), we successfully opposed the plaintiff’s motion to remand the case back to state court. The court agreed with our arguments that the amount in controversy requirement was satisfied and that CAFA’s “Local Controversy” and “Home State” exceptions were not applicable.
Graphic Communications v. CVS Caremark
We represent Walgreen Co. in a class action accusing Minnesota retail pharmacies of violating state laws related to the pricing of generic drugs. Granting the pharmacies’ request to reverse a district court opinion construing the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff invoking CAFA’s “Local Controversy” exception cannot wait an unlimited amount of time before moving to remand a case to state court. 636 F.3d 971 (8th Cir. 2011).
Alligood et al. v. Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc. et al.
We represented Alliant Techsystems, Inc. and its subsidiary, Ammunition Accessories, Inc. (AAI), in a nationwide class action alleging that certain ammunition manufactured and sold by AAI was defective in breach of AAI’s warranties. In March 2009 a federal court denied plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, agreeing with our argument that variations in state law would render class certification inappropriate. 2009 WL 8387645 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 4, 2009).
O’Neil v. Simplicity, Inc.
We represented Simplicity, Inc. in a class action that included claims for breach of warranties brought by purchasers of a crib that was the subject of a Consumer Product Safety Commission recall. In a 2008 decision later affirmed by Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal, a Minnesota federal district court judge granted our client’s motion to dismiss. 553 F.Supp.2d 1110 (D. Minn. 2008).
Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act ("FACTA")
Holt, et al. LivInn Suites
We represented a regional hotel company, LivInn Suites, in a nationwide class action that included claims for violations of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) based on the receipts provided by our client. On an issue of first impression within the 8th Circuit, we filed a motion to dismiss. The Minnesota federal district court judge cancelled the hearing on our motion to dismiss and, two weeks later, entered an order dismissing the action in its entirety. Plaintiffs did not appeal.
Boerbon, et al. v. MediaNews Group, Inc.
We represented a regional newspaper company, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, in a nationwide class action that included claims for violations of FACTA based on receipts provided to its customers. After we filed a motion to dismiss, class counsel agreed to dismiss the action.
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