Welcome to Critical Mass, Law.com’s briefing on class actions and mass torts. I’m Amanda Bronstad in Los Angeles. A quick head’s up to my readers: I’ll be sending out this dispatch once a week on Wednesdays starting on May 2. And now to this week: Could this be the first decision to cite Cyan v. Beaver County? Check out the MDL panel’s agenda for next month. And find out why a special master needs more time — again — to finish a long-awaited report on a $75M fee request.

Send your feedback to abronstad@alm.com, or find me on Twitter: @abronstadlaw.


First Post-’Cyan’ Decision Splits Blockchain Case in Two


The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month in Cyan v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund is already having an impact in trial courts: U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco cited the ruling in remanding a securities class action against the blockchain startup Tezos to San Francisco Superior Court while keeping another in federal court. My colleague Ben Hancock’s coverage is here.

What Cyan was about: The Supreme Court in Cyan (see here) rejected defense calls to limit securities class actions to federal court.

What Tezos is about: The lawsuits involve Tezos’ $140 million initial coin offering. I did a quick Lexis search, and it could be the first ruling to cite Cyan.

Ben told me the case has been particularly contentious over the jurisdictional issues.

“It’s not unusual for plaintiffs firms to duke it out in securities class actions, but it typically doesn’t drag on like this. I think that’s a symptom of how much the lawyers feel is at stake here — both in terms of money and novel issues of law — and the unique posture of the cases. It’s also worth mentioning that this is a tug-of-war between smaller firms that aren’t usually in the lead in major securities class actions.”  


Facebook, Hurricanes and Patents, Oh My!


The agenda is out for the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation‘s next hearing on May 31 in Chicago. Here’s the list of cases, posted on April 16.

On deck are 30 class actions brought against Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal (story here). Facebook and Cambridge Analytica support the Northern District of California, as do some plaintiffs attorneys who have coalesced around U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria. Other possible districts are in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The panel is also set to hear a unique request to coordinate flood insurance claims stemming from the last two major hurricanes (story here), and requests involving non-practicing patent holders PersonalWeb Technologies and Iron Oak Technologies (my story on those cases is here).

This’ll Take Just a Little Bit Longer


A long-anticipated report that could have “serious and far-reaching adverse ramifications” for the plaintiffs’ bar was put off again after the special master requested another extension — this time, to May 14. Retired U.S. District Chief Judge Gerald Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan is the special master looking into a $75 million fee request by three plaintiffs firms (Labaton Sucharow, Lieff Cabraser and Thornton Law Firm) in securities class action settlements with State Street (here’s my prior story on that). In a letter on Monday (see here) Rosen said “our work has been made considerably more extensive and costly” after the plaintiffs firms had retained eight experts who provided “a more complete and informed view of the case.” U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf granted the extension (see here), plus Rosen’s request for $800,000 more to work on the report (and subsequent filings he’s expecting if there’s a challenge to his findings).

Nobody’s Business


Siding with business groups, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that foreign corporations can’t be held liable in U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute. Law.com‘s story by Tony Mauro is here. Here’s what plaintiffs lawyers had to say about the 5-4 decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank:

Mark Werbner (Sayles Werbner): “It is disappointing and disturbing that those murdered and maimed by terrorists will be without a remedy against corporations that knowingly finance these terrorists, just because the terror financier chooses to do its business in a corporate form.”

Mike Elsner (Motley Rice): “The Supreme Court today dealt a significant blow in the fight to hold foreign corporations conducting business in the United States accountable for violations of international law that cause harm to innocent civilians worldwide.”

Who Got the Work?


A federal judge has appointed Derek Ho (Kellogg Hansen) and Peggy Wedgworth (Milberg Tadler) as co-lead counsel in antitrust litigation against automobile dealership software providers CDK Global and The Reynolds and Reynolds Co. According to the April 16 order by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve in the Northern District of Illinois (see here), Ho will lead a case by competitor Authenticom, while Wedgworth is in charge of more than a dozen class actions brought by dealerships.

Here’s more you need to know:

A Slick Move: Class actions brought over property damages caused by disasters like oil spills and wildfires have had a rough road getting certified. But Lieff Cabraser and Cappello & Noël got a class certified in litigation over a 2015 oil spill off the coast of California. Of course, it took them three tries, according to my story (see here). Both firms have brought similar class actions over California’s recent wildfires.

Taking on Taxotere: Head’s up to Taxotere lawyers: A New Jersey state court has asked for input on whether to coordinate 353 cases brought over the chemotherapy drug into multi-county litigation. Here’s Law.com’s story. The cases allege that Taxotere, made by Sanofi-Aventis, caused women to suffer from permanent hair loss. Robins Kaplan made the request to coordinate the cases last month.

An Appealing Argument: After losing all three bellwether verdicts last year, plaintiffs in the Xarelto multidistrict litigation have asked the 5th Circuit to reverse the decisions, citing exclusion of evidence. Here’s my story. The plaintiffs appeal brief (filed by Frederick Longer of Levin Sedran & Berman) also has an amusing snippet from one trial in which a defense witness testified that his wife used Xarelto.

Defense attorney Richard Sarver of Barrasso Usdin Kupperman Freeman & Sarver opened with: “I don’t know that I’ve ever asked this question in 35 years, but do you like your wife?”