Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Robert V. Bolinske, Sr., appealed an order denying his motion to vacate a default judgment. Discover Bank (“Discover”) sued Bolinske for unpaid debt in the amount of $3,915.53 on a credit card Discover issued to Bolinske. Notice of entry of judgment was served on Bolinske on December 23, 2019. Bolinske moved to vacate judgment on January 10, 2020. Bolinske claimed he attempted to respond to Discover’s summons and complaint by mail on December 6, 2019, but accidentally misaddressed the envelope to Discover’s counsel and sent his answer and counterclaims to an incorrect address. Bolinske argued after his answer and counterclaims were returned as undelivered, he mailed them to the proper address on December 16, 2019. Bolinske argued that same day, he placed a call to Discover’s counsel and left a voicemail stating that he was making an appearance to avoid a default judgment and explaining he had sent his answer and counterclaim to the wrong address. Discover’s counsel asserted she did not receive Bolinske’s voicemail until after e-filing the motion for default judgment, but acknowledged the voicemail was received on December 16. Bolinske argued in his brief supporting his motion to vacate that his voicemail left with Discover’s counsel constituted an appearance entitling him to notice before entry of default. Bolinske also argued that he was entitled to relief from judgment due to his mistake, inadvertence, and excusable neglect. The district court denied Bolinske’s motion on January 31, 2020 without holding a hearing, stating Bolinske had not demonstrated sufficient justification to set the judgment aside. Fining no reversible error in the district court judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Discover Bank v. Bolinske, Sr." on Justia Law

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A jury held defendant FCA US, LLC (Chrysler) liable on three causes of action arising from plaintiff Jose Santana’s defective vehicle: breach of the express and implied warranty under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and fraudulent concealment. After an award of fees and costs, the total judgment amounted to $1,740,169.58. Chrysler contended most of those damages should have been vacated because there was no substantial evidence of fraudulent concealment. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed: Santana’s fraud theory was that Chrysler concealed an electrical defect in Santana’s vehicle. But the Court found there was no evidence Chrysler was aware of the defect until after Santana purchased his vehicle, and thus no evidence that Chrysler concealed it. Because the fraud judgment could not be supported, the separate award of economic damages, the noneconomic damages, and the punitive damages fell with it. In addition, Chrysler contended there was no evidence of a willful violation of the Song-Beverly Act. To this the Court disagreed, finding that by the time Chrysler’s duty to repurchase arose, it was aware of the electrical defect in Santana’s vehicle, which it chose not to repair adequately. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects, and remanded the case for the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Chrysler on the fraud cause of action, striking the additional economic damages of $33,839.91, the noneconomic damages of $100,000, and the punitive damages of $1 million. View "Santana v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute arising from a fatal treadmill injury, the Supreme Court held that the entity that purchased the treadmill manufacturer's assets did not assume an implied warranty of merchantability that attached, and was not disclaimed, when the manufacturer sold the treadmill.The Seller in this case manufactured and sold treatments. The Buyer purchased the Seller's assets and assumed certain of its liability and obligations, as identified in the asset-purchase agreement. While using a treatment the Seller had previously sold to a gym, Audrey Kouba fell and sustained fatal injuries. Kouba's heirs sued the Buyer for negligence, strict liability, and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Buyer on all claims. The court of appeals reversed as to the implied warranty of merchantability claim, holding that, under the asset-purchase agreement's terms, the Buyer assumed liability for implied warranties. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an asset purchaser inherits none of the asset seller's liability absent an agreement to do so; and (2) based on the plain and unambiguous language of the asset-purchase agreement, the Buyer's express assumption of the written warranty for repair or replacement of defective treatment parts was not an assumption of the implied warranty of merchantiability. View "Northland Industries, Inc. v. Kouba" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Ocwen in an action brought by plaintiffs, alleging violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act's prohibition against obtaining a consumer credit report without a permissible purpose. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that Ocwen willfully violated the FCRA when it obtained credit reports about consumers whose mortgage loans had been discharged in bankruptcy.The panel encouraged courts in this circuit to determine whether the defendant committed a violation of the FCRA before turning to questions of negligence and willfulness. In this case, Ocwen was permitted under 15 U.S.C. 1681b(a)(3)(A) to review plaintiffs' accounts and credit reports to determine whether it could offer them alternatives to foreclosure, and it thus did not violate the Act. Therefore, the issue of willfulness is essentially moot. However, for the sake of completeness, and at the risk of stating the obvious, the panel noted its agreement with the district court that Ocwen did not willfully violate the FCRA. View "Marino v. Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2016, plaintiff-appellee Isaac Sutton went shopping for a vehicle at the defendant-appellant David Stanley Chevrolet, Inc.'s (hereafter DSC) car dealership. He agreed to purchase a 2016 Chevy Silverado on credit and he agreed to trade-in his 2013 Challenger. He was informed by DSC that his credit was approved. In addition, he was given $22,800.00 for the Challenger for which he still owed $25,400.00. The documents for the purchase of the vehicle amounted to approximately eighty-six pages, which included a purchase agreement and a retail installment sale contract (RISC). He left the dealership that evening with the Silverado and left his Challenger. Several days later he was informed by DSC that his financing was not approved and he would need a co-signor to purchase the Silverado. Sutton visited DSC but was then told he did not need a co-signor and there was no need to return the vehicle. At the end of June his lender for his 2013 Challenger contacted him about late payments. Sutton contacted DSC who said it was not their responsibility to make those payments since they did not own the Challenger he traded-in. A few days later, he was notified by DSC that his Challenger had been stolen and the matter was not the responsibility of DSC. Sutton had to make an insurance claim on his Challenger and DSC took back the Silverado. In the meantime, Sutton continued to make payments on the Challenger. Plaintiff and his wife Celeste Sutton sued DSC over the whole transaction involving the Challenger. DSC moved to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs alleged they were fraudulently induced into entering the arbitration agreement. The trial court found there was fraudulent inducement and overruled the motion to compel arbitration. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings concerning the unconscionability of the arbitration agreement. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari, and found the trial court's order was fully supported by the evidence. The opinion of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals was therefore vacated and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Sutton v. David Stanley Chevrolet" on Justia Law

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Degroot defaulted on a debt owed to Capital. AllianceOne sent Degroot a letter, stating: The amount of your debt is $425.86 ... interest and fees are no longer being added. Degroot understood that Capital had “charged-off” his account, meaning that his debt would no longer accrue interest or other fees for any reason. Capital subsequently transferred the account to CSI. CSI's 2019 letter stated: BALANCE DUE: $425.86 and “NEW INFORMATION ON YOUR ACCOUNT,” indicating that Capital had placed the account with CSI for collections, with an itemized summary of Degroot’s balance. After offering to resolve the debt, with disclosures required by certain states, concluded by stating “no interest will be added to your account balance through the course of” CSI collection effortsDegroot filed a purported class action, alleging that CSI’s letter misleadingly implied that Capital would begin to add interest and fees to previously charged-off debts if consumers failed to resolve their debts with CSI and that he was “confused.” Degroot asserted that CSI violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 15 U.S.C. 1692. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The 2019 letter accurately disclosed the amount of the debt and did not imply fees or interest would be added in the future. Even if CSI’s letter did imply that fees and interest could begin to accrue if the debt remained outstanding, the statement was not misleading given that Wisconsin law provided for the assessment of fees and interest on “static” debts in certain circumstances. View "Degroot v. Client Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Yelp publishes crowdsourced business reviews and allows businesses to advertise on its Website and mobile app. Yelp employs over 2,000 sales representatives to solicit advertising sales. Gruber, a solo attorney practitioner, was contacted by phone several times by Yelp sales representatives. During these calls, in which the sales representatives’ voices were recorded, Gruber discussed confidential and financial information regarding his law firm. When conversing with one representative, who happened to be his friend, Gruber sometimes joked, discussed private topics, and used profanity. Gruber did not recall that any Yelp sales representative notified him that the conversations were being recorded. Gruber sued under the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) Pen. Code 630, alleging unlawful recording and intercepting of communications; unlawful recording of and eavesdropping upon confidential communications; and unlawful wiretapping.The trial court granted Yelp summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed. While Gruber was not recorded during any calls (only Yelp’s representatives were recorded), CIPA is violated if a defendant records any portion of a conversation between two or more individuals. When the Yelp salespeople spoke during the one-sided recordings of their conversations with Gruber, the recordings revealed firsthand and in real-time their understanding of or reaction to Gruber’s words. Yelp failed to meet its burden of production regarding whether its use of VoIP technology precludes CIPA's application. View "Gruber v. Yelp Inc." on Justia Law

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In this Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (the "lemon law") suit, the jury answered special verdict questions determining that Jaguar had no liability for breach of express warranty or for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. However, there was a mistake in the special verdict form that neither counsel nor the trial court detected until long after the jury was discharged. In this case, the verdict form did not tell the jury if they found no breach of warranty, they should stop and answer no further questions. Judgment was subsequently entered on the special verdict and damages were awarded to plaintiffs. The trial court then granted Jaguar's motion to vacate the judgment and enter a different judgment in its favor.The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that Jaguar's motion to vacate was timely; the original judgment rests on an erroneous legal basis, and is not consistent with the facts found by the jury; and plaintiffs did not propose the question they now say should have been asked, and on this record, there was no evidence or law to support the questions they did propose. The court explained that since the verdict form did not instruct the jurors to stop, they continued, answering the questions directed at determining damages. But there can be no damages where there is no liability. The court also held that the trial court's alternative judgment not withstanding the verdict ruling was correct where the defect in the one-touch mechanism did not occur until two years after plaintiffs leased the car, and there is no evidence it was caused by some other defect present when the car was manufactured. View "Simgel Co., Inc. v. Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal modified the opinion, thus changing the judgment, by adding at the end of the disposition that no costs are awarded.The court held that, under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, popularly known as the "lemon law," a buyer may not obtain restitution of the full price he paid for a new motor vehicle, where the manufacturer failed to complete repairs to a defect within 30 days, but the defect did not substantially impair the vehicle's use, value or safety.In this case, the jury trial resulted in a special verdict finding the car did not have a defect covered by the warranty that substantially impaired the vehicle's use, value or safety, and the car was fit for ordinary purposes, but defendants failed to complete warranted repairs within 30 days. The court held that plaintiff was only entitled to recover damages caused by the delay in repairing a nonconformity that did not substantially impair the car's use, value or safety. Therefore, the trial court correctly concluded such damages do not include the replacement-restitution remedy under Civil Code section 1793.2(d) nor do they include damages that are available when a buyer justifiably revokes acceptance of goods under section 1794, subdivision (b)(1). The court affirmed the trial court's judgment entered on the jury's verdict. View "Ramos v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that, under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, popularly known as the "lemon law," a buyer may not obtain restitution of the full price he paid for a new motor vehicle, where the manufacturer failed to complete repairs to a defect within 30 days, but the defect did not substantially impair the vehicle's use, value or safety.In this case, the jury trial resulted in a special verdict finding the car did not have a defect covered by the warranty that substantially impaired the vehicle's use, value or safety, and the car was fit for ordinary purposes, but defendants failed to complete warranted repairs within 30 days. The court held that plaintiff was only entitled to recover damages caused by the delay in repairing a nonconformity that did not substantially impair the car's use, value or safety. Therefore, the trial court correctly concluded such damages do not include the replacement-restitution remedy under Civil Code section 1793.2(d) nor do they include damages that are available when a buyer justifiably revokes acceptance of goods under section 1794, subdivision (b)(1). The court affirmed the trial court's judgment entered on the jury's verdict. View "Ramos v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC" on Justia Law