Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs Automated Transactions, LLC (ATL) and David Barcelou, appealed a superior court order dismissing their defamation and New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA) claims against the defendants, American Bankers Association (ABA), Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Robert Stier, and Pierce Atwood, LLP. Plaintiffs argued the trial court erred because it could not determine, at the motion to dismiss stage, that the statements upon which plaintiffs premised the defendants’ liability were nonactionable. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court judgment. View "Automated Transactions, LLC v. American Bankers Assn." on Justia Law

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Appellants Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC and Icon Legacy Transport, LLC challenged a series of trial court orders in favor of appellees Dagney Trevor, Merusi Builders, Inc., Osborne Construction, LLC, and Paul Osborne. This appeal arose from the sale and construction of a new modular home that suffered from significant deficiencies. Trevor purchased the modular home; Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC (Icon Legacy) and Icon Legacy Transport, LLC (Icon Transport) manufactured and transported the home; Osborne Construction, LLC (Osborne Construction) and Paul Osborne (Osborne) were collectively the contractor involved in the assembly the home; Merusi Builders, Inc. (Merusi) was a subcontractor involved in the assembly of the home. Though not parties to this appeal, Vermont Modular Homes, Inc., David Curtis, and Blane Bovier were Icon’s Vermont-based “approved builders” and three of the defendants in the suit below. In 2015, Trevor purchased an Icon Legacy Custom Modular Home as a replacement to one she lost to fire. The home sustained significant water damage during a rainstorm when water entered the home before the roof installation was complete. Other structural defects emerged after Trevor moved into the home. Although Icon and Vermont Modular Homes repaired some of the damage, major defects relating to both the water damage and alleged improper construction remained in the home. Ultimately judgement was entered against Icon. Icon appealed, arguing multiple errors leading to the outcome against it. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed as to the trial court's thirty-percent upward adjustment of the lodestar damages calculation, and remanded for the trial court to strike that amount from Trevor's attorney fee award. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Trevor v. Icon Legacy Custom Modular Homes, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Chase in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging claims under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). In a prior appeal, the panel held that plaintiff gave proper, timely notice of rescission and vacated the district court's judgment, remanding for further proceedings. On remand. the district court granted summary judgment on a different ground, holding that plaintiff had no right of rescission. The panel held that the district court properly considered defendants' new argument on remand and properly granted summary judgment, because plaintiff obtained the mortgage in order to reacquire a residential property in which his prior ownership interest had been extinguished. Therefore, the right of rescission did not apply. View "Barnes v. Chase Home Finance, LLC" on Justia Law

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DiNaples fell behind on her Chase credit card payments. Chase assigned her account to MRS, a debt collection agency, which sent DiNaples a collection letter as a pressure sealed envelope that had a QR code printed on its face. The QR code can be scanned by a reader downloadable as a smartphone application to reveal the internal reference number associated with DiNaples’s account at MRS. DiNaples filed a class action lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692, which prohibits debt collectors from “[u]sing any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails.” The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment that MRS violated the FDCPA. A debt collector violates section 1692f(8) by placing on an envelope the consumer’s account number with the debt collector. There is no meaningful difference between displaying the account number itself and displaying a QR code — scannable “by any teenager with a smartphone app” — with the number embedded. The court rejected MRS’s contention that DiNaples had not “suffered a concrete injury,” explaining that DiNaples was injured by “the disclosure of confidential information,” and rejected MRS’s assertion of the FDCPA’s “bona fide error defense.” View "Dinaples v. MRS BPO LLC" on Justia Law

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Attorney Kohn, on behalf of Unifund, filed suit against Burton in Brown County, Wisconsin for failure to make payments on a Citibank credit agreement. In his answer, Burton stated, “I have never had any association with Unifund ... and do not know who you are or what you are talking about, so I strongly dispute this debt.” He asserted counterclaims, alleging that his personal information had been compromised; that Unifund had failed to provide him notice of his right to cure the default before filing suit; and that there was a “Lack of Privity” because he “ha[d] never entered into any contractual or debtor/creditor arrangements” with Unifund. While that action was pending, Burton sued in federal district court, citing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692p, and the Wisconsin Consumer Act (WCA). The state court dismissed Kohn’s action against Burton on the basis of Burton’s denial that he was the individual who had incurred the underlying debt. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of Kohn and Unifund, finding that the FDCPA or WCA claims could not proceed because Burton failed to present sufficient evidence that the debt incurred on the Citibank account was for personal, family, or household purposes and therefore a “consumer debt.” View "Burton v. Kohn Law Firm, S.C." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this putative class action alleging a violation of Massachusetts' consumer protection laws for failure to meet the heightened pleading standard of Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b), holding that Plaintiff's complaint stated a plausible claim for relief. Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant New England Coffee Company, operating as a subsidiary of Reily Foods Company, alleging that she purchased Defendant's "Hazelnut Creme" coffee because she thought that the coffee contained hazelnut. When she discovered that the coffee contained no hazelnut, Plaintiff brought a putative class action arguing that the coffee's labeling violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 98A, 2(a). The district court concluded that the complaint failed to pass muster under the relevant pleading standard. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the complaint's allegations made it plausible that a fact-finder could reasonably regard the label as having the capacity to mislead; and (2) Plaintiff's claim under chapter 93A was not impliedly preempted by federal law. View "Dumont v. Reily Foods Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-borrowers Thaddeus Potocki and Kelly Davenport sued Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and several other defendants (collectively, “Wells Fargo”) arising out of plaintiffs’ attempts to get a loan modification. The trial court sustained Wells Fargo’s demurrer to the third amended complaint without leave to amend. On appeal, plaintiffs argued: (1) a forbearance agreement obligated Wells Fargo to modify their loan; (2) the trial court erred in finding Wells Fargo owed no duty of care; (3) Wells Fargo’s denial of a loan modification was not sufficiently detailed to satisfy Civil Code section 2923.61; and (4) a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was sufficiently pled. The Court of Appeal determined plaintiffs’ third contention had merit, and reversed judgment of dismissal, vacated the order sustaining the demurrer insofar as it dismissed the claim for a violation of section 2923.6, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Potocki v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Debt collector Med-1 attempted to recover unpaid medical bills from Lavallee. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act required Med-1 to disclose certain information to Lavallee, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a), by including the required information in its “initial communication” with Lavallee or by sending “a written notice containing” the disclosures within five days after that “initial communication.” In March and April, Med-1 sent Lavallee two emails, one for each debt. The emails contained hyperlinks to a Med-1’s web server; a visitor had to click through multiple screens to access and download a .pdf document containing the required disclosures. Lavallee never opened those emails. When the hospital called her to discuss a different medical debt, she learned about the earlier debts and was told that they had been referred to Med-1. She called Med-1, but Med-1 did not provide the required disclosures. Nor did it send a written notice within the next five days. Lavallee sued Med-1. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lavallee, rejecting Med-1’s contention that its emails were initial communications that contained the required disclosures. The emails do not qualify as “communication” because they did not “convey[] … information regarding a debt” and did not “contain” the mandated disclosures. At most the emails provided a means to access the disclosures via a multistep online process. View "Lavallee v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging two counts under the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act, Minn. Stat. 325F.69, holding that a person who is targeted by a fraudulent demand and consequently pays an attorney to investigate his liability in response to that demand has been "injured" within the meaning of the private attorney general statute, Minn. Stat. 8.31, subd. 3a. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant engaged in a practice of fraud by sending unlawful demand letters and that he suffered an injury by having to hire an attorney to respond to Defendant's fraudulent demands. The district court dismissed the counts based on violations of the Consumer Fraud Act for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead that he was injured by Defendant's purported violation of the Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant's alleged violations of the Act caused him a pecuniary loss in the form of hiring an attorney to investigate and resolve the fraud, and therefore, Plaintiff alleged an injury sufficient to plead a cause of action under the private attorney general statute. View "Engstrom v. Whitebirch, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Rodenburg Law Firm appealed a judgment dismissing its action against Kathy Sira, Mikhail Usher, and the Usher Law Group, P.C., for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and exemplary damages. Sira initiated a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) action against Rodenburg in New Jersey federal court, alleging Rodenburg, a North Dakota law firm, engaged in harassment and abusive debt collection tactics and violated 15 U.S.C. 1692 et. seq. Sira’s action was ultimately dismissed by agreement of the parties. After the dismissal of Sira’s action, Rodenburg sued Sira and her attorney, Usher and the Usher Law Group, in this action, alleging malicious prosecution. Rodenburg subsequently amended its complaint to include claims for abuse of process and exemplary damages. After a bench trial, the district court dismissed Rodenburg’s claims. The court found Sira lived in New Jersey, her allegations in the federal FDCPA action stated a claim for relief, and her allegations were based on reasonable trustworthy information made after a reasonable inquiry under the circumstances. The court found Sira’s lawsuit was not for an improper purpose and was not an abuse of process. The court also found her lawsuit was not a malicious prosecution because there was probable cause for the action and there was no malice. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in dismissing Rodenburg’s claims for abuse of process and malicious prosecution. View "Rodenburg Law Firm v. Sira, et al." on Justia Law