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Plaintiff Amanda Kernahan purchased a “home service agreement” from defendants Home Warranty Administrator of Florida, Inc., and Choice Home Warranty. When she became dissatisfied, she filed a complaint in Superior Court seeking statutory and common law relief. Plaintiff claimed that the agreement misrepresented its length of coverage and that the deceptively labelled “MEDIATION” section of the agreement failed to inform her that she was waiving her right to a jury trial and would be deterred from seeking the additional remedies of treble damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice in favor of arbitration, citing the "mediation" provision. The trial court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the arbitration provision was unenforceable. The court found the provision both ambiguous and noncompliant with Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, L.P., 219 N.J. 430 (2014), “in either its form or its function.” The court subsequently denied defendants’ motion for reconsideration, rejecting defendants’ argument that language stating that all claims will be resolved “exclusively” by arbitration would or should have adequately informed plaintiff that she is waiving her right to proceed in court, as opposed to use of other available dispute resolution processes. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s refusal to dismiss the complaint, and the New Jersey Supreme Court also affirmed. View "Kernahan v. Home Warranty Administrator of Florida, Inc." on Justia Law

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The FTC filed suit alleging that defendants' debt collection practices violated several provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the FTC. Because Defendant Moses submitted no brief prior to the deadline submission set by the court, the court dismissed the appeal under Local Rule 31.2(d). The court also held that the disgorgement assessed jointly and severally against all defendants, including Briandi and Moses, was in an appropriate amount because it was a reasonable approximation of the total amounts received by the defendant companies from consumers as a result of their unlawful acts. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Federal Check Processing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Fannie Mae is not a consumer reporting agency within the meaning of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs in an action brought under the FCRA, alleging that Fannie Mae falsely communicated to potential mortgage lenders, via its proprietary software, called Desktop Underwriter, that plaintiffs had a prior foreclosure on a mortgage account. In light of the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines, the panel held that Fannie Mae was not a consumer reporting agency because it did not regularly engage in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer information. Furthermore, Fannie Mae did not act with the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties. The panel also vacated the award of attorney's fees and costs to plaintiffs. View "Zabriskie v. Federal National Mortgage Association" on Justia Law

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The owners of units in Sienna Court Condominiums, a newly-constructed 111-residential-unit Evanston property sued, alleging that the developer, TR, sold the units with latent defects that resulted in water infiltration and other conditions that rendered the individual units and common areas unfit for habitation. The complaint alleged breach of an express warranty and breach of an implied warranty of habitability against TR, the general contractor, the architect and engineering design firms, material suppliers and several subcontractors. TR and the general contractor were bankrupt. The unit owners obtained relief from the automatic bankruptcy stay. TR and the general contractor had two separate insurance policies, each providing coverage of $1 million per occurrence with $2 million aggregate limits. Plaintiffs had recovered approximately $308,000 from TR through a warranty escrow fund required by Evanston ordinance. Subcontractors and the material suppliers asserted that they were not subject to an implied warranty of habitabililty. The circuit court denied their motion to dismiss. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that a purchaser of a newly constructed home may not assert a claim for breach of an implied warranty of habitability against a subcontractor who took part in the construction of the home, where the subcontractor had no contractual relationship with the purchaser. View "Sienna Court Condominium Assoc. v. Champion Aluminum Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Jamie and Kelly Etcheson brought an action under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (commonly known as the "lemon law") against defendant and respondent FCA US LLC (FCA) after experiencing problems with a vehicle they had purchased new for about $40,000. After admitting the vehicle qualified for repurchase under the Act, FCA made two offers to compromise under Code of Civil Procedure section 998: one in March 2015, to which plaintiffs objected and the trial court found was impermissibly vague, and a second in June 2016, offering to pay plaintiffs $65,000 in exchange for the vehicle's return. Following the second offer, the parties negotiated a settlement in which FCA agreed to pay plaintiffs $76,000 and deem them the prevailing parties for purposes of seeking an award of attorney fees. Plaintiffs moved for an award of $89,445 in lodestar attorney fees with a 1.5 enhancement of $44,722.50 for a total of $134,167.50 in fees, plus $5,059.05 in costs. Finding the hourly rates and amount of counsels' time spent on services on plaintiffs' behalf to be reasonable, the trial court tentatively ruled plaintiffs were entitled to recover $81,745 in attorney fees and $5,059.05 in costs. However, in its final order the court substantially reduced its award, concluding plaintiffs should not have continued to litigate the matter at all after FCA's March 2015 section 998 offer. It found their sought-after attorney fees after the March 2015 offer were not "reasonably incurred," and cut off fees from that point, awarding plaintiffs a total of $2,636.90 in attorney fees and costs. Pointing out their ultimate recovery was double the estimated value of FCA's invalid March 2015 section 998 offer, which they had no duty to counter or accept, plaintiffs contended the trial court abused its discretion by cutting off all attorney fees and costs incurred after that offer. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the order and remanded back to the trial court with directions to award plaintiffs reasonable attorney fees for their counsels' services, including those performed after FCA's March 2015 offer, as well as reasonable fees for services in pursuing their motion for fees and costs. View "Etcheson v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff, rather than his Bank, must suffer the financial consequences of the complete draining of Plaintiff’s bank account by an identity theft through a series of fraudulent transactions. At issue was Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 4.406(c), which limits the liability of a bank when the customer fails to comply with his or her duties to examine the statement of account and notify the bank of any unauthorized payment. Rather than monitor his account as contemplated by the statute, for more than a year Plaintiff failed to look for missing bank statements or inquire about the status of his account. The court of appeals rendered judgment for Plaintiff, holding that the Bank neither sent the statements to Plaintiff nor made them available to him, and therefore, his statutory duties to examine the statements and report unauthorized transactions never arose. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Bank made the statements “available” to Plaintiff for purposes of section 4.406; and (2) under the circumstances, section 4.406 precluded Plaintiff’s attempt to hold the Bank liable for the losses. View "Compass Bank v. Calleja-Ahedo" on Justia Law

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In answering a question of law certified to it by the United States District Court of the District of Maryland, the Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. (CJP) 12-601 to 12-613 is a statutory specialty and that actions on it are accorded a twelve-year limitations period. At issue was whether the licensing requirement of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law (MCLL), Md. Code Ann. Com. Law 12-302, was a statutory specialty as contemplated by CJP 5-102(a)(6) requiring filing within twelve years after the cause of action accrues. The Court of Appeals answered the question certified to it in the affirmative, holding that the MCLL’s licensing requirement is an “other specialty” within the meaning of CJP 5-102(a)(6) and that a claim brought on it is entitled to a twelve-year limitations period. View "Price v. Murdy" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a circuit court order that, among other things, dismissed its claims against Volkswagen AG ("VWAG"). The State had filed a complaint claiming VWAG and other defendants, violated the Alabama Environmental Management Act ("the AEMA"), and the Alabama Air Pollution Control Act of 1971 ("the AAPCA") when cars VWAG produced had "defeat devices" installed, designed to alter emissions readings on cars with diesel engines. In other words, the complaint alleged defendants had tampered with the emission-control systems or ordered third parties to tamper with the emission-control systems of vehicles that were licensed and registered in the State of Alabama. Giving its reasons for dismissal, the Supreme Court determined that given the unique factual situation involved in this case, and based on reasoning set by the multi-district litigation court, allowing the State to proceed would "stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." Therefore, the trial court properly granted VWAG's motion to dismiss. View "Alabama v. Volkswagen AG" on Justia Law

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A jury awarded plaintiff-appellant Shirlean Warren $17,455.57 in damages pursuant to California's “lemon law.” In this appeal, Warren challenges her attorney fee award and her costs and expenses award. Warren claims the court abused its discretion in applying a 33% negative multiplier to her requested lodestar attorney fees. Warren argues that, by applying the negative multiplier, the court erroneously limited her attorney fee award to a proportion of her $17,455.57 damages award, and thus used a prohibited means of determining reasonable attorney fees. She also claimed she was entitled to recover prejudgment interest on her damages award and that the court erroneously struck the $5,882 expense for trial transcripts from her cost bill. The Court of Appeal concluded Warren did not show she was entitled to prejudgment interest on her jury award as a matter of right. Nor did Warren show the court abused its discretion in refusing to award any prejudgment interest. The Court agreed, however, that Warren was entitled to recover the $5,882 expense that her attorneys incurred for trial transcripts. View "Warren v. Kia Motors America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Consumers who purchased Cheez‐It crackers labeled "whole grain" or "made with whole grain," filed a class action complaint against Kellogg, alleging that the whole grain labels were false and misleading in violation of New York and California consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Second Circuit vacated, holding that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiffs' complaint because, under the proper standards for reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), plaintiffs plausibly alleged that the whole grain labels would lead a reasonable consumer to believe, incorrectly, that the grain in whole grain Cheez‐Its was wholly or predominantly whole grain. In this case, the whole grain claims failed to communicate that the quantity of enriched white flour exceeded the quantity of whole grain. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mantikas v. Kellogg Company" on Justia Law