Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
BRANDON BRISKIN V. SHOPIFY, INC., ET AL
Plaintiff is a resident of California. While present in California, Plaintiff used his iPhone’s Safari browser to navigate to the website of California-based retailer IABMFG to purchase fitness apparel. Although Plaintiff claims he did not know it at the time, IABMFG’s website used software and code from Shopify, Inc. to process customer orders and payments. Shopify, Inc. is a Canadian corporation with its headquarters in Ottawa, Canada. Plaintiff filed a putative class action lawsuit in California alleging that Shopify violated various California privacy and unfair competition laws because it deliberately concealed its involvement in consumer transactions. The district court agreed, dismissing the second amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff timely appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. For specific jurisdiction to exist over Shopify, Plaintiff’s claim must arise out of or relate to Shopify’s forum-related activities. The panel held that there was no causal relationship between Shopify’s broader business contacts in California and Plaintiff’s claims because these contacts did not cause Plaintiff’s harm. Nor did Plaintiff’s claims “relate to” Shopify’s broader business activities in California outside of its extraction and retention of plaintiff’s data. Because there was an insufficient relationship between plaintiff's claims and Shopify’s broader business contacts in California, the activities relevant to the specific jurisdiction analysis were those that caused Plaintiff’s injuries: Shopify’s collection, retention, and use of consumer data obtained from persons who made online purchases while in California. The panel held that Shopify, which provides nationwide web-based payment processing services to online merchants, did not expressly aim its conduct toward California. View "BRANDON BRISKIN V. SHOPIFY, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Jill Hennessey v. The Gap, Inc.
Plaintiff, a retail customer, brought a putative class action under the Class Action Fairness Act against clothing retailers The Gap, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Old Navy, LLC (“Defendants”). Plaintiff alleged that she purchased numerous products at Old Navy stores and online at discount prices that were deceptively advertised because Defendants did not sell a substantial quantity of these products at the advertised “regular” prices prior to selling them at the advertised “sale” prices. She sought class-wide compensatory damages under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”). The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint with prejudice, Plaintiff appealed, arguing that she plausibly pleaded ascertainable loss under Missouri’s benefit-of-the-bargain rule. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court’s decision to “join a growing number of courts in finding that complaints based solely on a plaintiff’s disappointment over not receiving an advertised discount at the time of purchase have not suffered an ascertainable loss.” Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint also alleged that the actual fair market value of some of the products she purchased “may have even been less than the discounted prices that she paid.” This theory of ascertainable loss does not depend on Defendants’ comparison pricing for the value represented component of the benefit-of-the-bargain rule. Plausible allegations of such immediate injury would satisfy an MMPA plaintiff’s burden to show an ascertainable loss. However, these allegations are based solely on information and belief, which are generally insufficient under Rule 9(b). View "Jill Hennessey v. The Gap, Inc." on Justia Law
Omar Santos, et al v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
Plaintiffs s filed a class action complaint and sought to represent a class of individuals whose Healthcare Revenue tradelines had been wrongly “re-aged” by Experian. They alleged that Experian “willfully” violated its obligation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to “follow reasonable procedures” to ensure consumer credit reports were prepared with “maximum possible accuracy” when it allowed credit reports to reflect allegedly inaccurate status dates. The district court denied Experian’s summary judgment motion. After the close of discovery, Plaintiffs moved to certify a class of all consumers “whose Experian credit reports had an account or accounts reported by [Healthcare Revenue] with an inaccurately displayed Date of Status and were viewed by one or more third parties.” The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and denied class certification. Plaintiffs petitioned for permission to appeal the district court’s class certification order under Rule 23(f). The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the denial of Plaintiffs' motion for class certification was an abuse of discretion because the district court’s analysis of Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement was based on its contrary interpretation of the second option in section 1681n(a)(1)(A). The court wrote that a consumer alleging a willful violation of the Act doesn’t need to prove actual damages to recover “damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000.” While the parties raise other issues that may ultimately affect whether the class should be certified, the district court’s order denying class certification only relied on its interpretation of section 1681n(a)(1)(A) and didn’t address these other arguments. View "Omar Santos, et al v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Campbell v. Davidson
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants and denying relief in this class action, holding that the district court did not err.In 2014, over two-thirds of the members of the Try County Telephone Association, Inc., a Wyoming cooperative utility providing telecommunication services on a non-profit basis, voted to sell the Cooperative, including its for-profit subsidiaries, to entities owned by Neil Schlenker. Schlenker converted the Cooperative into a for-profit corporation (TCT). After the sale, Class Representatives filed a class action lawsuit against TCT, Schlenker and his entities, and others, alleging fraud conversion and other claims and requesting that the sale be set aside. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did nor err in granting summary judgment on all claims. View "Campbell v. Davidson" on Justia Law
Nabozny v. Optio Solutions LLC
Nabozny received a letter at her Wisconsin home, offering to settle an unpaid credit-card debt. The letter summarized basic information about her debt: the creditor, the outstanding balance, the account number, and her name and address. The letter was from Optio under its operating name of Qualia, but it was printed and mailed by RevSpring, a third-party printing and mail vendor. Nabozny did not give Optio consent to share the information about her debt with RevSpring.Nabozny filed a purported class action, alleging that Optio’s communication with RevSpring violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, which provides that “a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer” without the consumer’s consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Nabozny’s suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Nabozny lacks standing to sue because she “suffered no concrete injury.” The court noted recent decisions in other circuits that sharing a debtor’s data with a third-party mail vendor to populate and send a form collection letter “causes no harm that our legal tradition recognizes as sufficient to support a suit in federal court under Article III of the Constitution.” View "Nabozny v. Optio Solutions LLC" on Justia Law
Huber v. Simons Agency Inc
Huber visited Crozer doctors on four separate occasions, incurring debts to Crozer of $178, $78, $83.50, and $178. Crozer's debt collection agency, SAI, sent a form collection letter, with an “Account Summary” that provided two figures: the specific debt SAI sought to collect, entitled “Amount,” and a second figure, entitled “Various Other Acc[oun]ts Total Balance.” The fourth such letter to Huber informed Huber that she owed an “Amount” of $178, while her “Various Other Accounts Total Balance” was $517.50. Huber testified that she was confused as to how much she owed in total: Was it $695.50 or $517.50. She consulted a financial advisor.Huber filed this putative class action, asserting a “false, deceptive, or misleading” means of collecting a debt and failure to disclose the “amount of the debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692. The district court held, on summary judgment, that there was no actionable failure to disclose but found the letters “misleading and deceptive,” and certified the class.The Third Circuit affirmed. Huber has standing, but not under the “informational injury doctrine.” Huber did not identify omitted information to which she has entitlement but the financial harm she suffered in reliance on the letter bears a “close relationship” to the harm associated with the tort of fraudulent misrepresentation. The court remanded for determination of whether any of the class members suffered any consequences beyond confusion. View "Huber v. Simons Agency Inc" on Justia Law
Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC
Debt collector Rent Recovery Solutions (“RRS”) called Plaintiff to collect an alleged $900 debt to her former landlord. In June, without sending the relevant documents to Plaintiff, RRS reported her debt to TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, failing to tell TransUnion that the debt was disputed. Plaintiff commenced this action against RRS, alleging that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Plaintiff requested an award of $18,810 in attorneys’ fees for work by two attorneys and a paralegal. RRS challenged the fees requested by both attorneys, who submitted sworn declarations and detailed billing records. The district court, applying the lodestar method of calculating an attorney fee award, found that the attorneys’ claimed hourly rates were reasonable, but the hours expended on the case were excessive. The court reduced the claimed attorney hours by fifty percent, exclusive of paralegal work, and awarded Plaintiff $9,480 in attorneys’ fees. Plaintiff’s attorneys accused the district court of departing from the lodestar calculation by imposing a “cap” that violates FDCPA policies and deprives counsel of full compensation for bringing consumer enforcement actions under this complex federal statute. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court followed the lodestar method, reducing the award based on its determination of the number of attorney hours reasonably expended on litigation. There is a “strong presumption” that the lodestar method represents a reasonable fee. The court wrote that the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in finding that fifty hours was unreasonable for such a claim. View "Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
Ingram v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
Ingram discovered a fraudulent Comcast account in his name for an address where he never lived. Ingram filed a direct dispute with Comcast, which requested several documents, including a notarized FTC fraud and identity theft affidavit. Ingram did not provide that affidavit. Comcast did not decide whether the account was opened fraudulently but referred it to Waypoint for collection. Waypoint then reported the delinquent account to the consumer reporting agency Experian. After the Waypoint account appeared on Ingram’s consumer report, Ingram challenged it in an indirect dispute with Experian, which forwarded notice of the dispute to Waypoint. Waypoint’s employee updated Ingram’s address and confirmed the account name and social security number, but did not further investigate. Waypoint continued to erroneously report that the Comcast account with a balance of $769. Ingram alleges that as a result, his credit score deteriorated and he was denied an apartment rental and loan application. Ingram filed suit under the Fair Credit Reporting and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Acts.The Third Circuit remanded for evaluation of whether Waypoint’s investigation into Ingram’s indirect dispute was reasonable. Furnishers may find that a direct dispute submitted by a consumer is frivolous, and consumer reporting agencies may find that an indirect dispute submitted by a consumer is frivolous but FCRA provides no such discretion to furnishers that receive an indirect dispute second-hand from a consumer reporting agency. View "Ingram v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Dzielak v. Whirlpool Corp
Since 1992, the Energy Star Program has set energy efficiency standards for categories of products and permitted approved products to bear the Energy Star logo. Three models of Whirlpool top-loading clothes washers were approved to display that logo and did so from 2009-2010. Under one method of measurement, those machines did not meet the Program’s energy- and water-efficiency standards; the washers did satisfy the Program’s standards under another measurement technique, which the Program previously endorsed. Program guidance from July 2010 disapproved of that method.Consumers in several states who had purchased those models commenced a putative class action against Whirlpool and retailers that sold those machines, alleging breach of express warranty and violations of state consumer protection statutes based on the allegedly wrongful display of the Energy Star logo. The district court certified a class action against Whirlpool but declined to certify a class against the retailers. At summary judgment, the court rejected all remaining claims.The Third Circuit affirmed, finding no genuine dispute of material fact. The plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the models were unfit for their intended purpose. A reasonable jury could not find that the retailer defendants were unjustly enriched from selling the washers. Without evidence of a false or misleading statement attributable to Whirlpool or the retailers, the state consumer protection claims failed. View "Dzielak v. Whirlpool Corp" on Justia Law
Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
il”) in Connecticut state court, alleging that Exxon Mobil had engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception to knowingly mislead and deceive Connecticut consumers about the negative climatological effects of the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil was marketing to those consumers. Based on these allegations, Connecticut asserted eight claims against Exxon Mobil, all under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Exxon Mobil removed the case to federal district court, invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, the federal-officer removal statute, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (the “OCSLA”), as well as on other bases no longer pressed in this appeal. The district court rejected each of Exxon Mobil’s theories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and thus remanded the case to state court. Exxon Mobil appealed. The Second Appellate affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained that there are only three exceptions to the “general rule” that “absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.” The court reasoned that Exxon Mobil cannot establish Grable jurisdiction simply by gesturing toward ways in which “this case” loosely “implicates” the same subject matter as “the federal common law of transboundary pollution.” The court wrote that because no federal issue is necessarily raised by any of Connecticut’s CUTPA claims, the Grable/Gunn exception from the well-pleaded complaint rule is inapplicable here. View "Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law