Class Decertified Where Vast Majority of Members Sustained No Ascertainable Loss

Adrienne C. Rogove

In another blow to plaintiffs suing under New Jersey’s Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”), the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in Martinez-Santiago v. Public Storage, 2019 WL 1418118 (D.N.J. March 29, 2019), decertified a class of 160,000 members alleging that lease agreements with the Defendant Public Storage violated TCCWNA. Following the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision last year finding that a consumer who is a party to a contract that fails to comply with New Jersey law, but who does not suffer any adverse consequences from the noncompliance, has failed to state a TCCWNA claim, United States District Judge Jerome Simandle decertified the class. The decision was based on an analysis of the Rule 23 requirements, where the Court held that the requirements of “typicality,” “predominance,” and “numerosity” under Rule 23 could not be met.

With respect to the typicality requirement, the Court found that the named plaintiff was one of “relatively few” customers who actually suffered an adverse consequence due to the form lease contract entered into with Public Storage. Since the vast majority of class members did not suffer an adverse consequence, the claims of the named plaintiff were not typical of the class members, and therefore the typicality requirement was not met.

The Court also found that the “predominance” requirement could not be met because questions of fact common to class members no longer predominated over questions affecting only individual claims. Finally, because discovery revealed that only 29 class members might be able to assert a viable claim under TCCWNA, the “numerosity” requirement of Rule 23 likewise could not be met.

The decision of the Court in Martinez-Santiago left only the named plaintiff with potentially viable claims, thereby continuing to chip away at the prospect of successful class action suits against corporate entities, and large attorneys’ fee awards to class action counsel, in suits where the class cannot meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.

“Obesity Alone” Is Not a Disability under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination

Rosemary McKenna

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel for the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed a 2018 trial court decision granting summary judgment against a self-described obese former bus driver for defendant Community Bus Lines, Inc. (“Community”), and dismissing the driver’s claim for violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJ LAD”). In doing so, the appellate court held that “obesity alone is not protected under the NJ LAD as a disability unless it has an underlying medical cause.” Because plaintiff, in part, failed to present any direct or circumstantial evidence that defendants perceived the driver as disabled due to a medical condition that caused him to be overweight, the appellate court found his claim was without merit.

Case Background

The plaintiff in this matter worked as a bus driver for Community for 10 years during which time he weighed between 500 and 600 pounds. To maintain his status as an active bus driver, he was required to undergo a medical examination every two years and obtain medical certification verifying his fitness to drive. In 2015, a doctor certified by the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) conducted plaintiff’s examination and temporarily disqualified him from driving a bus pending further testing. The plaintiff never followed through to complete the required additional testing and was therefore placed “out of service.” Despite his failure to schedule the follow-up testing, plaintiff’s supervisor referred him for a second opinion to another doctor, who confirmed the prior conclusions and found that further testing was needed before a medical certification could be issued. Neither doctor who examined plaintiff determined that he was disabled but only that further testing was required before he could be certified. Plaintiff again did not pursue the required testing and remained on leave. Continue reading ““Obesity Alone” Is Not a Disability under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination”

Happy Holidays from Blank Rome’s Princeton Office

As the year comes to a close, we want to wish our readers a joyful holiday season and a prosperous new year. We’d also like to take a moment to look back on the banner year our office has had and thank you for being a part of its success.

Our Princeton office rang in 2018 with a transition into its new offices located at 300 Carnegie Center, and has continued to establish itself throughout the year as a litigation leader in the Garden State, receiving the following industry recognitions in honor of our accomplishments:

We are very proud of these successes, and look forward to continuing our dedication to unparalleled legal service for our clients in 2019 and the years to come.

Please enjoy this year’s holiday card, created through the Firm’s collaboration with students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Blank Rome Appellate Litigation Practice Develops Third Circuit Civil Appeals Practice Note Resources for Thomson Reuters Practical Law

Stephen M. Orlofsky and Adrienne C. Rogove

Blank Rome’s Appellate Litigation practice is pleased to announce that the team has collaborated with Thomson Reuters Practical Law to develop practice note resources on civil appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which are available for our clients and readers using the links below. Thomson Reuters’ members are also able to download these resources through our Firm’s published Contributor Page.

We invite you to review our practice note resources, and hope you find them both interesting and informative. Continue reading “Blank Rome Appellate Litigation Practice Develops Third Circuit Civil Appeals Practice Note Resources for Thomson Reuters Practical Law”

Blank Rome Named a 2018 New Jersey Powerhouse by Law360

Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that the Firm has been named a 2018 New Jersey Powerhouse by Law360, who recognized Blank Rome and other leading firms in its 2018 Regional Powerhouses list for handling “some of the biggest deals and most high-profile courtroom battles,” offering clients “regional expertise and making a lasting impact on the law at the state and local level.”

Law360 recognized five firms, including Blank Rome, as New Jersey Powerhouses, notably for their accomplishments over the past year in regulatory and litigation fronts, as well as “thriving amid the competition that marks the most densely populated state in the nation.” Law360 particularly highlighted that the current crop of New Jersey Powerhouse firms are all home to former judges or New Jersey Supreme Court justices, to which former U.S. District Court Judge Stephen M. Orlofsky, who serves as Administrative Partner of Blank Rome’s Princeton office, stated, “It’s always nice to have a former judge or justice at the firm who you can consult for a variety of issues.” (NJ Powerhouses Seize Sports Betting, Pot Law Opportunities, Law360, Aug. 27, 2018.) Continue reading “Blank Rome Named a 2018 New Jersey Powerhouse by Law360

Meet Blank Rome’s 2018 Law360 Rising Stars

Blank Rome Partners Omid Safa and Michael A. Iannucci have been named 2018 Rising Stars by Law360 in recognition of their legal accomplishments in the categories of Insurance and Class Action, respectively. Below are excerpts of their profiles, as published by Law360Continue reading “Meet Blank Rome’s 2018 Law360 Rising Stars”

New Jersey Legal Pulse Named a Top 60 New Jersey Blog

Stephen M. Orlofsky and Jonathan M. Korn

We are pleased to announce that New Jersey Legal Pulse was named a Top 60 New Jersey Blog to follow in 2018.

Blog rankings were based on Google reputation and Google search rankings; influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites; quality and consistency of posts; and editorial team and expert reviews. To learn more, please click here.

We are honored to be included in the Top 60 New Jersey Blogs list, and look forward to continuing to provide our readers with timely, relevant, and high-quality legal news and updates.