3rd Circuit Injury & Tort Law News - U.S. Third Circuit
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A large class action law firm has filed a writ of mandamus with the Third Circuit, seeking to prevent a court appointed special master from interviewing its plaintiffs. The firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, gained prominence due to its role in the $260 billion tobacco settlement in the late 1990s, but recently received sanctions for thalidomide lawsuits which were described as "bad-faith advocacy" which "gives new meaning to 'frivolous.'"

As the cases began to falter, and sanctions began to mount, Hagens Berman sought to dismiss them en masse. That led to the special master seeking to interview the plaintiffs, in order to determine if they had knowingly agreed to abandoned their cases.

A couple may proceed in their class action lawsuit against Aaron's, a furniture and office rental store, and many of its franchisees, the Third Circuit ruled yesterday. Clarifying the Circuit's standards on class ascertainability, the Circuit held that the ascertainability test should be a simple, narrow examination of the proposed class.

The decision marks an important clarification in a rule that had been used by defendants to defeat class actions before the class is even formed. The facts of the case, which involve spyware installed on rental computers, serves as another reminder that rental furniture might not be the best idea.

FDCPA Suit Over Account Number in Envelope Window Can Proceed

If you've ever wondered how seriously Congress and the courts take debt collection regulation, this case, involving a combination of a misaligned clear plastic window on an envelope and poorly formatted letter, that merely let a QR Code (barcode) and a bare account number show, is quite telling.

Convergent Outsourcing is a debt collector. The company sent a letter to Courtney Douglass which, due to the misaligned window, also displayed her account number and the barcode (which could be scanned to show how much she owed). But nowhere on the envelope did it say what the letter, or the account number, pertained to.

Still, the Third Circuit held that the company could face a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuit over the "invasion of privacy."

N.J. Judge Who Played Prosecutor, Denied Counsel Gets No Immunity

Prosecutor? No need. How about defense counsel? Nah, they can represent themselves.

Meet Judge Louis DiLeo. Back in 2010, in the Linden, New Jersey, municipal court, DiLeo held a "trial" consisting of himself as the judge and prosecutor, the two defendants representing themselves (after denying their request for a public defender), and the police witness, who cross-examined them.

Unsurprisingly, the two convictions were later reversed, Judge DiLeo was reprimanded, and last week, the Third Circuit upheld the district court's holding that he had lost his judicial immunity by going all Judge Dredd on the parties.

In the past week we've had some interesting movement in cases in the Third Circuit. One case was filed in district court in New Jersey, while one is getting set for arguments before the Third Circuit, and another is getting sent back to state court with a certified question.

Here's the latest in Third Circuit cases -- read on for details.

Three fathers filed suit against Israelis officials including two former cabinet-level Ministers, a current Israel Supreme Court Justice, and a current Haifa Rabbinical Court District Judge, all because they were unhappy with the outcome of their child custody proceedings, claiming that Israeli family law unfairly discriminates against fathers. Their litigious grasp also ensnared three non-profit organizations who they accused of "financing radical feminism."

The Third Circuit recently decided a case that now results in a circuit split with two circuits on each side of the issue. With so many circuit splits heading to the Supreme Court, this case has us wondering whether it will be one of them.

Ashley Gager bought thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment on a Dell line of credit. When applying for the credit, Gager input her cell phone number where the application asked for her home number. When she later defaulted on the debt, she received many automated debt-collecting calls to her cell phone.

She sent a letter to Dell asking it to stop calling her account, and after she sent the letter, she claimed that Dell called her about 40 times in a three week period. Gager filed a claim in district court alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 ("TCPA"). The district court dismissed her complaint for failure to state a claim and this appeal followed.

The Third Circuit disagreed with the district court and reversed its decision, reports Reuters.

Earlier this week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals was faced with an issue of first impression: whether state tort claims, brought by private property owners against an in-state source of pollution, were preempted by the Clean Air Act. The district court found that the claims were preempted.

The Third Circuit disagreed, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are keeping practitioners on their toes with a host of legal issues arising from hot news stories. Here's a roundup of the goings on in the states of the Third Circuit...

Giffords' Advocacy Group Urges Passage of NJ Gun Law

Governor Christie signed ten new gun bills into law on Thursday, but Gabbie Giffords' advocacy group is urging Christie to sign another into law, with a petition of over 3,000 signatures.