Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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The federally-recognized Native American Tribe (in California) started an online lending business, allegedly operated by non-tribal companies owned by non-tribal Defendants on non-tribal land. The Plaintiffs are Virginia consumers who received online loans from tribal lenders while living in Virginia. Although Virginia usury law generally prohibits interest rates over 12%, the interest rates on Plaintiffs’ loans ranged from 544% to 920%. The Plaintiffs each electronically signed a “loan agreement,” “governed by applicable tribal law,” and containing an “Arbitration Provision.” The borrowers defaulted and brought a putative class action against tribal officials and two non-members affiliated with the tribal lenders.The district court denied the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and motions to dismiss on the ground of tribal sovereign immunity except for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claim. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The choice-of-law clauses of this arbitration provision, which mandate exclusive application of tribal law during any arbitration, operate as prospective waivers that would require the arbitrator to determine whether the arbitration provision impermissibly waives federal substantive rights without recourse to federal substantive law. The arbitration provisions are unenforceable as violating public policy. Substantive state law applies to off-reservation conduct, and although the Tribe itself cannot be sued for its commercial activities, its members and officers can be. Citing Virginia’s interest in prohibiting usurious lending, the court refused to enforce the choice-of-law provision. RICO does not give private plaintiffs a right to injunctive relief. View "Hengle v. Treppa" on Justia Law

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The appellants were two of a group of plaintiffs who sued eBay and PayPal, challenging provisions in their respective user agreements. Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint alleged 23 causes of action, 13 against eBay, seven against PayPal, and three against both defendants. The trial court dismissed, without leave to amend, 20 of the causes of action, including 14 claims against eBay. Three causes of action proceeded: breach of contract against both defendants and violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing against eBay. More than three years later, the appellants opted out of the case against eBay, and voluntarily dismissed the two claims against it. Judgment of dismissal was entered against them.The appellants appealed, contending the trial court got it wrong as to 11 of the dismissed causes of action. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that this was the third appeal of the case. The trial court properly dismissed the claims and did not abuse its discretion in doing so without leave to amend. All of the alleged causes of action failed to state a claim. The court stated that “counsel for appellants has apparently been urging the same contentions for some nine years, all without success. This is enough.” View "George v. eBay, Inc." on Justia Law

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In her complaint, plaintiff Pamela Chambers alleged that she received a written communication from a debt collector contracted by Crown that failed to comply with the CFDBPA’s notice formatting requirement. She filed a putative class action lawsuit against Crown Asset Management, LLC. Crown moved to compel arbitration, relying on an affidavit from an employee of Chambers’s original creditor, Synchrony Bank (Synchrony), who stated in part that “Synchrony’s records” showed a credit card account agreement containing an arbitration clause was mailed to Chambers. Chambers objected to the affidavit on various evidentiary grounds. The trial court sustained the objections and denied Crown’s motion to compel arbitration. Crown appealed, contending the trial court erred by sustaining Chambers’s evidentiary objections and denying the motion to compel. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Chambers v. Crown Asset Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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Winn-Dixie sells Bacardi’s Bombay Gin in its stores. According to Bombay’s marketing and labeling, the gin contains ten “hand-selected botanicals from exotic locations around the world,” including “grains of paradise.” Marrache filed a class action under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) and for unjust enrichment, alleging that the inclusion of grains of paradise violated Florida Statute 562.455.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. FDUTPA’s safe harbor provision exempts acts or practices required or specifically permitted by federal law. Under the Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA had expressly identified grains of paradise as a substance “generally recognized as safe.” In addition, the complaint did not sufficiently allege any actual damages resulting from the purported unfair or deceptive act. Marrache’s amended complaint made no allegations of actual damages, but rather, alleged that he and the other class members were injured by purchasing an illegal product that he claimed was worthless. Marrache did not, however, allege that he could not or did not drink the gin, that he sought a refund of or complained about the Bombay, or that he suffered any side effect, health issue, or harm from the grains of paradise. View "Marrache v. Bacardi U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court sustaining Plaintiffs' administrative appeal and remanding this case to the Commissioner of Banking for further proceedings as to Plaintiffs' entitlement to tribal sovereign immunity in administrative proceedings, holding that the trial court erred in part.At issue was whether a business entity shared sovereign immunity with Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, a federally-recognized tribe. On appeal, Plaintiffs - Clear Creek Lending, Great Plains Lending, LLC, and John Shotton, chairman of the Tribe - claimed that the trial court improperly allocated the burden of proving entitlement to tribal sovereign immunity to Plaintiffs, improperly required proof of a functioning relationship between the entities and the tribe, and improperly failed to find Shotton immune in further administrative proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the entity claiming arm of the tribe status bears the burden of proving its entitlement to that status; (2) Great Plains was an arm of the tribe and Shotton was entitled to tribal sovereign immunity but not injunctive relief; and (3) there was insufficient evidence that Clear Creek was an arm of the tribe as a matter of law. View "Great Plains Lending, LLC v. Department of Banking" on Justia Law

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The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, implemented through the FDA, 21 U.S.C. 387a(b), 393(d)(2), prohibits manufacturers from selling any “new tobacco product” without authorization. The FDA’s 2016, “Deeming Rule” classified electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) as a “new tobacco product.” To avoid an overnight shutdown of the e-cigarette industry, the FDA delayed enforcement of the Deeming Rule then required e-cigarette makers to submit premarket tobacco applications (PMTAs). Originally, the FDA required that all PMTAs be filed by 2018. The FDA later extended the PMTA deadline to 2022 but then moved the deadline to 2020. Initially, the FDA’s guidance stated that “in general, FDA does not expect that applicants will need to conduct long-term studies to support an application” but later changed course and required long-term studies of e-cigarettes.Triton had e-cigarette products on the market before the Deeming Rule. Triton (and others) submitted PMTAs for flavored e-cigarettes. In August 2021, the FDA announced that it would deny the PMTAs for 55,000 flavored e-cigarettes, stating it “likely” needed evidence from long-term studies." Less than a week later, Triton submitted a letter stating that it intended to conduct long-term studies of its products. About two weeks later, the FDA issued Triton a marketing denial order. The Fifth Circuit granted a temporary administrative stay and, later, a full stay, “to prevent the FDA from shutting down Triton’s business” pending disposition of Triton’s petition. View "Wages and White Lion Investments, L.L.C. v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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The district court dismissed a putative class action challenge to ConAgra’s poultry labels and its website advertising, alleging that ConAgra falsely advertised its frozen chicken products as natural and preservative-free, when in fact they contain synthetic ingredients. The court found the claims preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), 21 U.S.C. 467e, under which the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) had approved ConAgra’s poultry labels.The Ninth Circuit reversed in part; the mere existence of the label was insufficient to establish that it was reviewed and approved by FSIS. Preemption is an affirmative defense, and when the parties dispute whether review occurred at all, the defendant must produce evidence that the label was reviewed and approved by FSIS. If the evidence on remand shows that ConAgra’s label was approved by FSIS, then the claims are preempted. The plaintiff may not assert that FSIS’s approval decision was wrong. ConAgra’s website representations were not reviewed by FSIS. The label and the website were not materially identical. A challenge to that part of the website’s representation that was materially different from the representations on the label is not preempted. The court rejected an argument under the primary jurisdiction doctrine, a prudential doctrine under which courts may determine that the initial decision-making responsibility should be performed by the relevant agency rather than the courts. View "Cohen v. ConAgra Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals answered in the affirmative two questions certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in this case involving New York's current usury laws.Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) a stock conversion option that permits a lender, in its sole discretion, to convert any outstanding balance to shares of stock at a fixed discount should be treated as interest for the purpose of determining whether the transaction violates the criminal usury law, N.Y. Penal Law 190.40; and (2) if the interest charged on a loan is determined to be criminal usurious under N.Y. Penal Law 190.40, the contract is void ab initio pursuant to N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law 5-511. View "Adar Bays, LLC v GeneSYS ID, Inc." on Justia Law

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Gray received emergency medical care at St. Mary Medical Center, owned and operated by Dignity Health. He received a bill that included an “ ‘ER LEVEL 2 W/PROCEDU’ ” charge. Gray claims Dignity’s failure to disclose, before providing emergency medical treatment, that its bill for emergency services would include such a charge—either by posting “signage in and around” the emergency department or “verbally during the patients’ registration process” —is an unfair business practice under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and unlawful under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA).The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Gray does not claim that by including an ER Charge in its billing, Dignity violated any of the extensive state and federal statutory and regulatory laws governing the disclosure of hospital billing information and the treatment of persons presenting for treatment at an emergency department. Nor does he take issue with the hospital’s “chargemaster” amount for the Level 2 ER Charge, which his medical insurance largely covered. View "Gray v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery adopted Verizon Communications Inc.'s proposal for the amount of security required for its indemnification claim relating to national consumer-oriented class actions, holding that Altaba, Inc. (the Company) shall reserve $400 million as security earmarked for that claim, inclusive of the $58.75 million that the Company had paid to fund its share of the settlement.The Company, formerly known as Yahoo! Inc., publicly disclosed massive data breaches only after selling its operating business to Verizon Communications Inc. The Company's customers filed a series of national customer class actions. The parties to the class actions subsequently reached a global settlement, which the federal district court approved. The Company then dissolved. Verizon possessed a contingent contractual claim to indemnification from the Company for fifty percent of the liabilities associated with the class actions, and the Company proposed an amount of security that Verizon rejected. This proceeding followed, with the Company claiming that no security was required for Verizon's indemnification claim. The Court of Chancery held that the Company failed to carry its burden of proving that its proposed amount and form of security would be sufficient to satisfy Verizon's claim for indemnification if it matured and adopted Verizon's proposal for an amount. View "In re Altaba, Inc." on Justia Law