Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
Marino v. Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC
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
Sutton v. David Stanley Chevrolet
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
Degroot v. Client Services, Inc.
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
Gruber v. Yelp Inc.
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
Simgel Co., Inc. v. Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC
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
Ramos v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC
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
Ramos v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC
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
Fox v. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC
Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and individually, filed a class action alleging that the Ritz-Carlton violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and Florida's tax regulations. Plaintiff's complaint stemmed from allegations that he and others paid illegal automatic gratuities and sales taxes at Ritz-Carlton’s forty-nine restaurants in Florida over the last four years. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on lack of standing. The district court also dismissed the tax refund claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the tax refund claim based on exhaustion grounds. However, the court held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiff did not have standing to represent the class because he only paid the illegal automatic gratuity at three of Ritz-Carlton's restaurants. The court agreed with plaintiff that the class complaint alleged in good faith that the amount-in-controversy for the hundreds of thousands of Ritz-Carlton guests in Florida that unlawfully paid an automatic gratuity over the last four years exceeded $5 million. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fox v. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC" on Justia Law
Sieg v. Fogt
The California Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) sought revocation or suspension of Sieg’s contractor’s license and restitution. The Accusation alleged that Sieg failed to follow spacing and fastening requirements when installing a hardwood floor, departing from trade standards in violation of Business & Professions Code 7109(a), and failed to complete a construction project for the agreed contract price in violation of section 7113. Sieg filed a Defense and filed a civil lawsuit against the homeowners, which was subsequently dismissed. After a hearing, the ALJ issued a proposed decision recommending a 65-day suspension and a three-year probation term including payment of $27,884.21 restitution. The Registrar adopted the ALJ’s proposed decision but eliminated the 65-day suspension term and required Sieg to obtain a disciplinary bond of $30,000.00 (section 7071.8), for three years.The trial court denied Sief relief. The court of appeal affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence, rejecting a due process claim. Sieg had the opportunity to cross-examine each of the CSLB’s witnesses, to present witnesses of his own, and to testify on his own behalf. The court noted that private agreements to depart from statutorily imposed workmanship standards provide no defense to an alleged violation of section 7109(a), in disciplinary enforcement proceedings. View "Sieg v. Fogt" on Justia Law
Norman et al. v. Xytex Corp., et al.
Wendy and Janet Norman alleged that Xytex Corporation, a sperm bank, sold them human sperm under false pretenses about the characteristics of its donor, and that the child conceived with that sperm once born suffered from a variety of impairments inherited from the sperm donor. The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all but one of the Normans’ claims on the basis of Etkind v. Suarez, 519 SE2d 210 (1999), and Atlanta Obstetrics & Gynecology Group v. Abelson, 398 SE2d 557 (1990). The Georgia Supreme Court granted review, and held that claims arising from the very existence of the child were barred, but claims arising from specific impairments caused or exacerbated by defendants’ alleged wrongs could proceed, as could other claims that essentially amounted to ordinary consumer fraud. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Norman et al. v. Xytex Corp., et al." on Justia Law