Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Mac Haik appeals the circuit court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. In 2016, plaintiff Brenda Hester purchased a used 2014 Dodge Ram from Jackson Mac Haik CDJR, Ltd. (Mac Haik). Hester executed a retail-installment sale contract with Mac Haik for the purchase of the vehicle. The contract contained an arbitration provision. In 2017, Hester sued Mac Haik, American Financial Warranty Corporation (American Warranty), Randy Miggins d/b/a M&S Towing, and Randy Miggins, alleging that the vehicle she bought from Mac Haik “was defective in materials and workmanship from and after the date of purchase” and “that said defects have existed since the Plaintiff started using said vehicle.” She alleged further that American Warranty issued her a warranty but failed to repair her truck. Hester never served American Warranty with a summons and copy of her complaint. Hester alleged that Mac Haik took possession of her vehicle to make warranted repairs and later allowed it to be towed. Mac Haik, finding that all of Hester’s claims, which sounded in tort or contract and related to her purchase or condition of the vehicle at issue, argued that the claims were subject to arbitration. Mac Haik appealed the circuit court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the claims fell within the scope of the valid arbitration provision, and that no defenses existed to bar arbitration, it reversed reverse the circuit court’s order denying Mac Haik’s motion to compel arbitration and ordered the claims to arbitration. View "Jackson Mac Haik CDJR, Ltd. v. Hester" on Justia Law

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Consumers filed suit against TransUnion under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) after the agency—aware that its practice was unlawful—incorrectly placed terrorist alerts on the front page of the consumers' credit reports and subsequently sent the consumers confusing and incomplete information about the alerts and how to get them removed. The jury assessed $60 million in damages for three willful violations of the statute. The Ninth Circuit held that every member of a class certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 must satisfy the basic requirements of Article III standing at the final stage of a money damages suit when class members are to be awarded individual monetary damages. In this case, the panel held that each of the 8,185 class members had standing on each of the class claims. The panel rejected TransUnion's arguments regarding the sufficiency of the evidence, Rule 23 certification, and statutory damages. However, the panel held that the punitive damages award is excessive in violation of constitutional due process. The panel reduced the punitive damages award, but otherwise affirmed the verdict and judgment. View "Ramirez v. TransUnion LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendants bought consumer debts. Collection proceedings in Michigan state court suit resulted in a judgment against each plaintiff. The defendants employed Michigan’s simplified post-judgment garnishment procedure. None of the debtors timely objected. The rate of post-judgment interest “is calculated on the entire amount of the money judgment, including attorney fees and other costs,” using a complex formula. The Michigan Department of Treasury’s website lists every judgment interest rate calculated using this method. During the 11-year period at issue, it reached a peak of 4.033% and a valley of 0.687%. The plaintiffs’ debts were, instead, subjected to a rate of 13%, the maximum interest rate allowed for a judgment “rendered on a written instrument evidencing indebtedness with a specified [or variable] interest rate” although the underlying default judgments specify that they are “not based on a note or other written evidence of indebtedness,” and none of the judgments include any supporting written instrument. The plaintiffs alleged that using the 13% rate was improper and filed a federal suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, and the Michigan Collection Practices Act. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the debtors’ suit. The suit “is not the rare one" subject to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, under which federal courts are prohibited from reviewing appeals of state-court decisions. The plaintiffs' injuries stemmed from the defendant’s conduct, not the state-court judgment. View "VanderKodde v. Mary Jane M. Elliott, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying, without a hearing, Appellant's petition for extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Appellant sought relief from a judgment entered in a small claims case in the municipal court, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused his discretion by denying relief. In the small claims case, Appellant alleged that two corporations violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The clerk-magistrate entered judgment for Defendants, concluding that Appellant had not proved that they were responsible for the damages he claimed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's argument that the clerk-magistrate should have made detailed findings was unavailing because nothing in the statutes or rules governing small claims procedures required the clerk-magistrate to do so. View "Prince v. Obelisk, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a student loan borrower, filed suit against PHEAA under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act after it tried to collect a debt she never incurred. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that PHEAA, which guarantees federal student loans for the Secretary of Education, is not a "debt collector" under the Act. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and agreed with the district court that PHEAA fell within an exception for persons who collect debts "incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation." The court stated that the text of the Act makes clear that a person may attempt to collect a debt "incidential to a bona fide fiduciary obligation" whether the debt sought to be collected is "owed or due" another or only "asserted to be owed or due another." Therefore, plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that PHEAA qualified as a debt collector. View "Darrisaw v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Unfair Competition Law, the false advertising law, and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, alleging that the Cuties Juice label for tangerine juice was fraudulent because it was likely to deceive reasonable consumers in its implications. The Court of Appeal held that where, as here, a product label accurately states that the product has "no sugar added," a reasonable consumer is not likely to view that statement as a representation that competing products do have sugar added, which, if untrue, renders the product label at issue deceptive. The court held that the allegations underlying plaintiff's remaining claims were also deficient. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's order sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend. View "Shaeffer v. Califia Farms, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) prohibits consumer reporting agencies from releasing credit information except under circumstances enumerated in 15 U.S.C. 1681b, including to provide prospective lenders with "prescreen lists" of consumers who meet their criteria if the sharing results in a “firm offer of credit or insurance” to every consumer on that list." Experian compiles consumer information. Western had contracted to receive prescreen lists from Experian through agents. Experian provided its consumer data to Tranzact, which used that information to create prescreen lists, which it sold to a marketing agency, which then extended offers backed by Western to the consumers on the list. Experian terminated its contract with Western, with November 18, 2011, as the cutoff date. A prescreen list with Experian’s data went to Western on November 30, 2011. Neither company knew there was any problem. The list, which included Crabtree, was shared when it should not have been. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Crabtree’s FCRA suit, noting that there was no evidence that anyone on the list did not receive a firm offer from Western. Crabtree, who claimed invasion of privacy and emotional distress, did not allege the requisite injury-in-fact to satisfy Article III’s case or controversy requirement. Experian’s alleged statutory violation, without further allegations of harm, was insufficient to establish a concrete injury. View "Crabtree v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court entering judgment as a matter of law against Plaintiffs on their Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) claims, holding that, in the context of debt collection activity, not all services provided by a lawyer or a law firm fall within the "professional services" exemption under the CPA. Plaintiffs brought this action against their homeowners association (HOA) alleging violations of the CPA and MCDCA in connection with the HOA's attempt to collect delinquent HOA assessments, fines, penalties, and attorney's fees. The HOA hired a law firm to undertake debt collection activities for delinquent HOA assessment accounts. Plaintiffs filed suit against HOA challenging its debt collection practices. The circuit court entered judgment as a matter of law against Plaintiffs on their CPA and MCDCA claims. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) when a lawyer is engaged in debt collection activities, not all of the lawyer's services fall within the "professional services" exemption of the CPA; and (2) where the professional services exemption does apply to the lawyers' professional services, the statutory exemption does not flow to the client. View "Andrews & Lawrence Professional Services, LLC v. Mills" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court, holding that a confessed judgment is not an enforcement tool that an homeowners association (HOA) has at its disposal when seeking to collect delinquent HOA assessments, costs, and attorney's fees. Defendant became delinquent in her HOA assessment payments and signed a promissory note for the repayment. The document included a mortgage secured by Defendant's property and contained a confession of judgment provision. The HOA later filed a confessed judgment complaint attempting to recover the debt memorialized in Defendant's promissory note. The circuit court found that the payments and collection of homeowners association dues constituted a consumer transaction under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and that the use of a confessed judgment promissory note to collect the payments was prohibited. The Court of Appeals held (1) the collection of HOA assessments falls within the purview of the CPA; (2) the promissory note containing the confessed judgment clause constituted an extension of credit to Defendant to pay delinquent HOA assessments;" and (3) because the HOA lacked the legal authority to file a confessed judgment complaint the appropriate remedy under Maryland Rule 3-611(b) was dismissal of the case without prejudice to file a separate breach of contract action. View "Goshen Run Homeowners Ass'n v. Cisneros" on Justia Law

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Michael and Bonita McDougall appealed a judgment dismissing their deceit and unjust enrichment claims against AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA and granting summary judgment in favor of AgCountry on its claims to enforce assignment of rents and to foreclose a mortgage. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by concluding the McDougalls’ deceit claim was precluded by the statute of frauds. Therefore the Court reversef the judgment as to the deceit and unjust enrichment claims, affirmed judgment on the remaining claims, and remanded. View "McDougall, et al. v. AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA, et al." on Justia Law