Large-scale class actions often entail parallel proceedings, involving the same subject matter and defendants. Class counsel play a prominent role in shaping the outcome of these actions. The Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Medical & Chiropractic Clinic, Inc. v. Oppenheim provides important guidance to class counsel on the difficult responsibility of balancing duties owed to multiple constituencies in these proceedings.
Oppenheim stemmed from a series of class actions related to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ advertising practices. In one of those actions, Anderson & Wanca filed a class action on behalf of Medical & Chiropractic Clinic, Inc. (M&C) in federal district court in the Middle District of Florida. M&C, as class representative, entered into mediation with the Buccaneers, but the mediation was ultimately unsuccessful in resolving the case. Shortly thereafter, David Oppenheim, an attorney at the AW Firm involved in the mediation, left the firm to join the Bock Law Firm, LLC.
After Mr. Oppenheim joined the Bock Law Firm, the firm filed a separate class action against the Buccaneers in Florida state court, raising the same claims as those asserted by M&C. The Bock Law Firm’s client reached a proposed class settlement with the Buccaneers after agreeing voluntarily to dismiss the action without prejudice. Then, Bock refiled the action in a federal district court for the Middle District of Florida, seeking preliminary approval of the class settlement.