Rice Capades: Court Certifies a Class of Lead Lawyers Against Defendant Law Firms Who Allegedly Used the Class’s Work Product in Rice Litigation

by Carlton Fields
Contact

The Eastern District of Missouri certified an unusual class of lawyers and their clients who undertook a collective effort to litigate claims against Bayer related to the purported “contamination” of the U.S. rice supply by Bayer’s genetically modified rice. The defendants are law firms that allegedly benefitted from the work performed by the class in state and federal cases against Bayer.

Bayer’s introduction of genetically modified rice into the U.S. domestic rice supply allegedly caused the price of rice to plummet. Thousands of rice farmers and other producers filed lawsuits against Bayer, and the federal court actions were consolidated into an MDL in the Eastern District of Missouri.

The MDL court appointed co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, who in turn directed over 30 law firms and other professionals. A common-benefit trust fund (“the CBF Trust”) was established to compensate the attorneys for services rendered for all of the plaintiffs. The court’s order provided that a certain percentage of any recovery in the MDL cases would be set aside to cover attorney’s fees and costs.

Defendant law firms opposed the creation of the CBF Trust and alternatively sought recovery of millions of dollars in fees that they claimed as reimbursement for their own common-benefit fees. The MDL court ordered that $72 million be paid in attorneys’ fees. The CBF Trust recovered only $56.5 million of this amount. The named plaintiffs, three firms that incurred legal fees and advanced expenses, brought claims for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit against the defendant law firms. In an ironic twist given their usual role in asserting that classes should be certified, the defendants opposed class certification.

Defendants argued that there were insufficient class members to satisfy the numerosity requirement under Rule 23(a)(1) because they formed a single joint venture to undertake the collective representation of the rice producers. The court rejected this argument because the defendants litigated their multiple claims as a class and not as a single joint venture, and under Missouri law, there was no equal right of control of the litigation among the different law firms.

The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that Rule 23(b)(3) predominance was not satisfied. It held that individualized fact-finding would not be required because the class plaintiffs pooled resources to achieve the prosecution and ultimate settlement of the MDL claims. As such, the class plaintiffs would not need to show that each individual class member provided or paid for specific things. Rather, the class members could show that they jointly incurred the expenses that conferred a benefit on the defendants.

Finally, the court concluded that class resolution was superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the case because the class members lack any interest in individually prosecuting separate actions. Accordingly, the defendants were hoisted on their own petard.

Downing v. Goldman Phipps LLC, Case No. 4:13-cv-206, (E.D. Mo. July 4, 2015)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Carlton Fields | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Carlton Fields
Contact
more
less

Carlton Fields on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.