Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Liberty National Life Insurance Company and Marcus Rich sought mandamus relief to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial court") to vacate its order denying their motions to transfer an action filed against them by Kenny and Margie Girdner to Elmore County and to enter an order transferring the action. According to the allegations in the Girdners' complaint, starting in 2017 Liberty National agent Rich came to their house in Wetumpka and offered to restructure their existing Liberty National life-insurance policies; Rich said the restructuring could save the Girdners money. The Girdners alleged that the policies were restructured under the assurances that their premiums would not increase substantially. In late March 2018, three different Liberty National agents met with the Girdners at their house to discuss fixing the "mess" Rich created with their policies. The Girdners alleged that they were given information at that meeting that indicated either that Rich did not know what he was doing or that Rich had intentionally allowed their policies to lapse in order to gain additional commission when new policies were issued. The Girdners again agreed to restructure the policies as the three agents recommended to have their policies reinstated. By September 2018, after Liberty National had failed to reinstate their insurance policies, the Girdners sued Liberty National and Rich alleging misrepresentation, suppression, deceit, unjust enrichment, negligent and/or wanton hiring, supervision, and training, breach of contract, conversion, and "negligent/wanton service." The Girdners asserted that venue was proper in Montgomery County under section 6-3-7(a)(1) and (3), Ala. Code 1975. The Girdners also stated Liberty National had a registered agent in Wetumpka, Elmore County, and that Rich was a resident of Butler County. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Liberty National and Rich demonstrated venue was improper in Montgomery County and was proper in Elmore County under sections 6-3-7(a)(1) and 6-3-2(a)(3), they demonstrated a clear legal right to have the underlying action transferred to Elmore County. View "Ex parte Liberty National Life Insurance Company and Marcus Rich." on Justia Law

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Renovate America, Inc. (Renovate) appealed an order denying its petition to compel arbitration of Rosa Fabian's claims related to the financing and installation of a solar energy system in her home. Fabian filed a complaint against Renovate alleging that solar panels she purchased for her home were improperly installed. Fabian alleged that, in early 2017, Renovate made an unsolicited telephone call to her home about financing the solar panels and "signed" her name on a financial agreement. All communications between Fabian and Renovate's representative occurred telephonically and she was never presented with any documents to sign. Fabian claims she did not sign a financial agreement with Renovate; nevertheless, Renovate incorporated the solar panel payments set forth in the financial agreement into her mortgage loan payments. Fabian thus alleged that Renovate violated: (1) the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; (2) the Unfair Competition Law; and (3) the California Contract Translation Act. Renovate petitioned to compel arbitration of Fabian's claims and stay judicial proceedings pending arbitration, supported by an Assessment Contract (Contract) that Renovate claimed Fabian had signed electronically. Renovate contended the trial court erred in ruling that the company failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Fabian electronically signed the subject contract. The Court of Appeal found that by not providing any specific details about the circumstances surrounding the Contract's execution, Renovate offered little more than a bare statement that Fabian "entered into" the Contract without offering any facts to support that assertion. "This left a critical gap in the evidence supporting Renovate's petition." The Court therefore affirmed denial of the petition to compel arbitration. View "Fabian v. Renovate America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Around 2009, Saccameno defaulted on her mortgage. U.S. Bank began foreclosure proceedings. She began a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan under which she was to cure her default over 42 months while maintaining her monthly mortgage payments, 11 U.S.C. 1322(b)(5). In 2011, Ocwen acquired her previous servicer. Ocwen, inexplicably, informed her that she owed $16,000 immediately. Saccameno continued making payments based on her plan. Her statements continued to fluctuate. In 2013, the bankruptcy court issued a notice that Saccameno had completed her payments. Ocwen never responded; the court entered a discharge order. Within days an Ocwen employee mistakenly treated the discharge as a dismissal and reactivated the foreclosure. For about twp years, Saccameno and her attorney faxed her documents many times and spoke to many Ocwen employees. The foreclosure protocol remained open. Ocewen eventually began rejecting her payments. Saccameno sued, citing breach of contract; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act; and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFDBPA), citing consent decrees that Ocwen previously had entered with regulatory bodies, concerning inadequate recordkeeping, misapplication of payments, and poor customer service. The jury awarded $500,000 for the breach of contract, FDCPA, and RESPA claims, plus, under ICFDBPA, $12,000 in economic, $70,000 in non-economic, and $3,000,000 in punitive damages. The Seventh Circuit remanded. While the jury was within its rights to punish Ocwen, the amount of the award is excessive. View "Saccameno v. U.S. Bank National Association" on Justia Law

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Krista Peoples and Joel Stedman filed Washington Consumer Protection Act ("CPA") suits against their insurance carriers for violating Washington claims-handling regulations and wrongfully denying them personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. The federal district court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law relating to whether Peoples and Stedman alleged an injury to "business or property" to invoke their respective policies' PIP benefits. Peoples alleged her insurance carrier refused, without any individualized assessment, to pay medical provider bills whenever a computerized review process determined the bill exceeded a predetermined limit, and that the insurance company's failure to investigate or make individualized determinations violated WAC 284-30-330(4) and WAC 284-30-395(1). Due to this practice of algorithmic review, the insurance carrier failed to pay all reasonable medical expenses arising from a covered event, in violation or RCW 48.22.005(7). Stedman alleged his carrier terminate PIP benefits whenever an insured reached "Maximum Medical Improvement," which he alleged violated WAC 284-30-395(1). The Washington Supreme Court held an insurance carrier's wrongful withholding of PIP benefits injures the insured in their "business or property." An insured in these circumstances may recover actual damages, if proved, including out-of-pocket medical expenses that should have been covered, and could seek injunctive relief, such as compelling payment of the benefits to medical providers. Other business or property injuries, apart from wrongful denial of benefits, that are caused by an insurer's mishandling of PIP claims are also cognizable under the CPA. View "Peoples v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Defendant Sara Salcido was in the business of providing immigration services — typically, obtaining visas for her clients that would allow them to stay in the United States legally. Defendant failed to comply with the consumer protection requirements outlined in the Immigration Consultant Act, and was ultimately convicted on one count of misdemeanor unlawfully engaging in the business of an immigration consultant. The State argued, however, that each time defendant took money from a client in exchange for providing immigration services, she was committing theft by false pretenses, because she was not a legally qualified immigration consultant under state law. The trial court agreed; thus, it also convicted her on six counts of grand theft, and two counts of petty theft. It dismissed two additional counts of grand theft as time-barred. Defendant was placed on probation for five years. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal held federal law did not preempt the application of the Act to defendant. In the unpublished portion, the Court held one of defendant’s probation conditions had to be stricken. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed as modified. View "California v. Salcido" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the storage company, demanding to be paid for their losses after water damaged their property. In this case, the contract the customers signed specified that the company was not responsible for water damage, and that customers storing property with it did so at their own risk. The contract offered insurance options to the customers, but the customers declined insurance. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the company on the customers' breach of contract claim, holding that one may not contract to accept risk, decide to be self-insured, and then retroactively demand to be paid by the other side after there is a loss. Finally, the court held that the customers forfeited their claim under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. View "Kanovsky v. At Your Door Self Storage" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of Textron Systems Corporation (Textron) and dismissing Arabian Support & Services Company's (ASASCO) complaint alleging various Massachusetts state law claims, holding that the district court properly disposed of ASASCO's claims on summary judgment. ASASCO, a Saudi Arabian consulting company, sued Textron, a Massachusetts-based defense contractor, alleging violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, fraudulent inducement, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, quasi-contract/implied contract/promissory estoppel, and quasi-contract/unjust enrichment/quantum meruit. The district court granted Textron's motion for summary judgment on all counts. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly granted summary judgment to Textron on ASASCO's chapter 93A claim; and (2) summary judgment was properly granted as to ASASCO's remaining claims. View "Arabian Support & Services Co. v. Textron Systems Corp." on Justia Law

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In February 2018, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison guard died after an inmate attacked him and kicked him in the head with Timberland boots. Later that month, the Department suspended commissary sales of such boots. Thereafter, prison officials issued a memorandum to all inmates stating that, effective immediately, Timberland and Rocky boots could no longer be purchased by prisoners. In this direct appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the Department of Corrections acted permissibly in mandating that certain types of boots possessed by inmates be surrendered or sent home. The appellant alleged he owned a pair of Timberland boots, previously purchased through the prison’s commissary for approximately $99.00, which was deducted from his inmate account. He averred that, per the Memorandum’s requirements, his boots, and those of approximately 50,000 other inmates, would effectively be confiscated without a refund. Appellant characterized the killing of the prison guard as an isolated incident to which the Department overreacted, describing the seizure of his boots as constitutionally “arbitrary and irrational.” The Commonwealth Court determined Appellant failed to allege that the Department had engaged in any conduct prohibited by law, such as deceptive representation or the breach of a warranty; and the Department and its employees are protected by sovereign immunity from claims based on alleged intentional torts. The Supreme Court concurred with the Commonwealth Court and affirmed its order. View "Sutton v. Dept. of Corr." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, alleging that DIRECTV and the company it contracted with to provide telemarketing services, Telecel, failed to maintain the do-not-call list and continued to call individuals who asked not to be contacted. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's certification order, holding that the unnamed members of the putative class who did not ask DIRECTV to stop calling them were not injured by the failure to comply with the regulation. Therefore, their injuries were not fairly traceable to DIRECTV's alleged wrongful conduct, and thus they lacked Article III standing to sue DIRECTV. The court also held that, although the case was justiciable because the named plaintiff had standing, the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class as it is currently defined. In this case, determining whether each class member asked Telecel to stop calling requires an individualized inquiry, and the district court did not consider this problem at all when it determined that issues common to the class predominated over issues individual to each class member. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Bank, asserting claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Determining that plaintiff had Article III standing, the Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff has stated three plausible claims for relief under the FCRA, where he alleged that the Bank willfully violated the FCRA by failing to investigate his dispute and unlawfully obtained his credit report. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. However, plaintiff did not plausibly state a claim under the FDCPA, because the least sophisticated consumer would not believe that Chase Home Finance was a third-party debt collector distinct from the Bank. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the FDCPA claim. View "Pinson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA" on Justia Law