Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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In this dispute over whether Plaintiff's claims premised on the packaging and video of Michael, an album of music billed as Michael Jackson's first posthumous release, were subject to the album marketers' motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP statute the Supreme Court held that Plaintiff sufficiently demonstrated that some of her claims had sufficient merit.In her complaint against Sony Music Entertainment, Plaintiff asserted that Michael's marketers misled her and violated two California consumer protection laws, the unfair competition law, and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, by misrepresenting a vocalist on certain tracks through the album's packaging and in a promotional video. The court of appeal granted Defendants' motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute, concluding that the First Amendment required classifying the disputed statements as noncommercial speech. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claims related to Michael's packaging and promotional video had sufficient merit. View "Serova v. Sony Music Entertainment" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning the statutory ownership of a vehicle involved in a crash, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision affirming the order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Central Motors, Inc., holding that the circuit court correctly held that Juan Garcia was the statutory owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident.Dolores Zepeda was the passenger in a 2002 BMW being driven by Darley Morales, the son of Juan Garcia, when Morales caused the car to crash in a single vehicle accident. As a result of the accident, Morales died and Zepeda was left paralyzed. Zepeda sued, among other defendants, Garcia for negligent entrustment and Central Motors as the purported statutory owner of the BMW. The trial court granted summary judgment for Central Motors, determining that Garcia, and not Central Motors, was the statutory owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Central Motors substantially complied with Ky. Rev. Stat. 186A.220 and delivered possession of the vehicle pursuant to a bona fide sale, thus making Garcia the BMW's statutory owner. View "Zepeda v. Central Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Popa browsed the website of Harriet Carter Gifts, added an item to her cart, but left the website without making a purchase. She later discovered that, unbeknownst to her, Harriet Carter’s third-party marketing service, NaviStone, tracked her activities across the site. Popa sued both entities under Pennsylvania’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (WESCA), 18 Pa. C.S. 5701, which prohibits the interception of wire, electronic, or oral communications. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, reasoning that NaviStone could not have “intercepted” Popa’s communications because it was a “party” to the electronic conversation. Alternatively, it ruled that if any interception occurred, it happened outside Pennsylvania, so the Act did not apply.The Third Circuit vacated. Under Pennsylvania law, there is no direct-party exception to WESCA liability, except for law enforcement under specific conditions. The defendants cannot avoid liability merely by showing that Popa directly communicated with NaviStone’s servers. NaviStone intercepted Popa’s communications at the point where it routed those communications to its own servers; that was at Popa’s browser, not where the signals were received at NaviStone’s servers. The court noted that the district court never addressed whether Harriet Carter posted a privacy policy and, if so, whether that policy sufficiently alerted Popa that her communications were being sent to a third-party company to support a consent defense. View "Popa v. Harriet Carter Gifts Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff initiated action against Experian Information Solutions (“Experian”), alleging a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1681 (“FCRA”). The district court found that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to create a jury question on damages.   Plaintiff contends that a genuine dispute of material fact exists on damages because she provided evidence of financial and emotional harm. The court explained that to maintain a claim for negligent violation of the FCRA, a plaintiff must offer proof of “actual damages sustained by the consumer as a result of the failure. Further, Plaintiff argues that she sustained financial injury based on the denial of her application for a Chase Bank credit card after a hard inquiry on her Experian report. However, her deposition testimony refutes this claim. The record bolsters the conclusion that the bankruptcy drove Chase’s decision to deny Plaintiff’s credit card application. Thus, Plaintiff’s assertion of financial harm is insufficient to create a jury question on damages. Finally, the court wrote that like in other decisions where the court has denied damages for emotional distress, the record reveals that Plaintiff “suffered no physical injury, she was not medically treated for any psychological or emotional injury, and no other witness corroborated any outward manifestation of emotional distress. View "Christa Peterson v. Experian Information Solutions" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff commenced an action n against two credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”), Experian Information Solutions, Inc. (“Experian”) and Trans Union, LLC (“Trans Union”), for alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state plausible claims.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff’s complaint is too thin to raise a plausible entitlement to relief. The FCRA is not a strict liability statute. Here, Plaintiff’s complaint presents a bare legal conclusion that Experian and Trans Union employed unreasonable reporting procedures. There are no allegations that the CRAs knew or should have known about systemic problems. The court explained that the FCRA requires reasonable—not perfect—procedures. That Plaintiff’s credit reports may have contained inaccurate information is not in itself sufficient for the imposition of liability. View "Anders Rydholm v. Experian Information Solutions" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff recieved a debt-collection letter from Defendant, a law firm that specializes in collecting debt on behalf of the Texas government. However, the limitations period for the debt mentioned in the letter had run. Plaintiff filed a claim against the law firm under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Plaintiff also sought, and obtained, class certification. The law firm appealed the district court's certification.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit sua sponte found that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring a claim against a debt-collection law firm under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The court held that Plaintiff failed to establish that the law firm's debt-collection letter inflicted an injury with a “close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts." Without this showing, Plaintiff could not establish the first element of standing: that she suffered a concrete harm. View "Perez v. McCreary, Veselka, Bragg" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the district court granting Edge Pharma, LLC's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim the allegations brought by Azurity Pharmaceuticals, Inc. under both the Lanham Act and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A based on statements that Edge made on its website, holding that Azurity's claims cannot survive.Azurity's suit alleged that the statements at issue falsely represented that Edge was not in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and that the statements falsely held out Edge's vancomycin drug as being superior to Azurity's. The district court concluded that the FDCA precluded Azurity's Lanham Act claim, which meant that the Chapter 93A likewise failed "as it is premised on the same allegations" as the Lanham Act claim. The First Circuit held (1) the district court properly dismissed the Lanham Act claim on the alternative ground that Azurity did not plausibly allege that some of the statements made a misleading representation of fact and that other statements at issue were in violation of the Lanham Act; and (2) insofar as no variant of Azurity's Lanham Act claim could survive, for the same reasons this Court vacates and affirms in part the dismissal of Azurity's Chapter 93A claim. View "Azurity Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Edge Pharma, LLC" on Justia Law

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Telematch, Inc. is a commercial vendor of agricultural data. In 2018 and 2019, it submitted to USDA seven FOIA requests for records containing farm numbers, tract numbers, and customer numbers. USDA withheld the numbers under Exemptions 3 and 6. But it released or offered to release a statistical version of the files in accordance with section 8791(b)(4)(B). It also released payment information for the 2018 Conservation Reserve Program pursuant to section 8791(b)(4)(A). Telematch sued to challenge the USDA’s withholding of the farm, tract, and customer numbers. Both parties moved for summary judgment and attached statements of material facts to their motions.   The district court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment. The court held that USDA properly withheld the farm and tract numbers under Exemption 3, because the numbers are “geospatial information” covered by section 8791(b)(2)(B). Telematch appealed.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that farm and tract numbers identify a specific area of farmland in a specific location. They serve as a shorthand reference to individual plots of land. In this respect, they are analogous to a street address or latitude and longitude coordinates. They are, therefore “geospatial information” properly withheld under section 8791(b)(2)(B). Further, the court explained it need not definitively resolve whether farm and tract numbers meet these two statutory definitions. Neither of them applies to section 8791. Thus, the court held that the USDA permissibly withheld the requested farm, tract, and customer numbers. View "Telematch, Inc. v. AGRI" on Justia Law

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Part of the Transportation Equity Act required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “consider, in consultation with the Secretary [of Transportation], spectrum needs for the operation of intelligent transportation systems. The FCC allocated that spectrum in 1999. In 2019, the FCC began a new rulemaking process to ensure that the 5.9 GHz band was put to its best use. The FCC also proposed changing the technology that would be used by intelligent transportation systems; vehicles would need to start using “vehicle-to-everything” communications (in which they send communications to cell towers and other devices) rather than the “dedicated short-range” communications originally permitted in 1999.   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (“Transportation Petitioners”) now petition for review. They argue that the court should vacate the part of the order reallocating the lower 45 megahertz of spectrum but leave in place the rest of the order dealing with what technology intelligent transportation systems use.   The DC Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied the petitions for review. The court found that the FCC adequately explained its conclusion that “30 megahertz is sufficient for the provision of core vehicle safety related [intelligent transportation system] functions. Further, the court reasoned that FCC may modify the licenses it issues when such modifications promote the public interest. View "Intelligent Transportation Society of America v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that a law firm that engages in debt collection activities on behalf of a client, including the preparation of a promissory note containing a confessed judgment clause and filing of a confessed judgment complaint to collect a consumer debt, is not subject to the provisions of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law, Md. Code Comm. Law 12-301, et seq.This case arose from debt collection activity by Nagle & Zaller, P.C., a law firm, on behalf of its clients. Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that Nagle & Zaller violated the Maryland Consumer Loan Law (MCLL), Md. Code Comm. Law (CL) 12-301, et seq. Nagle & Zaller filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the MCLL did not apply to the debt collection activities alleged in the complaint. The federal court entered a certification order requesting that the Supreme Court answer whether a law firm that undertakes debt collection activity is required to be licensed under the MCLL. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that the MCLL did not apply to the transactions at issue. View "Nagle & Zaller, P.C. v. Delegall" on Justia Law