Hueston Hennigan Prevails at U.S. Supreme Court in Unanimous Opinion

On Tuesday, February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in favor of our client Nutraceutical Corporation, adopting Hueston Hennigan’s argument that mandatory claim-processing rules are unalterable if properly raised. This preserves Hueston Hennigan’s victory at the lower court, where it obtained decertification of the putative plaintiff class. Hueston Hennigan has handled the case, Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert, since inception at the district court stage.

“The Court’s decision today has significant implications for civil and administrative procedure and will provide clarity to the lower courts and litigants on this important issue,” said John Hueston, who argued the case before the Supreme Court in November 2018. “We are thrilled with the result for our client.”

The question presented in the Supreme Court appeal was whether Rule 23(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—and mandatory claims-processing rules in general—were susceptible to equitable tolling. This question of first impression resulted in split rulings from the U.S. Courts of Appeal.

The Hueston Hennigan team, which included partner Steven N. Feldman and associates Joseph Reiter and Michael Todisco, argued that Rule 23(f), which provides a party with 14 days from the entry of a class certification order to file a petition for permission to appeal with the court of appeals, is an emphatic and mandatory claim-processing rule that is not subject to judge-made exception.  Hueston Hennigan further argued that the Ninth Circuit had improperly created “broad and unprecedented equitable exceptions” to excuse the plaintiff’s late 23(f) petition, by essentially nullifying Rule 23(f)’s deliberately narrow 14-day interlocutory appeal window.  As Hueston Hennigan argued, Rule 23(f) was specifically crafted “to minimize the disruption and delay in the context of class action cases.”

This appeal arose after Hueston Hennigan successfully obtained class decertification at the district court, and Class Plaintiff/Appellee Lambert missed the deadline set forth in Rule 23(f), to file a petition for permission to appeal the order in the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit nevertheless found that Rule 23(f) was subject to equitable exceptions, and then applied those exceptions to excuse Lambert’s late filing and reverse the district court. Hueston Hennigan sought certiorari of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which the Supreme Court granted in June.

Nutraceutical was represented at the U.S. Supreme Court by partners John Hueston and Steven N. Feldman, and associates Joseph Reiter and Michael Todisco.

See Law360 article, “Missed Appeal Deadline Can’t Be Extended, Justices Rule.”

See Law360 article, “Justices Weigh Missed Deadline In Nutraceutical False Ad Suit.”

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