Employer Cannot Be Liable for Interfering with Non-Compete It Doesn’t Know Exists, Third Circuit Holds

Ethan Simon

simonRestrictive covenants are common in many industries. Under New Jersey and Pennsylvania law, a defendant may be liable for tortious interference with a restrictive covenant only if it has actual knowledge of the contract with which it allegedly interferes. In Acclaim Systems, Inc. v. Infosys, Ltd.,[1] the Third Circuit reaffirmed this rule in the context of IT consulting non-competes and expressed its reluctance to recognize any exceptions.

In Acclaim Systems, Time Warner Cable (“TWC”) was looking to cut costs on its Sales Force Dot Com (“SFDC”) project by switching providers for certain IT services. When TWC switched from Acclaim to Infosys, TWC asked Infosys to consider retaining four individuals who were already working on SFDC on behalf of Acclaim. All of these individuals had non-competes with Acclaim that prohibited them from working on SFDC on behalf of Infosys. Continue reading “Employer Cannot Be Liable for Interfering with Non-Compete It Doesn’t Know Exists, Third Circuit Holds”

Third Circuit Recognizes “Subgroup” ADEA Disparate-Impact Claims

Anna D. Stockman

Anna D. StockmanThe Third Circuit’s January 10, 2017 decision regarding an employer’s age-based liability under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) should serve as a call to action to employers to evaluate and review their policies to ensure that they do not inadvertently violate the ADEA by discriminating against individuals who are in “subgroups” over 40 years old.

Most employers know that the plain language of the ADEA protects “individuals who are at least 40 years of age,” and its disparate impact provision prohibits an employer from “adversely affect[ing an employee’s] status . . . because of such individual’s age.” But in Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, the Third Circuit made employers’ lives a little more complicated by holding that “‘subgroup’ disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the ADEA.” In other words, the Third Circuit held that under the ADEA, employees in a subgroup older than 40 years old—in Karlo, the subgroup of employees was 50-and-older—can bring disparate impact claims against their employer alleging that they were “disfavored relative to younger employees,” even if the younger employees were 40 years old or older. Continue reading “Third Circuit Recognizes “Subgroup” ADEA Disparate-Impact Claims”

Third Circuit Affirms That State Products Liability Law Can Apply to Plane Crashes

Richard Wolf

e959aadc1dcbb3b19c96a57e80fa6a54The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s recently held in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., 822 F.3d 680 (3d Cir. 2016) that aircraft manufacturers may be held liable for state products liability claims. In this case, the defendant averred that products liability claims fell within the “field of air safety” and were thus preempted by federal aviation law. Sikkelee, 822 F.3d at 685. The Third Circuit held that products liability claims under state law involving aircraft are not automatically preempted by federal law, although they may be preempted on an individual basis if they conflict with a specific federal statute or regulation. Id. at 709.

In Sikkelee, the widow of a pilot sued the manufacturer of an aircraft engine which she alleged was improperly designed, resulting in the plane’s crash and her husband’s death. Id. at 685-86. The United States Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of the engine manufacturer on the question of defective design. Id. at 686. It held that the standard of care was a “type certificate,” a certification from the Federal Aviation Administration that the design of an aircraft or aircraft part meets the safety standards imposed by Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) regulations. Id. at 684, 686. Since the subject engine was granted a type certificate, the standard of care had been satisfied as a matter of law. Id. at 686. Critical to the District Court’s decision was its finding that it must apply some federal standard of care pursuant to Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., 181 F.3d 363 (3d Cir. 1999). Id. at 686. Continue reading “Third Circuit Affirms That State Products Liability Law Can Apply to Plane Crashes”

Arbitration of Claims to Avoid Costly Putative Class Action Lawsuits

A Discussion of the Third Circuit’s Recent Decision in Chassen

Michael A. Rowe

I30f99b6e7bed5b995023622415728607n Chassen v. Fid. Nat’l Fin., Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 16489 (3d Cir. N.J. Sept. 8, 2016), Plaintiffs represented a putative class of New Jersey real estate purchasers and refinancers who were allegedly overcharged fees in connection with the recording of their deeds and mortgage instruments. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants charged them more than it cost to record these documents with the county clerk and pocketed the difference. Plaintiffs also alleged that the class claims totaled over $50 million.

In 2009, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey alleging both breach of contract and violation of New Jersey law. Defendants moved to dismiss some of these claims and raised various affirmative defenses. Defendants did not seek to compel arbitration based upon arbitration clauses contained in contracts with Plaintiffs. The parties litigated the case for two and a half years, focusing primarily on class certification, during which the parties conducted broad discovery and filed several motions on the merits. Continue reading “Arbitration of Claims to Avoid Costly Putative Class Action Lawsuits”

Judicial Economy and Joined Plaintiffs

The All-Important Factors for Class “Numerosity”

Richard Wolf

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On September 13, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit set forth for the first time a “non-exhaustive list” of factors for a District Court judge to consider when determining whether joinder would be impracticable for purposes of the class action “numerosity” requirement. In re Modafinil Antitrust Litigation, No. 15-3475 (3d Cir. Sept. 13, 2016). These factors include (1) judicial economy, (2) the claimants’ ability and motivation to litigate as joined plaintiffs, (3) the financial resources of class members, (4) the geographic dispersion of class members, (5) the ability to identify future claimants, and (6) whether the claims are for injunctive relief or for damages. Id. at *31-32.

In order to gain class certification, a putative class must satisfy a number of requirements, including that “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” F.R.C.P. 23(a)(1). The Rule does not define “numerous,” and it is left to the Court to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a particular putative class meets this requirement. Despite the need for individualized factual analysis, a class of 20 or fewer is generally too small and a class of over 40 is usually sufficiently numerous. In re Modafinil at *24-25. While the Court noted that “the number of class members is the starting point of our numerosity analysis,” id. at *25, the Court focused on whether joinder is impracticable. Continue reading “Judicial Economy and Joined Plaintiffs”