Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the district court dismissing all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant at summary judgment, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claims against correctional officer Brian Piasecki.Plaintiff, the special administrator of the estate of Michael Madden, brought this action alleging deliberate indifference, use of excessive force, Monell liability, and state law claims against the state actors involved in the care of Madden while he was jailed in Milwaukee County. Over the course of one month, Madden developed infective endocarditis, which medical staff failed to diagnose. Madden died at the end of the month. The district court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims at summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in awarding Piasecki summary judgment based on qualified immunity; and (2) the district court's judgment is otherwise affirmed. View "Stockton v. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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PJM Interconnection, LLC (“PJM”)  authorized a series of upgrades to facilities owned by the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (“PSE&G”). PSE&G’s Bergen and Linden switching stations; a second involved repairs to and around PSE&G’s Sewaren substation. Together, these two projects cost around $1.3 billion. Initially, PJM assigned most of the projects’ costs to entities that reroute electricity from northern New Jersey into the New York market. Thereafter, the New York-based entities gave up their rights to withdraw electricity from New Jersey, and PJM reassigned their costs to PSE&G. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) approved both rounds of cost allocations. The petitions for review in these two cases are about whether these cost allocations were “just and reasonable” under the Federal Power Act, and whether FERC’s orders were “arbitrary [and] capricious” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).   The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review in New Jersey Board v. FERC, and granted in part and denied in part the petitions in ConEd v. FERC. In denying the New York entities’ applications for rehearing of both the First and Second Linden Complaint Orders, the court explained that FERC failed to adequately distinguish its decision in Artificial Island from its treatment of the Bergen and Sewaren projects. Further, FERC upheld the de minimis threshold in its orders denying rehearing of the First and Second Linden Complaint Orders and the ConEd Complaint Order. The court, therefore, vacated FERC’s denial of Linden’s two complaints. The court also vacated its denial of ConEd’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings solely on the de minimis issue. View "New Jersey Board of Public Utilities v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is responsible for ensuring that interstate electricity rates are “just and reasonable.” Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) administers the electric grid on behalf of the companies that own transmission lines. Those transmission owners invested money to build their transmission lines, and MISO must charge customers electricity transmission rates that provide those companies an appropriate return on their investment. That return-on-equity component of the transmission rates, which we’ll just call the Return, is at issue in this case. In this case, a group of customers thought MISO provided transmission owners a too-generous Return. They asked FERC to reduce that aspect of MISO’s rates. FERC did. In the process, it completely overhauled its approach to setting an appropriate Return. Both the customers and transmission owners challenged several aspects of the FERC proceedings as unlawful or arbitrary and capricious.   The DC Circuit agreed with the customers that FERC’s development of the new Return methodology was arbitrary and capricious, thus the court vacated its rate-determination orders and remanded for further proceedings. Because the other challenged aspects of FERC’s orders flow from FERC’s rate determination, the court did not reach them. The court explained that FERC Failed to offer a reasoned explanation for its decision to reintroduce the risk-premium model after initially, and forcefully, rejecting it. Because FERC adopted that significant portion of its model in an arbitrary and capricious fashion, the new Return produced by that model cannot stand. View "MISO Transmission Owners v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Pioneer Credit Recovery, Inc. sent plaintiff-appellant Jason Tavernaro a letter attempting to collect a student loan debt. A district court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint filed under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) for failing to state a claim because the alleged facts were insufficient to establish Pioneer used materially misleading, unfair or unconscionable means to collect the debt. To this, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed: violations of the FDCPA is determined through the perspective of a reasonable consumer, and Pioneer’s letter was not materially misleading. View "Tavernaro v. Pioneer Credit Recovery" on Justia Law

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The Third Circuit consolidated district court cases claiming violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681. Borrowers had student loans from various lenders and made payments on those loans until they were unable to do so. Their respective lenders closed their accounts and transferred their loans. After the transfers, the borrowers viewed their credit reports published by Trans Union, each of which contained a negative “Pay Status” notation stating “Account 120 Days Past Due.” The entries also stated that the loans were closed, transferred, and had account balances of zero. The borrowers claimed that the pay status notations were inaccurate because the borrowers did not have any financial obligations to their previous lenders.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suits. Applying the “reasonable reader standard,” the credit reports containing the Pay Status notations were not misleading or inaccurate. The reports contain multiple conspicuous statements reflecting that the accounts are closed and the borrowers have no financial obligations to their previous creditors; a reasonable interpretation of the reports in their entirety is that the Pay Status of a closed account is historical information. The court also rejected claims that Trans Union failed to conduct a good faith investigation and to permanently delete or modify inaccurate information. View "Bibbs v. Trans Union LLC" on Justia Law

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After the district court granted summary judgment in favor of two government agencies and a pharmaceutical company in this Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") case. Plaintiff, a science writer and journalism professor, sought records from the government agencies relating to the pharmaceutical company's successful application for accelerated approval of a drug for the treatment of a neuromuscular disease. The agencies produced over 45,000 pages of documents, some of which were redacted under Exemption 4 of FOIA. The district court granted summary judgment for the agencies and the pharmaceutical company on the basis that the redacted information fell within Exemption 4 and publication would either cause foreseeable harm to the interests protected by Exemption 4 or was prohibited by law.Plaintiff appealed and the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court held that the interests protected by Exemption 4 are the submitter's commercial or financial interests in the information that is of a type held in confidence and not disclosed to any member of the public by the person to whom it belongs. Defendants' declarations show that the release of the information Plaintiff seeks would foreseeably harm the pharmaceutical company’s interests and Plaintiff does not raise a genuine dispute as to that showing. View "Seife v. FDA, et al." on Justia Law

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Adelphia Gateway, LLC, applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission)_  for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to acquire an existing pipeline system. It also sought authorization to construct two short lateral pipeline segments extending from the existing pipeline infrastructure it would acquire. Adelphia also sought approval to construct facilities necessary to operate the pipeline. Together, these acquisitions and improvements would comprise the Adelphia Gateway Project (“the Project”).   In their joint brief, Petitioners challenge: (1) the Commission’s finding of market need for the Project under the Natural Gas Act; (2) the sufficiency of the Commission’s environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”); and (3) the constitutionality of the Commission’s purported preemption of state and local authorities’ ability to protect public health.   The Court is persuaded that the Commission did not act arbitrarily and capriciously. The court explained that as in Birckhead v. FERC, 925 F.3d 510 (D.C. Cir. 2019), Petitioners here “have identified no record evidence that would help the Commission predict the number and location of any additional wells that would be drilled as a result of production demand created by the Project.” Further, Petitioner did not argue before the Commission that section 1502.21(c) required the use of the Social Cost of Carbon tool. Their rehearing request referred to the regulation once in a footnote, and only in the context of the version of the argument petitioners then relied on and that passing reference was not enough to “alert the Commission” to the position Petitioners now take. View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Wabash Valley Power Association is an Indiana-based cooperative established to generate and transmit electricity. This case centers on a provision newly added to the 2020 contracts. Section 22 of these contracts purport to subject any changes to the Formulary Rate Tariff to the Mobile-Sierra presumption of justness and reasonableness. After Wabash submitted the new contracts to FERC, Tipmont Rural Electric Membership Cooperative, one of the two-member utilities that did not sign, filed a protest arguing that the Mobile-Sierra presumption should not apply to changes to the Formulary Rate Tariff. The Commission agreed. After FERC failed to act on an application for rehearing within 30 days, Wabash filed a petition for review.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review finding that the Commission reasonably rejected Wabash’s new contracts. The court wrote that  FERC reasonably determined that the 2020 contracts do not set a contractually negotiated rate. Under the Mobile Sierra doctrine, the key question is whether rates are set bilaterally or unilaterally. Here, the governing contracts give the Wabash board broad discretion to raise rates unilaterally: The board may approve rates that it believes are necessary to cover Wabash’s expenses and to maintain a reasonable profit margin, which is what any utility filing a unilateral tariff rate may seek to do. View "Wabash Valley Power Association, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC or Commission) promulgated a mandatory safety standard governing all previously unregulated infant sleep products, including ones for which there was no voluntary safety standard in effect. Finnbin, LLC sold baby boxes, an infant flat sleep product covered by the final rule. Finnbin’s boxes lack a firm stand and elevation, so Finnbin may no longer sell them as designed. Finnbin sought judicial review of the final rule.   The DC Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s motion seeking judicial review of the final review. Finnbin made two arguments why, in its view, the final rule exceeds the CPSC’s statutory authority under section 104. The court held that because the extant voluntary standard here covers only inclined sleep products, the Commission could not impose a broader standard extending to previously unregulated flat sleep products.   Finnbin further contended that section 104 permits the CPSC to impose safety standards but not product bans, which it says must be done under 15 U.S.C. Section 2057. Moreover, Finnbin continues, the final rule bans products like baby boxes. The court explained that by its terms, the final rule creates performance requirements for infant sleep products not already covered by a section 104 standard. Finnbin provides no reason to think that the rule effectively bans any discrete product.   Finally, the court explained in contending the CPSC failed to provide an adequate explanation, Finnbin highlights cases faulting the Commission for relying on imprecise injury reports. But these cases involved rules promulgated under the Consumer Product Safety Act—which, unlike section 104, requires a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. View "Finnbin, LLC v. CPSC" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court in this (Cooper II) lawsuit brought by Jack Cooper against Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau (RMCB) asserting an additional violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) arising out of the same debt that was the subject of an appeal in a separate civil action between the same parties (Cooper I), holding that the sanctions award was improper.Plaintiff sued RMCB alleging that a letter from RMCB he received seeking to collect a consumer debt violated the FDCPA. Plaintiff then filed this separate action against RMCB claiming additional violations of the FDCPA arising from the same debt. RMCB filed a motion to dismiss the Cooper II complaint, arguing that it was improper claim splitting. The trial court dismissed the action with prejudice. Thereafter, RMCB moved for sanctions. The court granted the motion in part and imposed sanctions on two lawyers and their firm. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court's stated grounds for imposing monetary sanctions against counsel did not support the sanctions. View "Cooper v. Retrieval Masters Creditors" on Justia Law