Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
Riccio v. Sentry Credit Inc
Riccio fell behind on payments to M-Shell. Sentry Credit bought the debt and sought to collect it, sending Riccio a letter containing a notification that described how to contact Sentry by phone, mail, or email. Riccio sued, alleging the letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(3) by providing a debtor with multiple options for contacting Sentry rather than explicitly requiring any dispute be in writing. Sentry agreed that it had to require Riccio to dispute the debt in writing but viewed its letter as complying with that requirement. The district court granted Sentry judgment on the pleadings. The Third Circuit affirmed, overruling its own precedent. Debt collection notices sent under section 1692g need not require that disputes be expressed in writing. Sentry’s notice perfectly tracked sect 1692g’s text. View "Riccio v. Sentry Credit Inc" on Justia Law
Dougherty v. Roseville Heritage Partners
In January 2017, plaintiffs Lori Dougherty and Julie Lee's 89-year-old father passed away while living in Somerford Place, an elder residential care facility owned and operated by defendants Roseville Heritage Partners, Somerford Place, LLC, Five Star Quality Care, Inc., and Five Star Quality Care-Somerford, LLC. In July 2017, plaintiffs sued defendants, alleging elder abuse and wrongful death based upon the reckless and negligent care their father received while residing in defendants’ facility. Defendants appealed the trial court’s denial of their motion to compel arbitration and stay the action, contending the arbitration agreement did not contain any unconscionable or unlawful provisions. Alternatively, defendants argued the court abused its discretion by invalidating the agreement as a whole, rather than severing the offending provisions. The Court of Appeal found the arbitration agreement at issue here was "buried within the packet at pages 43 through 45," and "[b]ased on the adhesiveness of the agreement, and the oppression and surprise present," the Court concluded the trial court properly found the Agreement was imposed on a “take it or leave it” basis and evinced a high degree of procedural unconscionability. Under the sliding scale approach, only a low level of substantive unconscionability was required to render the arbitration agreement unenforceable. Likewise, the Court concurred that the arbitration agreement was substantively unconscionable, "particularly given the accompanying evidence of procedural unconscionability." The Court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court's declination to sever the offending provisions of the agreement, rather than invalidate the entire agreement. View "Dougherty v. Roseville Heritage Partners" on Justia Law
Nessel v. AmeriGas Partners. L.P.
Michigan filed suit, alleging that AmeriGas, Michigan's largest provider of residential propane, violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Section 10 of the MCPA, Mich. Comp. Laws 445.910, titled “class actions by attorney general,” 10 states that: The attorney general may bring a class action on behalf of persons residing in or injured in this state for the actual damages caused by any of the following: (a) A method, act or practice in trade or commerce defined as unlawful under section 3 [unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive methods, acts, or practices]. AmeriGas removed the case to federal court, citing the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 119 Stat. 4. The district court remanded to state court, finding that the lawsuit did not qualify as a “class action” because Section 10 “lacks the core requirements of typicality, commonality, adequacy, and numerosity that are necessary to certify a class under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 23.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Section 10 is not a state statute “similar” to Rule 23 for purposes of CAFA removability, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(1)(B). The court declined “to effectively invalidate the Michigan Legislature’s determination that an Attorney General should be able to sue for injuries to consumers pursuant to Section 10.” View "Nessel v. AmeriGas Partners. L.P." on Justia Law
Fireside Bank v. Askins
In August 2004, the Askinses purchased a used car by entering into a retail installment contract with East Sprague Motors & R.V.'s, Inc. for $13,713.44 at an interest rate of 18.95% per year. The contract was contemporaneously assigned to Fireside Bank (formerly known as Fireside Thrift Co.). The Askinses made two years of regular payments, then returned the car to Fireside in an attempt to satisfy the loan. However, the loan was never satisfied. Fireside sold the car for less than the remaining balance owed, leaving the Askinses with an ongoing obligation. Fireside then sued the Askinses for the remaining balance of the loan. The Askinses did not appear, and the court entered a default judgment against them, which included prejudgment interest, costs and attorney fees. Fireside assigned the debt to Cavalry Investments, LLC, in 2012. For the next 8 years, the Askinses were subjected to 14 writs of garnishment and several unsuccessful attempts at garnishment by Fireside and Cavalry. Approximately $10,849.16 was collected over the course of the garnishment proceedings. Fireside and Cavalry did not file any satisfactions of the garnishment judgments or partial satisfactions of the underlying judgment. Cavalry’s final writ of garnishment, obtained on August 3, 2015, stated that the Askinses still owed $11,158.94. This case presented an opportunity for the Washington Supreme Court to discuss the limits of CR60, in cases where a creditor uses the garnishment process to enforce a default judgment against a debtor. The Court held CR 60 may not be used to prosecute an independent cause of action separate and apart from the underlying cause of action in which the original order or judgment was filed. The Court held the trial court properly considered argument and evidence relevant to the questions of what was still owed on the underlying existing judgment and whether that judgment had been satisfied. The trial court correctly ruled that the judgment had been satisfied and ordered that the Askinses were entitled to prospective relief. View "Fireside Bank v. Askins" on Justia Law
Richards v. Par, Inc.
Richards defaulted on her car loan. Her lender hired PAR to repossess the vehicle. PAR hired Lawrence Towing to carry out the repossession. Richards protested when Lawrence employees arrived at her Indianapolis home to take the car. She ordered them off her property. They summoned the police. A responding officer handcuffed Richards and threatened her with arrest, removing the handcuffs after the car was towed away. Richards sued PAR and Lawrence under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which makes it unlawful for a debt collector to take “nonjudicial action” to repossess property if “there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest,” 15 U.S.C. 1692f(6)(A). Indiana law authorizes nonjudicial repossession only if the repossession “proceeds without breach of the peace.” IND. CODE 26-1-9.1-609. If a breach of the peace occurs, the repossessor must immediately stop and seek judicial remedies. The district judge granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Whether a repossessor had a “present right to possession” for purposes of section 1692f(6)(A) can be determined only by reference to state law. A reasonable jury could find that the Lawrence employees did not have a present right under Indiana law to possess Richards’s vehicle. View "Richards v. Par, Inc." on Justia Law
Squeri v. Mount Ida College
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint alleging that Defendants knew that Mount Ida College was on the brink of insolvency but concealed this information, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were properly dismissed. Mount Ida, a higher education institution in Massachusetts, permanently closed after providing its students six weeks' notice that it was closing. Plaintiffs, current and prospective students, brought a putative class action against Mount Ida, its board of trustees, and five Mount Ida administrators (collectively, Defendants), alleging seven Massachusetts state law claims. The district court dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' breach of fiduciary duty claim failed; (2) the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs' violation of privacy claim; (3) no claims were stated for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, or fraud in the inducement; (4) Plaintiffs' allegations did not plausibly allege a breach of implied contract; and (5) the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim. View "Squeri v. Mount Ida College" on Justia Law
Beardsall v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
Defendant manufactures aloe vera gel, sold under its own brand and as private‐label versions. Suppliers harvest, fillet, and de-pulp aloe vera leaves. The resulting aloe is pasteurized, filtered, treated with preservatives, and dehydrated for shipping. Defendant reconstitutes the dehydrated aloe and adds stabilizers, thickeners, and preservatives to make the product shelf‐stable. The products are 98% aloe gel and 2% other ingredients. Labels describe the product as aloe vera gel that can be used to treat dry, irritated, or sunburned skin. One label calls the product “100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel.” An asterisk leads to information on the back of the label: “Plus stabilizers and preservatives to insure [sic] potency and efficacy.” Each label contains an ingredient list showing aloe juice and other substances. Plaintiffs brought consumer deception claims, alleging that the products did not contain any aloe vera and lacked acemannan, a compound purportedly responsible for the plant’s therapeutic qualities. Discovery showed those allegations to be false. Plaintiffs changed their theory, claiming that the products were degraded and did not contain enough acemannan so that it was misleading to represent them as “100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel,” and to market the therapeutic effects associated with aloe vera. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. There was no evidence that some concentration of acemannan is necessary to call a product aloe or to produce a therapeutic effect, nor evidence that consumers care about acemannan concentration. View "Beardsall v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law
Uber Technologies Pricing Cases
Taxi companies and taxi medallion owners sued Uber, alleging violations of the Unfair Practices Act’s (UPA) prohibition against below-cost sales (Bus & Prof. Code, 17043) and of the Unfair Competition Law (section 17200). The UPA makes it unlawful “for any person engaged in business within this State to sell any article or product at less than the cost thereof to such vendor, or to give away any article or product, for the purpose of injuring competitors or destroying competition” but does not apply “[t]o any service, article or product for which rates are established under the jurisdiction of the [California] Public Utilities Commission [(CPUC)] . . . and sold or furnished by any public utility corporation.” Uber is a “public utility corporation” under section 17024 and is subject to CPUC’s jurisdiction. CPUC has conducted extensive regulatory proceedings in connection with Uber’s business but has not yet established the rates for any Uber service or product. The trial court ruled the exemption applies when the CPUC has jurisdiction to set rates, regardless of whether it has yet done so, and dismissed the case. The court of appeal affirmed, reaching “the same conclusion as to the applicability of section 17024(1) as have three California federal district courts, two within the last year, in cases alleging identical UPA claims against Uber.” View "Uber Technologies Pricing Cases" on Justia Law
Fidelity National Home Warranty Company Cases
Plaintiffs Dan Kaplan, James Baker, Janice Fistolera, Fernando Palacios, and Hamid Aliabadi appealed two judgments dismissing two coordinated actions against defendant Fidelity National Home Warranty Company (Fidelity): Fistolera v. Fidelity National Home Warranty Company (Super. Ct. San Joaquin County, No. 39-2012-00286479-CU-BT-STK) (Fistolera Action) and Kaplan v. Fidelity National Home Warranty Company (Super. Ct. San Diego County, No. 37-2008-00087962-CU-BT-CTL) (Kaplan Action). The trial court dismissed the actions after determining the plaintiffs failed to timely prosecute each case. With respect to the Fistolera Action, a putative class action, the trial court concluded that the Fistolera Plaintiffs failed to bring the action to trial within the five-year mandatory period specified in Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310. As to the Kaplan Action, a certified class action, the trial court concluded that the Kaplan Plaintiffs failed to bring the action to trial within three years of the issuance of the remittitur in a prior appeal in that action (Kaplan v. Fidelity National Home Warranty (December 17, 2013, D062531, D062747) [nonpub. opn.] (Kaplan I)), as required by section 583.320. On appeal, plaintiffs claimed the trial court erred in dismissing each action. On the merits of the plaintiffs' claims, the Court of Appeal concluded that, in calculating the five- year and three-year mandatory dismissal periods, the trial court erred in failing to exclude 135 days immediately following the assignment of a coordination motion judge to rule on a petition to coordinate the Fistolera Action and the Kaplan Action. Furthermore, the Court determined this error required reversal of the dismissal of the Fistolera Action because, after excluding these 135 days, the five-year period had not expired as of the time the trial court dismissed that action, and the matter was set for trial within the five-year period. However, the Court concluded that this error did not require reversal of the trial court's dismissal of the Kaplan Action. To the Kaplan Action, the Court determined that because, even after excluding 135 days related to the coordination proceedings, the three-year period that the Kaplan Plaintiffs had to bring that action to trial had expired as of the time the trial court dismissed that case. Further, the Court held none of the Kaplan Plaintiffs' arguments for additional tolling of the three-year period had merit. View "Fidelity National Home Warranty Company Cases" on Justia Law
Walker v. Fred Meyer, Inc.
Beyond a plain statement disclosing "that a consumer report may be obtained for employment purposes," some concise explanation of what that phrase means may be included as part of the "disclosure" required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681b(b)(2)(A)(i). The right provided by the FCRA to dispute inaccurate information in a consumer report does not require employers to provide job applicants or employees with an opportunity to discuss their consumer reports directly with the employer. Instead, the FCRA requires that an employer provide, in a pre-adverse action notice to the consumer, a description of the consumer's right to dispute with a consumer reporting agency the completeness or accuracy of any item of information contained in the consumer’s file at the consumer reporting agency. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part in this putative class action against Fred Meyer, alleging that Fred Meyer willfully violated the FCRA by providing an unclear disclosure form encumbered by extraneous information and failing to notify plaintiff in the pre-adverse action notice that he could discuss the consumer report obtained about him directly with Fred Meyer. In this case, the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the disclosure violated the FCRA's standalone disclosure requirement. The panel remanded for the district court to decide in the first instance whether the remaining language of the disclosure satisfied the separate "clear and conspicuous" requirement. View "Walker v. Fred Meyer, Inc." on Justia Law