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Major Decision Favoring Gibbons Client Affirmed on Appeal


March 14, 2013

On Friday, March 8, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed an earlier district court ruling that granted summary judgment to Brother International Corp. (BIC) in a New Jersey consumer class action, a major victory providing significant clarity for courts going forward in class action matters involving interstate parties.

The class action, alleging malfunctions in BIC’s combined printer, fax, scanner, and copier, was filed in New Jersey, the defendant company’s headquarters, as opposed to South Carolina, the plaintiff’s home state and the location of his business. The Third Circuit’s decision outlined various reasons that a plaintiff’s home state has the strongest claim to litigation involving interstate parties.

Michael R. McDonald, leader of the Consumer Class Actions Team at Gibbons, led the defense on behalf of BIC. “This decision resolves what was perceived as disagreement in the district courts about whether New Jersey law (the NJ Consumer Fraud Act) could apply to a nationwide class where the alleged fraud was alleged to have emanated from the defendant’s principal place of business – New Jersey,” Mr. McDonald explains. “Now that it is at least more clear that the NJ CFA law will not be applied to a nationwide class simply because of the defendant’s presence in New Jersey, the laws of all states, the home states of all purchasers would have to be applied, which creates serious obstacles to class certification.”

Assisting Mr. McDonald in the representation of BIC were Christopher Walsh and Melissa C. DeHonney, Director and Counsel, respectively, in the Gibbon Business & Commercial Litigation Department.