Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's award of fees to class counsel in a class action settlement involving consumers who purchased defective toilet tanks against defendants. The court agreed with Porcelana that the district court erred in calculating the lodestar and refusing to decrease it. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by failing to make any factual findings regarding the nature of the class's unsuccessful claims and an unsupported assertion is insufficient to permit the district court to bypass the proper lodestar calculation and only consider the unsuccessful claims under the eighth Johnson factor. Nor is this a case where the record supports such a conclusion in the absence of an explicit finding by the district court. Even assuming the district court had adequately supported its conclusion that unsuccessful claims were intertwined with those that proved successful, the court stated that the district court still failed to properly analyze the award in relation to the results obtained. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Fessler v. Porcelana Corona de Mexico, S.A. de C.V." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), alleging that Ocwen's failure to record her mortgage instruments and its actions in losing key mortgage documents constituted covered errors under the catch-all provision of Regulation X (RESPA's implementing regulation). In this case, plaintiff alleged that the errors committed by Ocwen in handling her loan modification documents were errors relating to servicing of a mortgage loan, and, consequently, were subject to the provisions of RESPA and Regulation X. The court concluded that plaintiffs' asserted errors are covered by the catch-all provision of Regulation X, which includes the terms "any other errors" and "relating to." Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Naimoli v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's claims that Defendants violated Wis. Stat. 425.206(2)(b) by entering a parking garage to repossess her car and that Defendants' conduct during and after the repossession was unconscionable in violation of Wis. Stat. 425.107(1), holding that the circuit court erred.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the phrase "dwelling used by the customer as a residence" in section 425.206(2)(b) includes a garage attached to the residential building in which the customer lives; and (2) Plaintiff's claim of unconscionability under section 425.107 was not an "action or other proceeding brought by a creditor to enforce rights arising from consumer credit transactions," and therefore, the unconscionability claim must be dismissed. View "Duncan v. Asset Recovery Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that a Maine statute requiring cable operators to grant subscribers pro rata credits or rebates for the days remaining in the billing period after the termination of cable service is not preempted by the Cable Communications Act of 1984 (Cable Act).The Cable Act preempts stat laws that regulate rates for the provision of cable service if the Federal Communications Commission determines that cable operators in that state are subject to effective competition. See 42 U.S.C. 543(a)(2), 556(c). In 2020, Maine, a state that has effective competition, adopted into law the statute at issue in this case, the Pro Rata Act. Plaintiffs filed suit requesting a declaratory judgment that the law was preempted by the Cable Act. The district court concluded that the Pro Rata Act was preempted by the Cable Act as a matter of law. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Maine's Pro Rata Act is not preempted by federal law because it is not a law governing rates for the provision of cable service and is, rather, a consumer protection law that is not preempted. View "Spectrum Northeast, LLC v. Frey" on Justia Law

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JustAnswer LLC (JustAnswer) appealed an order denying its petition to compel arbitration. Tina Sellers and Erin O’Grady (together, Plaintiffs) used the JustAnswer website to submit a single question to an “expert” for what they believed would be a one-time fee of $5, but JustAnswer automatically enrolled them in a costlier monthly membership. After discovering additional charges to their credit cards, Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against JustAnswer, alleging it routinely enrolled online consumers like them in automatic renewal membership programs without providing “clear and conspicuous” disclosures and obtaining their “affirmative consent” as mandated by the California Automatic Renewal Law. Seeking to avoid the class action litigation, JustAnswer filed a petition to compel individual arbitration, claiming Plaintiffs agreed to their “Terms of Service,” which included a class action waiver and a binding arbitration clause, when they entered their payment information on the website and clicked a button that read, “Start my trial.” In a case of first impression under California law, the Court of Appeal considered whether, and under what circumstances, a “sign-in wrap” agreement was valid and enforceable. The Court concluded the notices on the “Start my trial” screens of the JustAnswer website were not sufficiently conspicuous to bind Plaintiffs, because they were less conspicuous than the statutory notice requirements, and they were not sufficiently conspicuous under other criteria courts have considered in determining whether a hyperlinked notice to terms of services was sufficient to put a user on inquiry notice of an arbitration agreement. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s order denying JustAnswer’s petition to compel arbitration. View "Sellers v. JustAnswer LLC" on Justia Law

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Caldwell signed an agreement to obtain a bail bond for her friend and was unable to pay the premiums. BBBB began collection efforts. Caldwell filed a putative class action. The trial court enjoined BBBB from enforcing bail bond premium financing agreements entered into by Caldwell and other similarly situated persons who had cosigned on behalf of an arrestee without having first been provided with notice under Civil Code 1799.91: if a creditor obtains the signature of more than one person on a consumer credit contract, and the signatories are not married, the creditor must provide the cosigner with a specified cosigner notice describing the financial risks of the transaction.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting BBBB’s argument that because the Legislature adopted a comprehensive scheme to regulate the conduct of bail bond licensees, it intended to exclude from such transactions the consumer protections applicable to consumer credit contracts. A bail bond premium financing agreement between a cosigner and the bail bond agent is a consumer credit contract subject to the notice provision of section 1799.91 and related statutory protections. While acknowledging that it decision may upend business expectations for bail bond agents, the court declined to apply the injunction only on a prospective basis. View "BBBB Bonding Corp. v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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Alexander Hood, a Colorado resident, appealed the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of his putative class-action claim against American Auto Care (AAC) in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. AAC, a Florida limited liability company whose sole office was in Florida, sold vehicle service contracts that provided vehicle owners with extended warranties after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Hood’s complaint alleged AAC violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and invaded Hood’s and the putative class members’ privacy by directing unwanted automated calls to their cell phones without consent. Although he was then residing in Colorado, the calls came from numbers with a Vermont area code. He had previously lived in Vermont, and his cell phone number had a Vermont area code. Hood was able to trace one such call to AAC. Although it determined that Hood had alleged sufficient facts to establish that AAC purposefully directs telemarketing at Colorado, the trial court held that the call to Hood’s Vermont phone number did not arise out of, or relate to, AAC’s calls to Colorado phone numbers. In light of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court, 141 S. Ct. 1017 (2021), the Tenth Circuit determined the trial court's dismissal could not stand. "The argument regarding 'purposeful direction' ... is implicitly rejected by Ford, and the argument regarding 'arise out of or relate to' ... is explicitly rejected. ... We also determine that AAC has not shown a violation of traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." View "Hood v. American Auto Care, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2017, a bankruptcy court discharged Persinger’s debts, under 11 U.S.C. 727. A few months later, Southwest Credit began collection efforts on a pre‐petition debt of Persinger’s, including by acquiring a type of credit information called her “propensity‐to‐pay score.” Alleging that this information had been secured without a permissible purpose, Persinger sued Southwest under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681.The district court granted Southwest summary judgment, holding that Southwest’s compliance procedures were reasonable and met FCRA’s requirements. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first holding that Persinger has standing to sue. Southwest invaded her privacy when it reviewed her credit information but no reasonable juror could conclude that the inquiry into Persinger’s propensity‐to‐pay score resulted in actual damages. If a plaintiff cannot prove actual damages, she may still recover statutory or punitive damages by proving that the defendant willfully violated FCRA. Viewed as a whole, Southwest’s procedures for handling bankruptcy notifications and for ordering bankruptcy scrubs from LexisNexis were reasonable compliance efforts, not willful violations of the FCRA. At the time Southwest ordered the credit score, it was unaware that the debt at issue had been discharged. View "Persinger v. Southwest Credit Systems, L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) against JPMorgan Chase Bank, alleging that she was the victim of unauthorized electronic fund transfers from her checking account at Chase. Chase reimbursed plaintiff for some of those losses, but refused to repay $300,000 of the funds stolen from her account. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint at the pleading stage on the ground that her lengthy delay in reporting the unauthorized withdrawals to Chase barred her claims as a matter of law.The Ninth Circuit concluded that the district court misinterpreted the relevant provision of the EFTA and reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's EFTA claim. The panel concluded that, under 15 U.S.C. 1693g(a), a consumer may be held liable for unauthorized transfers occurring after the 60-day period only if the bank establishes that those transfers "would not have occurred but for the failure of the consumer" to timely report the earlier unauthorized transfer reflected on her bank statement. In this case, plaintiff met her pleading burden by alleging facts plausibly suggesting that even if she had reported an unauthorized transfer within the 60-day period, the subsequent unauthorized transfers for which she sought reimbursement would still have occurred. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's state law claims, concluding that plaintiff's claim for breach of contract failed because a Privacy Notice appended to her Deposit Account Agreement did not impose any substantive duties on Chase. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing failed because the Deposit Account Agreement expressly permitted Chase to close plaintiff’s accounts. View "Widjaja v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Canuto Martinez successfully sued a car dealership, Defendant Larry H. Miller Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram 104th (“LHM”), for violating section 6-1-708(1)(a), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”). The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review was whether the judgment was final for purposes of appeal when the district court determined that Martinez, as the prevailing plaintiff, was entitled to an award of attorney fees under the CCPA, but the court had not yet determined the amount of those fees. The Supreme Court resolved the tension between Baldwin v. Bright Mortgage Co., 757 P.2d 1072, 1074 (Colo. 1988) and Ferrell v. Glenwood Brokers, Ltd., 848 P.2d 936, 940–42 (Colo. 1993) by reaffirming the bright-line rule established in Baldwin: a judgment on the merits is final for purposes of appeal notwithstanding an unresolved issue of attorney fees. To the extent the Court's opinion in Ferrell deviated from Baldwin, "its approach lacks justification and generates uncertainty, thus undermining the purpose of Baldwin’s bright-line rule." The Court concluded that both litigants and courts were best served by the bright-line rule adopted in Baldwin. The Court therefore overruled Ferrell and the cases that followed it to the extent those cases deviated from Baldwin’s rule concerning the finality of a judgment for purposes of appeal. Applying the Baldwin rule here, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing LHM’s appeal in part as untimely, though under different reasoning. View "LHM Corp v. Martinez" on Justia Law