Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed suit against Silverstar, alleging that it intentionally misrepresented the condition of the used Ferrari it sold him. A jury awarded plaintiff $20,201 in compensatory and incidental damages and $5.8 million in punitive damages on his claims for fraud, breach of express warranty, and deceptive trade practices under Arkansas law. The district court subsequently denied Silverstar's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law but partially granted its motion to alter or amend the judgment, reducing the jury's punitive damages award to $500,000. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to establish justifiable reliance on Silverstar's misrepresentations about the conditions of the car; the district court did not err in denying Silverstar's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's fraud claim where an "as is" clause does not bar an action by the vendee based on claims of fraud or misrepresentation; and the court need not address whether Silverstar should have been granted judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's other claims for breach of warranty and deceptive trade practices, because Arkansas law allows a successful fraud plaintiff to recover compensatory, incidental, and punitive damages. The court also held that the district court did not err in reducing the punitive damages award, because the award was grossly excessive and in violation of the due process clause. View "Adeli v. Silverstar Automotive" on Justia Law

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Six U.S. plaintiffs rented cars from Payless. Each signed a one-page agreement, itemizing charges, below the final paragraph, which provides: “I agree the charges listed above are estimates and that I have reviewed & agreed to all notices & terms here and in the rental jacket.” After they signed their agreements, the rental associate folded the agreement, placed it a “rental jacket,” and handed it back. The rental jacket bears the title “Rental Terms and Conditions” and contains 31 paragraphs. The word “jacket” appears in only the second paragraph. The twenty-eighth paragraph requires arbitration. The rental associates said nothing about the rental jacket. Lee rented a car in Costa Rica, using a two-sided document. The front side contains the details of the transaction. The back is titled “Rental Agreement” and includes pre-printed terms, including an arbitration clause. Both sides have signature lines but Lee signed the only front. Plaintiffs brought a putative class action, alleging violations of New Jersey, Florida, and Nevada consumer protection statutes, unjust enrichment, and conversion, alleging that they were charged for products and services that they had not authorized. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to compel arbitration. The rental jackets were not adequately incorporated into the U.S. Agreements; the U.S. Plaintiffs did not assent to the arbitration provision. A genuine dispute exists over whether Lee was on reasonable notice of the arbitration provision on the backside of the Costa Rica Agreement. View "Bacon v. Avis Budget Group Inc" on Justia Law

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Will Realty, LLC appealed the grant of a motion for relief from judgment in favor of Mark and Sally Isaacs. In 2009, Mainsource Bank, Inc., obtained a judgment against the Isaacses for the sum of $3,911,681.92 and interest in Kentucky. This judgment was assigned to Will on January 6, 2010. In 2019, Will enrolled the judgment in the judgment rolls of Hancock County, Mississippi. Will then filed writs of garnishment directed to multiple banks and the employer of Sally Isaacs. After the writs were issued, the Isaacses sought relief under our Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), claiming the judgment was void. Will responded, arguing that the judgments had been renewed and that the statute of limitations had reset. After receiving argument, the court granted the Isaacses’ requested relief. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that a plain reading of the applicable statute, Mississippi Code Section 15-1-45 (Rev. 2019) regarding the statute of limitations for judgments from foreign jurisdictions, the trial court correctly granted judgment in favor of the Isaacs because the statute of limitations extinguished Will’s right. View "Will Realty, LLC v. Isaacs" on Justia Law

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Defendants CashCall, Inc. and LoanMe, Inc. (collectively “the lenders”), accessed thousands of credit reports and mailed loan offers to the consumers. Plaintiff Alexis Sosa was among those consumers. Sosa sued the lenders for accessing her credit report. During discovery, Sosa asked the lenders: of the consumers who were mailed offers, how many were actually given loans? The trial court found Sosa’s interrogatory to be irrelevant and granted the lenders’ motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal disagreed: Sosa's interrogatory was relevant to the lenders' intent. "the trial court’s rulings dealt a 'one-two punch' to [Sosa's] lawsuit: the court first prohibited Sosa from obtaining relevant evidence; then the court dismissed her case, in part, for lack of relevant evidence. Thus, we reverse the court’s granting of the lenders’ motion for summary judgment." View "Sosa v. CashCall, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each obtained loans from online payday lenders affiliated with Native American tribes. Each of their lenders reported delinquencies to Trans Union. One plaintiff contacted Trans Union, which investigated and determined that the report was accurate. Plaintiffs claim that Trans Union violated Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, provisions requiring that consumer reporting agencies “assure maximum possible accuracy of the information” contained in credit reports and re‐investigate disputed items. They did not claim the reports were factually inaccurate; they took out the reported loans and did not contest the debt amounts or the reported payment histories. They claimed the reports were “legally inaccurate” because they posted “legally invalid debts” that were void ab initio under New Jersey and Florida usury laws and that “reasonable procedures designed to ensure the maximum possible accuracy” would have shown that the loans were void. They claim that Trans Union’s screening procedures showed that the lenders lacked licenses to lend outside of tribal reservations and had histories of charging interest in excess of rates permitted in certain states and that Trans Union ignored government investigations and enforcement actions. The district court granted Trans Union judgment on the pleadings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. FCRA does not compel consumer reporting agencies to determine the legal validity of disputed debts. View "Denan v. TransUnion LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing, for failure to state a claim, Plaintiff's complaint alleging that, by labeling Wesson brand vegetable oil (Wesson Oil) "100% Natural," Conagra Brands, Inc. violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, holding that Plaintiff's complaint clearly alleged a Chapter 93A injury for pleading purposes. After learning that Wesson Oil contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Plaintiff sued Conagra, the manufacturer and distributor, alleging that, by labeling the oil "100% Natural," Conagra violated Massachusetts's prohibition against unfair or deceptive trade practices. The federal district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, concluding that Wesson Oil's label was neither unfair nor deceptive because it conformed to the Food and Drug Administration's labeling policy. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claim may proceed because Plaintiff plausibly alleged that a reasonable consumer might think that the phrase "100% Natural" means that a product contains no GMOs, and then base her purchasing decision on that belief. View "Lee v. Conagra Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Bateses lost their condominium through a nonjudicial foreclosure. They claim the condo complex’s management company and its law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which generally defines “debt collectors” to cover parties who operate a “business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts” or who “regularly collect[] or attempt[] to collect” debts owed another, 15 U.S.C. 1692a(6). The Act contains a separate debt-collector definition for subsection 1692f(6), regulating parties who operate a “business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests.” General debt collectors must comply with all of the Act’s protections; security-interest enforcers need only comply with section 1692f(6). In 2019, the Supreme Court held (Obduskey) that parties who assist creditors with the nonjudicial foreclosure of a home fall within the separate definition, not the general one. Obduskey left open the possibility that these parties might engage in “other conduct” that would transform them from security interest enforcers into general debt collectors, subject to all of the Act’s regulations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a judgment on the pleadings for the defendants. The Bateses’ complaint did not plead enough facts to take the defendants outside the separate definition for security-interest enforcers and bring them within the general debt-collector definition; there were almost no well-pleaded allegations about the principal business or regular activities of either. View "Bates v. Green Farms Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977, Tenn. Code Ann. 47-18-101 to -132, applies to health care providers when they are acting in their business capacities and that Plaintiffs, who were consumers of medical services, may state a claim under the Act against the hospitals for conduct arising out of the hospitals' business practices. Plaintiffs received hospital medical services for injuries received in car accidents. The hospitals did not bill Plaintiffs' health insurance companies but, rather, filed hospital liens against Plaintiffs' claims for damages arising from the accidents. The liens were for the entire amount of the hospital bills and were not reduced for Plaintiffs' health insurance benefits. Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit, alleging that the filing of the discounted hospital liens was unlawful under the Act. The trial court dismissed the case for failure to state a cause of action. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the underlying transaction did not fit within the Act's definition of a "consumer transaction" as defined by the Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs stated a cause of action under the Act. View "Franks v. Sykes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DISH violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) in its attempts to collect debt it knew had been discharged in bankruptcy and in its direct contacts with plaintiff knowing she was represented by counsel. Plaintiff also alleged that DISH violated the Telephone Consumer Practices Act (TCPA) by contacting plaintiff about the debt with an automated dialing system after she revoked her consent to receive such calls. The Eleventh Circuit first determined that DISH's claim for the Pause debt was discharged. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the FCCPA claims. In this case, DISH attempted to collect debt it had no legal right to collect because the debt had been discharged in bankruptcy, and DISH directly contacted plaintiff after having received notice that she was represented by counsel. Accordingly, the court remanded on the FCCPA claims for the district court to consider whether DISH actually knew that the Pause charges were invalid and that plaintiff was represented by counsel with regard to the debt it was attempting to collect, and if so, whether such errors were unintentional and the result of bona fide error. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the TCPA claim, holding that the TCPA does not allow unilateral revocation of consent given in a bargained-for contract. The court reasoned that, by permitting plaintiff to unilaterally revoke a mutually-agreed-upon term in a contract would run counter to black-letter contract law in effect at the time Congress enacted the TCPA. View "Medley v. Dish Network, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the executives of several Japanese auto-parts manufacturers pled guilty to federal crimes based on an international scheme to fix the price of Automotive Wire Harness Systems (AWHS). Three years later, the State of Mississippi sued the American subsidiaries of these federally prosecuted companies, alleging violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) and the Mississippi Antitrust Act (MAA), as well as a civil conspiracy to violate the MCPA and MAA. The trial court dismissed the State’s complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The State appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed: the alleged unfair trade practices were too remote in time to support the State’s claim for injunctive relief under the MCPA; the complaint alleged no “wholly intrastate” transactions that would make the alleged illegal cartel punishable under the MAA; and because the State alleged no viable claim for a statutory violation, its civil-conspiracy claim, based solely on the alleged statutory violations, also failed. View "Mississippi ex rel. Fitch v. Yazaki North America, Inc." on Justia Law