Three organizations joined the Impact Fund in filing an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit urging reconsideration of a divided panel opinion in Ahearn v. Hyundai that overturned precedent and created a circuit split over the question of whether variations in state consumer laws can preclude national class action settlements. Lieff Cabraser wrote the brief on behalf of Public Justice, P.C., the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Impact Fund.
In Ahearn v. Hyundai, plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against defendant auto manufacturers for uniform bad conduct and the manufacturers’ errors in testing their vehicle’s mileage performance. After a year of litigation, the parties reached a settlement valued at $159 million for plaintiffs and the class. Thereafter, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s settlement approval, holding that the court “fail[ed] to make a final ruling as to whether the material variations in state law defeated predominance under Rule 23(b)(3).”
On January 23, 2018, a divided Ninth Circuit panel issued an opinion finding variations in state consumer protection laws could preclude certification of a Rule 23(b)(c) settlement class. “The opinion presents potentially devastating consequences for nationwide consumer class action settlements, which were routinely approved prior to this decision despite variations in state consumer protection statutes,” noted a spokesperson for the Impact Fund. The Fund highlighted Lieff Cabraser’s work on the brief, including that of associate Katherine “Kara” McBride.
The amicus brief urges the Ninth Circuit to hew to established precedent and thereby avoid the harms the consumer plaintiff and other classes would suffer from if the variant decision in Hyundai were left to stand.
As the Impact Fund and their fellow amici explain, “Litigation is costly and time-consuming for plaintiffs, defendants, and the court system alike.” This has led to a “strong judicial policy” in favor of settlements to nationwide claims.
About Impact Fund
The Impact Fund is an organization whose mission is to provide grants, advocacy and education to support impact litigation on behalf of marginalized communities seeking economic, environmental, racial, and social justice. Learn more at https://www.impactfund.org/
About Katherine McBride
Katherine McBride is an associate in Lieff Cabraser’s New York office. Prior to joining Lieff Cabraser, Katherine was a Law Clerk to the Honorable I. Leo Glasser of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Katherine earned her law degree from Stanford Law School. While there, she was a Levin Center Public Interest Fellow and participant in the Stanford Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, the Iraqi Legal Education Initiative, and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project. Following graduation, she received a Ford Foundation Public Interest Fellowship to work with Human Rights First in New York.