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Duane Morris Class Action Review - 2024: A Comprehensive Analysis of Class Action Litigation

January 9, 2024

Duane Morris Class Action Review - 2024: A Comprehensive Analysis of Class Action Litigation

January 9, 2024

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CHICAGO, January 9, 2024—Duane Morris LLP has released its Class Action Review 2024, an analysis of more than 1,300 class action decisions in the past year, examining all categories of class action litigation. This one-of-a-kind publication provides a comprehensive analysis of class action litigation trends and significant rulings and settlements from 2023 that will enable readers to make informed decisions when dealing with complex litigation risks in 2024.

“Duane Morris is excited to release our annual class action study, which is recognized in the legal industry as a comprehensive treatise and desk reference for business leaders, corporate counsel and human resources professionals,” said Duane Morris Chairman and CEO Matthew A. Taylor. “This flagship firm publication analyzes class action trends, decisions and settlements in all areas impacting corporate America and provides insights as to what companies and corporate counsel can expect in 2024, in terms of filings by the plaintiffs’ class action bar and court decisions on key Rule 23 issues.”

“Looking at the class action settlement numbers from the past year, it’s clear that last year’s unprecedented level of settlements was not a one-off phenomenon,” said Duane Morris partner Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., co-author of the review and chair of the firm’s workplace class action division. “We have entered a period of increased threats and heightened stakes in the valuation of class actions. The massive numbers will only work to further motivate the plaintiff’s bar in 2024 to increase filings and assert even more aggressive settlement positions.”

“Combined with the growing threat of the rise of privacy and data breach class actions, the resurgence of government enforcement lawsuits, the continued high rate of class certifications and the rise of AI as an aid to the plaintiffs’ bar in handling an even greater volume of cases, corporations are well served to take the compliance and risk mitigation steps necessary to protect themselves from this growing danger,” added Jennifer A. Riley, Duane Morris partner and co-author of the review. “We continue to publish this unique resource each year to help companies take those important steps.”

Since 2003, Maatman has been directing a yearly review of the class action landscape. A Chambers-recognized defense litigator, Maatman has defended some of the largest workplace class actions ever filed in the United States.

Among the 10 overarching trends in the class action area in 2023, the Duane Morris Class Action Review highlights four key takeaways for companies in 2024, including:

  1. Class Action Settlement Numbers Continue To Spike At Unprecedented Levels—In 2023, settlement numbers exceeded expectations for the second year in a row. The cumulative value of the top 10 settlements across all substantive areas of class action litigation hit near record highs, second only to the settlement numbers we observed in 2022. The combined numbers for 2022 and 2023 signal that we have entered a new era of heightened risks and higher stakes in the valuation of class actions. Reminiscent of the Big Tobacco settlements nearly two decades ago, 2022 and 2023 marked the most extensive set of billion-dollar class action settlements in the history of the American court system. Many of these settlements emanated outside of the products and pharmaceutical space, signaling a wider base and greater threat to businesses as settlements continue to redistribute wealth at a substantial rate. On an aggregate basis, class actions and government enforcement lawsuits garnered more than $50 billion in settlements in 2023, bringing the combined total for 2022 and 2023 to $113 billion. Corporations should expect such numbers to incentivize the plaintiffs’ class action bar to be equally if not more aggressive with their case filings and settlement positions in 2024.
  2. Data Breach Class Actions Continued Their Growth And Inconsistent Outcomes—The volume of data breach class actions exploded in 2023 and their unique challenges, including issues of standing and uninjured class members, continued to vex the courts, leading to inconsistent outcomes. Companies unfortunate enough to fall victim to data breaches in 2023 faced class actions at an increasing rate, including copy-cat and follow-on class actions across multiple jurisdictions, saddling companies with the significant costs of responding to the data breach as well as the costs of dealing with high-stakes class action lawsuits on multiple fronts. Plaintiffs bringing data breach class actions, however, continued to face hurdles associated with their ability to demonstrate an injury from the alleged data breach and, if they survived dismissal, with convincing courts to grant class certification. Indeed, less than 25% of the class certification decisions issued in data breach cases in 2023 came out in favor of plaintiffs.
  3. Generative AI Began Transforming Class Action Litigation—Generative AI hit the mainstream in 2023 and quickly become the most talked-about and debated subjects among corporate legal counsel across the country, as companies jumped to incorporate AI while managing its risks. In 2023, we saw the tip of the iceberg relative to the ways that generative AI is poised to transform class action litigation. As the COVID 19 pandemic brought video-conferencing tools into the mainstream, they enabled more litigants to conduct and to attend more hearings, more depositions and more mediations in less time. While the debate continues as to their effectiveness, generative AI is poised to enable lawyers to far surpass those gains in efficiency, potentially enabling the plaintiffs’ class action bar to do “more with less” like never before, which inevitably will lead to more lawsuits that can be handled by fewer lawyers in less time and a potential surge of class action lawsuits on the horizon. Less than a year into the generative AI movement, we have seen the technology influence various aspects of the legal process, including by assisting legal professionals in analyzing vast amounts of data, streamlining the discovery process; in automating the review of documents, contracts, and communications, increasing the speed and potentially enhancing the accuracy of e-discovery, assisting with class member communications, and automating the dissemination of information in the settlement administration process. 
  4. Government Enforcement Lawsuit Filings Reflected A Resurgence—In 2023, the EEOC’s litigation enforcement activity showed that its previous slowdown in filing activity is well in the rearview mirror, as the total number of lawsuits filed by the EEOC increased from 97 in 2022 to a whopping total of 144 in FY 2023. In accordance with tradition, the EEOC filed more lawsuits in September 2023, the last month of its fiscal year, than in any other month from October 2022 forward. The EEOC filed 67 lawsuits in September 2023, up from 39 filed in September 2022. Overall, the 2023 lawsuit filing data confirms that aggressive EEOC enforcement activity is back on the menu and the litigation filing machine is back in full throttle, with no signs of slowing down. Now that the EEOC has a majority of Democratic-appointed commissioners firmly in place, along with a significantly increased proposed budget, corporate America can expect to see a resurgence of enforcement activity in 2024.

At more than 650 pages, the Duane Morris Class Action Review is available in hard copy book format and as a fully searchable e-book. View the e-book here.

About Duane Morris

Duane Morris LLP provides innovative solutions to today’s multifaceted legal and business challenges through the collegial and collaborative culture of its more than 900 attorneys in offices across the United States and internationally. The firm represents a broad array of clients, spanning all major practices and industries. Duane Morris has been recognized by BTI Consulting as both a client service leader and a highly recommended law firm.