Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Nevada: For purposes of a fraudulent concealment claim, and for purposes of a consumer fraud claim under NRS 41.600, has a plaintiff suffered damages if the defendant’s fraudulent actions caused the plaintiff to purchase a product or service that the plaintiff would not otherwise have purchased, even if the product or service was not worth less than what the plaintiff paid? View "Leigh-Pink v. Rio Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the Commission's final rule prohibiting the manufacture and sale of any children's toy or child care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of any one of five phthalates.The Fifth Circuit held that EMCC has standing to bring its challenge to the Final Rule and the court has jurisdiction to review the Final Rule. The court also held that the Commission procedurally erred by not providing an adequate opportunity to comment on the rule and by failing to consider the costs of a portion of the rule. Having reviewed the record and the Final Rule, the court can discern the Commission's path for each of the six decisions at issue and held that its explanations are not "so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise." Because there is a serious possibility that CSPC will be able to remedy its failures, the court concluded that remand, rather than vacatur, was appropriate in this case. View "Texas Association of Manufacturers v. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim under the Fair Debt Practices Act. Plaintiff filed suit after a debt collector spoke with plaintiff's sister over the phone, alleging that the debt collector violated the Act's prohibition on communicating with third parties about a consumer's debt. However, the court concluded that the conversation between plaintiff's sister and the debt collector was not a "communication" as defined by the statute. In this case, even taking the pleaded facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the conversation between the debt collector's representative and plaintiff's sister did not convey any information regarding a debt, either directly or indirectly. Rather, the representative mentioned "an important personal business matter," which does not even suggest the existence of a debt, much less provide information about it. View "Fontana v. HOVG LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, popularly known as the lemon law, alleging claims related to defects with her car's throttle body connector. In this case, the trial court gave the jury a special instruction, at the request of plaintiff and over defendant's objection, that if a defect existed within the warranty period, the warranty would not expire until the defect had been fixed.The Court of Appeal concluded that the special instruction misstated the law and conflicted with another instruction given to the jury, CACI No. 3231, which correctly explains the continuation of warranties during repairs. Therefore, the trial court erred in giving the special instruction, and the error was prejudicial. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. However, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting a nonsuit on plaintiff's cause of action for breach of implied warranty. The court concluded that, under the lemon law, only distributors and retail sellers, not manufacturers, are liable for breach of implied warranties in the sale of a used car where, as here, the manufacturer did not offer the used car for sale to the public. Finally, the court reversed the attorney fee award to plaintiff. View "Nunez v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court refusing to enforce arbitration agreements between NC Financial Solutions of Utah, LLC (NCFS-Utah) and the individual consumers who were affected by alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA), Va. Code 59.1-196-59.1-207, holding that the circuit court did not err.The Attorney General, acting on behalf of the Commonwealth, filed this action against NCFS-Utah to enforce the provisions of the VCPA. The complaint requested injunctive relief, civil penalties, and awards of attorney's fees, costs, and reasonable expenses. NCFS-Utah filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the individual Virginia consumers had agreed to arbitrate any disputes arising from the loans at issue. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the Commonwealth was not bound by the arbitration agreements between NCFS-Utah and the Virginia consumers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that sections 59.1-203 and 59.1-205, read together, implicitly authorize the Attorney General to request a restitution award when pursuing a VCPA enforcement action on behalf of the Commonwealth. View "NC Financial Solutions of Utah, LLC v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In 2005-2006, GM changed the dashboard used for GMT900 model cars from a multi-piece design to a single-piece design, which made the dashboard prone to cracking in two places. Plaintiffs, from 25 states, alleged that GMT900 vehicles produced in 2007-2014 contained a faulty, dangerous dashboard and that GM knew of the defective dashboards before GTM900 vehicles hit the market. The complaint contained no allegation that any of the plaintiffs have been hurt by the allegedly defective dashboards. The complaint, filed on behalf of a nationwide class, alleged fraudulent concealment, unjust enrichment, and violations of state consumer protection statutes and the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. At worst, Plaintiffs suffered only cosmetic damage and a potential reduced resale value from owning cars with cracked dashboards. Although the plaintiffs claimed that routine testing, customer complaints, and increased warranty claims alerted GM to the defective dashboards and accompanying danger, that is not enough to survive a motion to dismiss without specifics about how and when GM learned about the defect and its hazards, and concealed the allegedly dangerous defect from consumers. Even accepting that GM produced defective vehicles, under the common legal principles of the several states, the plaintiffs must show that GM had sufficient knowledge of the harmful defect to render its sales fraudulent. View "Smith v. General Motors LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Federal Trade Commission's "single document rule," promulgated under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301-2312, does not require the disclosure of a binding arbitration agreement.Petitioner bought a truck from Respondent. The parties' retail purchase order included a binding arbitration agreement for any dispute related to the truck's purchase. Petitioner eventually filed suit under the Act, and Respondent successfully moved to compel arbitration. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because it was not disclosed in a single document with other warranty terms, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) single document rule. The Fifth District affirmed, holding that a binding arbitration agreement is not an item covered by the single document rule's disclosure requirements. The Supreme Court approved the Fifth District's decision, holding that the existence of a binding arbitration agreement is not among the disclosures required by the FTC's single document rule. View "Krol v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Gary and Mary Gregg sought the expertise of Robert Kovalchik, a financial advisor and insurance salesperson for Ameriprise Financial, Inc. Engaging in what the trial court concluded was deceptive sales practices, Kovalchik made material misrepresentations to the Greggs to induce them to buy certain insurance policies. The Greggs ultimately sued Ameriprise Financial, Inc., Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., Riversource Life Ins. Co., and Kovalchik (collectively, Ameriprise) under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“CPL”). The Greggs’ complaint also asserted, inter alia, common law claims for negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent misrepresentation. The case proceeded to a jury trial on the common law claims, resulting in a defense verdict. The CPL claim proceeded to a bench trial. After the trial court ruled in favor of the Greggs on that CPL claim, Ameriprise filed a motion for post-trial relief arguing (among other points) that the Greggs failed to establish that Kovalchik’s misrepresentations were, at the very least, negligent, a finding that Ameriprise asserted was required to establish deceptive conduct under the CPL. The trial court denied relief, and the Superior Court affirmed. Like the trial court, the Superior Court concluded that the Greggs were not required to prevail on the common law claims of fraudulent misrepresentation or negligent misrepresentation in order to succeed on their CPL claim. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review centered on whether, as the Superior Court held, a strict liability standard applied to the Greggs’ CPL claim. The Court determined the relevant statutory provision lead it to conclude deceptive conduct under the CPL was not dependent in any respect upon proof of the actor’s state of mind. "The Superior Court’s holding is consistent not only with the plain language of the CPL, but also with our precedent holding that the CPL is a remedial statute that should be construed broadly in order to comport with the legislative will to eradicate unscrupulous business practices." View "Gregg v. Ameriprise Financial, et al." on Justia Law

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In this appeal and cross-appeal stemming from litigation that followed the termination of an almost forty-year business relationship between a company that manufactured and supplied soup base products (Manufacturer) and a company that distributed them (Distributor), the First Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part Distributor's appeal and affirmed in Manufacturer's cross appeal, holding that the district court erred in part.Following a trial, the jury awarded Distributor $255,000 in damages for its state law breach of contract and tortious interference with business relationships claims against Manufacturer. The district court granted summary judgment to Manufacturer on Distributor's claim against it under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A and to Manufacturer on its counterclaim for breach of contract, for which the court awarded Manufacturer $97,843 in damages. The First Circuit held that the district court (1) erred in granting summary judgment on the Chapter 93A claim; (2) erred in striking as duplicative the jury's damages award on Distributor's breach of contract claim; (3) erred in denying Distributor prejudgment interest on the damages award it received on the tortious interference with business relations claim; and (4) erred in denying Distributor's offset request. View "Primarque Products Co. v. Williams West & Witt's Products Co." on Justia Law

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In a putative class action, plaintiffs Joe Maldonado, Alfredo Mendez, J. Peter Tuma, Jonabette Michelle Tuma, and Roberto Mateos Salmeron (collectively referred to as “the Customers”), claimed Fast Auto Loans, Inc., (Lender) charged unconscionable interest rates on loans in violation of California Financial Code sections 22302 and 22303. Lender filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay the action pursuant to an arbitration clause contained within the Customers’ loan agreements. The court denied the motion on the grounds the provision was invalid and unenforceable because it required consumers to waive their right to pursue public injunctive relief, a rule described in McGill v. Citibank, N.A., 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017). On appeal, Lender argued the “McGill Rule” did not apply, but even if it did, other claims were subject to arbitration. Alternatively, Lender contended the McGill Rule was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act . Finding Lender’s contentions on appeal lacked merit, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order. View "Maldonado v. Fast Auto Loans" on Justia Law