Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
Fox v. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC
Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and individually, filed a class action alleging that the Ritz-Carlton violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and Florida's tax regulations. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from allegations that he and others paid illegal automatic gratuities and sales taxes at Ritz-Carlton’s forty-nine restaurants in Florida over the last four years. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on lack of standing. The district court also dismissed the tax refund claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the tax refund claim based on exhaustion grounds. However, the court held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiff did not have standing to represent the class because he only paid the illegal automatic gratuity at three of Ritz-Carlton's restaurants. The court agreed with plaintiff that the class complaint alleged in good faith that the amount-in-controversy for the hundreds of thousands of Ritz-Carlton guests in Florida that unlawfully paid an automatic gratuity over the last four years exceeded $5 million. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fox v. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC" on Justia Law
Sieg v. Fogt
The California Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) sought revocation or suspension of Sieg’s contractor’s license and restitution. The Accusation alleged that Sieg failed to follow spacing and fastening requirements when installing a hardwood floor, departing from trade standards in violation of Business & Professions Code 7109(a), and failed to complete a construction project for the agreed contract price in violation of section 7113. Sieg filed a Defense and filed a civil lawsuit against the homeowners, which was subsequently dismissed. After a hearing, the ALJ issued a proposed decision recommending a 65-day suspension and a three-year probation term including payment of $27,884.21 restitution. The Registrar adopted the ALJ’s proposed decision but eliminated the 65-day suspension term and required Sieg to obtain a disciplinary bond of $30,000.00 (section 7071.8), for three years.The trial court denied Sief relief. The court of appeal affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting a due process claim. Sieg had the opportunity to cross-examine each of the CSLB’s witnesses, to present witnesses of his own, and to testify on his own behalf. The court noted that private agreements to depart from statutorily imposed workmanship standards provide no defense to an alleged violation of section 7109(a), in disciplinary enforcement proceedings. View "Sieg v. Fogt" on Justia Law
Norman et al. v. Xytex Corp., et al.
Wendy and Janet Norman alleged that Xytex Corporation, a sperm bank, sold them human sperm under false pretenses about the characteristics of its donor, and that the child conceived with that sperm once born suffered from a variety of impairments inherited from the sperm donor. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all but one of the Normans’ claims on the basis of Etkind v. Suarez, 519 SE2d 210 (1999), and Atlanta Obstetrics & Gynecology Group v. Abelson, 398 SE2d 557 (1990). The Georgia Supreme Court granted review, and held that claims arising from the very existence of the child were barred, but claims arising from specific impairments caused or exacerbated by defendants’ alleged wrongs could proceed, as could other claims that essentially amounted to ordinary consumer fraud. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Norman et al. v. Xytex Corp., et al." on Justia Law
Young v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
Duane Young bought a new 2014 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck with a limited package of additional features from a dealership in Burlington, Washington. Young paid about $36,000 for the truck. At the time Young was researching his purchase, the Toyota website, Toyota’s advertising and the "Monroney label" incorrectly asserted that the vehicle had an outside temperature display on the rearview mirror along with some other displays. Some of the displays had been moved to the dashboard, but the outside temperature display was no longer available. A Toyota Tacoma truck with the colors and features Young wanted was not available in Eugene, Oregon, where he lived. Young called dealerships in Washington and Oregon until he found what he wanted in Burlington. He negotiated the purchase over the phone, paid a deposit, and, on October 30, 2013, flew to Burlington to pick up his truck. Shortly before Young flew to Burlington, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (Toyota) realized that its advertising was incorrect and that some 2014 Toyota Tacoma trucks had been shipped with an incorrect Monroney label. Before the error was corrected, 147 vehicles, including three in Washington State, were sold with the representation that they had the enhanced rearview mirror with the temperature display when they did not. After realizing its mistake, Toyota offered $100 compensation to each consumer who had purchased a truck without the advertised feature. Young declined that offer and several others, including an offer to replace the display with aftermarket equipment. After the parties were unable to negotiate a satisfactory resolution, Young brought a CPA suit against Toyota, and after a two day bench trial, judgment was rendered in Toyota's favor. The judge concluded Young had failed to prove the first element of his CPA claim because he had not shown Toyota’s false statements of fact about the vehicle had the capacity to deceive a substantial portion of the public. The judge also found, among other things, that Young had failed to prove public interest; causation; injury; or that Toyota had violated the automobile dealers practices act. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Young v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A." on Justia Law
Mejia v. DACM Inc.
In May 2017, plaintiff Joseph Mejia bought a used motorcycle from Defendant DACM, Inc. (Del Amo) for $5,500. Mejia paid $500 cash and financed the remainder of the purchase price with a WebBank-issued Yamaha credit card he obtained through the dealership purchasing the motorcycle. In applying for the credit card, Mejia signed a credit application acknowledging he had received and read WebBank’s Yamaha Credit Card Account Customer Agreement (the credit card agreement), which contained an arbitration provision. Sometime after his purchase, Mejia filed a complaint against Del Amo on behalf of himself and other similarly situated consumers alleging Del Amo “has violated and continues to violate” the Rees-Levering Automobile Sales Finance Act by failing to provide its customers with a single document setting forth all the financing terms for motor vehicle purchases made with a conditional sale contract. The trial court denied Del Amo’s petition to compel arbitration, finding the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill v. Citibank, N.A., 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017) because it barred the customer from pursuing “in any forum” his claim for a public injunction to stop Del Amo’s allegedly illegal practices. Del Amo contended the trial court erred in ruling the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill, arguing: (1) McGill did not apply because, due to a choice-of-law provision in the contract, Utah law rather than California law governed the dispute; (2) if California law applied, the arbitration provision “does not run afoul of McGill” because Mejia did not seek a public injunction; (3) the arbitration clause was not unenforceable under McGill because the provision did not prevent a plaintiff from seeking public injunctive relief in all fora; and (4) if the arbitration provision was unenforceable under McGill, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted McGill and required enforcement of the clause. The Court of Appeal found no merit to any of Del Amo's contentions and affirmed the district court's order. View "Mejia v. DACM Inc." on Justia Law
Murray v. UPS Capital Ins. Agency, Inc.
David Murray purchased used computer equipment worth nearly $40,000, which was damaged by the United Postal Service (UPS) while it was being transported from California to Texas. Murray believed he purchased appropriate insurance to cover this loss, but the insurance company denied his claim. Murray sued his insurance broker, UPS Capital Insurance Agency (UPS Capital), for breach of contract and negligence, claiming UPS Capital owed him a special duty to make the insurance policy language understandable to an ordinary person and to explain the scope of coverage. The court granted UPS Capital’s motion for summary judgment after concluding there was no heightened duty of care and dismissed Murray’s lawsuit. On appeal, Murray asked the Court of Appeal to create a new rule that brokers/agents, specializing in a specific field of insurance, hold themselves out as experts, and are subject to a heightened duty of care towards clients seeking that particular kind of insurance. While the Court declined the invitation to create a per se rule, it concluded Murray raised triable issues of fact as to whether UPS Capital undertook a special duty by holding itself out as having expertise in inland marine insurance, and Murray reasonably relied on its expertise. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of dismissal and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Murray v. UPS Capital Ins. Agency, Inc." on Justia Law
Mayron v. Google LLC
California’s automatic renewal law, Bus. & Prof. Code 17600, requires a consumer’s affirmative consent to any subscription agreement automatically renewed for a new term when the initial term ends and requires “clear and conspicuous” disclosure of the offer terms, and an “easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation.” Mayron sued Google on behalf of a putative class, alleging that Google’s subscription data storage plan violates the automatic renewal law: “Google Drive” allows users (those registered for a Google account) to remotely store electronic data that can be accessed from any computer, smartphone, or similar device. There is no charge for 15 gigabytes of storage capacity. For a $1.99 monthly fee, users can upgrade to 100 gigabytes of storage. Plaintiff alleged Google did not provide the required clear and conspicuous disclosures nor obtain his affirmative consent to commence a recurring monthly subscription agreement and did not adequately explain how to cancel, and alleged unfair competition, Bus. & Prof. Code 17200.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. There is no private right of action for violation of the automatic renewal law and, because Mayron has not alleged an injury caused by Google’s conduct, he has no standing to sue under the unfair competition statute. View "Mayron v. Google LLC" on Justia Law
Dane v. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), of plaintiff's amended complaint alleging that defendants violated Connecticut and District of Columbia law in entering into a licensing agreement with respect to a group plan for Medicare supplement insurance. Plaintiff claimed that defendants' royalty fee arrangement constituted an unlawful "premium rebate" in violation of Connecticut and District of Columbia anti-rebating insurance laws.The court held that plaintiff did not state an unlawful rebate claim under Connecticut or D.C. law because he failed to plausibly allege any ascertainable loss or injury as a result of his purchase of Medicare supplement insurance ("Medigap") or the AARP royalty fee. Likewise, the court held that plaintiff failed to plausibly allege a cognizable claim based on his purchase of Medigap insurance through the AARP-UnitedHealthcare plan. In regard to plaintiff's consumer protection claims, he failed to show any concrete and particularized injury because he paid only the regulator-approved rate and received the Medigap insurance he contracted for. Finally, plaintiff failed to plausibly allege the requisite elements for his remaining common law claims and his statutory theft claim under Connecticut law. View "Dane v. UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Hammer v. Equifax Information Services, LLC
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Equifax and Experian under the Fair Credit Reporting Act after the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) deleted a favorable credit item from his credit report and refused to restore it. The court held that plaintiff's 15 U.S.C. 1681e(b) claim fails where this provision does not hold a CRA strictly liable for all inaccuracies, Rather, the adequacy of a CRA's procedures is judged according to what a reasonably prudent person would do under the circumstances. In this case, the omission of a single credit item does not render a report inaccurate or misleading, and plaintiff has not alleged that the CRAs violated their stated disclosure policies or maintained an undisclosed policy of deleting certain favorable items.The court also held that plaintiff's section 1681i(a) claim fails because plaintiff disputed the completeness of his credit report, not of an item in that report. Therefore, plaintiff did not trigger the CRA's section 1681i(a) obligation to investigate. Finally, plaintiff's section 1681i(a)(5)(B)(ii) claim fails because Equifax had no duty to notify plaintiff where Equifax had not removed the credit item, and amending the pleading would be futile. View "Hammer v. Equifax Information Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Domante v. Dish Networks, LLC
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Dish Networks in plaintiff's action for breach of contract and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff alleges that Dish negligently and willfully violated the FCRA by requesting and obtaining a consumer report from a consumer reporting agency after an identity thief fraudulently submitted some of plaintiff's personal information to Dish. Plaintiff also alleges that Dish's actions violated a settlement agreement that the parties signed after a similar incident occurred several years ago involving the same parties.The court held that Dish had a "legitimate business purpose" under the FCRA when it obtained plaintiff's consumer report. The court also held that Dish did not violate the settlement agreement where the district court correctly found that plaintiff's claim failed to establish the breach element. View "Domante v. Dish Networks, LLC" on Justia Law