The Federal Class Action Practice Manual


[§ 57] Appendix: Standards of Review of District Court Rulings

Abuse of Discretion

See Marisol A. v. Giuliani, 126 F.3d 372, 375 (2d Cir. 1997) (failure to adhere to proper legal standards is abuse of discretion).

Award of Attorney Fees

A district court's award of attorney fees is reviewed on appeal for an abuse of discretion. In re Washington Public Power Supply Systems Sec. Litig., 19 F.3d 1291, 1296 (9th Cir. 1994).

Approval of Class Action Settlement

An appellate court will reverse a settlement approval only when the district court has committed a "clear abuse of discretion." In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. Sales Practice Litig., 148 F.3d 283, 299 (3d Cir. 1998); Lazy Oil Co. v. Witco Corp., 1999 U.S App. LEXIS 1396 (Feb. 2, 1999).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) provides that the district court has wide discretion in determining whether a settlement of a class action is fair and reasonable. This Court [the Sixth Circuit] reviews the district court's approval of a settlement for an abuse of discretion. See Bailey v. Great Lakes Canning, Inc., 908 F.2d 38, 42 (6th Cir. 1990). Lindsey v. Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 21259 (August 15, 2000)

Denial of Subclass Certification

A district court's decision not to certify a subclass is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Pennsylvania Dental Ass'n v. Medical Serv. Ass'n, 745 F.2d 248, 255 (3d Cir. 1984).

Certification of Class Action

A district court's decision to certify a class will be overturned only if the district court abused its discretion. See Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Town of Hyde Park, 47 F.3d 473, 482 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing In re Drexel Burnham Lambert Group, Inc., 960 F.2d 285, 290 (2d Cir. 1992)); Marisol A. v. Giuliani, 126 F.3d 372, 375 (2d Cir. 1997). A reviewing court must exercise even greater deference when the district court has certified a class than when it has declined to do so. See Lundquist v. Security Pac. Auto. Fin. Servs. Corp., 993 F.2d 11, 14 (2d Cir. 1993).
We [the Eleventh Circuit] review orders granting class certification for abuse of discretion. See Kendrick v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 932 F.2d 910, 914 (11th Cir.1991)(citing Walker v. Jim Dandy Co., 747 F.2d 1360, 1363 (11th Cir.1984)). Prado-Steiman v. Bush, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 19181 (August 11, 2000).

Discovery Orders

Orders involving discovery are typically reviewed under a deferential abuse of discretion standard. See Geiserman v. MacDonald, 893 F.2d 787, 789 (5th Cir. 1990); see also Hodges v. United States, 597 F.2d 1014, 1018 (5th Cir. 1979).

Dismissal Under 12(b)(6)

A district court's Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is reviewed de novo, taking as true all allegations in the complaint, and drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom in the opponent's favor. Olkey v. Hyperion 1999 Term Trust, Inc., 98 F.3d 2, 4-5 (2d Cir. 1996); (Sistrunk v. City of Strongville, 99 F.3d 194, 197 (6th Cir. 1996); Bower v. Federal Express Corp., 96 F.3d 200, 203 (6th Cir. 1996). Dismissal may be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Ang v. Proctor & Gamble Co., 932 F.2d 540, 544 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 45-46 (1957)). The complaint must be read in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all factual allegations accepted as true. Sistrunk, 99 F.3d at 197; Cline v. Rogers, 87 F.3d 176, 179 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 117 S.Ct. 510 (1996).

Exclusion of Expert Testimony

Exclusion of expert testimony under Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 702 is within the traditional discretion of the trial court. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592-93, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 113 S. Ct. 2786 (1993), Such rulings are typically reviewed only for an abuse of discretion which amounts to manifest error. See Boyd v. State Farm Ins. Cos., 158 F.3d 326, 331 (5th Cir. 1998) ("With respect to expert testimony offered in the summary judgment context, the trial court has broad discretion to rule on the admissibility of the expert's evidence and its ruling must be sustained unless manifestly erroneous") See also, General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 118 S. Ct. 512, 517, 139 L. Ed. 2d 508 (1997) ("The question of admissibility of expert testimony is not . . . an issue of fact, and is reviewable under the abuse of discretion standard");

Grant of Summary Judgment

A district court's order granting summary judgment is reviewed de novo. See Terry Barr Sales Agency, Inc. v. All-Lock Co., 96 F.3d 174, 178 (6th Cir. 1996); Smith v. Ameritech, 129 F.3d 857, 863 (6th Cir. 1997); Hale v. Tallapoosa County, 50 F.3d 1579, 1581 (11th Cir. 1995); Webb v. Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates, 137 F.3d 264, 267 (5th Cir. 1998). For summary judgment to be granted, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, [must] show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "If the facts in a case are undisputed, one of the parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Niecko v. Emro Marketing Co., 973 F.2d 1296, 1304 (6th Cir. 1992).

Jury Instructions

A district court's decision concerning jury instructions in reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. See Stuart Park Assoc. Ltd. Partnership v. AmeritechPension Trust, 51 F.3d 1319, 1323 (7th Cir. 1995) ("The crafting of jury instructions is largely a matter within the district court's discretion.").On a motion for a new trial based on improper instructions to the jury, the appellate court asks "whether the instructions, when considered in their entirety and not in isolation, were sufficient to inform the jury of the applicable law." DePaepe v.General Motors Corp., 33 F.3d 737, 743 (7th Cir. 1994), citing Patel v. Gayes, 984 F.2d 214, 218-19 (7th Cir. 1993).

Remand to State Court

A district court's decision to remand based on 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1447(c) is reviewed de novo. See United States v. Veal, 153 F.3d 1233, 1245 (11th Cir. 1998)..<

Subject Matter Jurisdiction Determination

The issue of whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction overPlaintiffs' complaint is a question of law subject to de
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