by
Defendants are the nation’s largest distributors of pre-filled propane exchange tanks, which come in a standard size. Before 2008, Defendants filled the tanks with 17 pounds of propane. In 2008, due to rising prices, Defendants reduced the amount in each tato 15 pounds, maintaining the same price. Plaintiffs, indirect purchasers, who bought tanks from retailers, claimed this effectively raised the price. In 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action alleging conspiracy under the Sherman Act. Plaintiffs settled with both Defendants. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against Defendants, which settled in 2015 by consent orders, for conspiring to artificially inflate tank prices. In 2014, another group of indirect purchasers (Ortiz) brought a class action against Defendants, alleging: “Despite their settlements, Defendants continued to conspire, and ... maintained their illegally agreed-upon fill levels, preserving the unlawfully inflated prices." The Ortiz suit became part of a multidistrict proceeding that included similar allegations by direct purchasers (who bought tanks directly from Defendants for resale). The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the direct-purchaser suit as time-barred, holding that each sale in a price-fixing conspiracy starts the statutory period running again. The court subsequently held that the indirect purchasers inadequately pled an injury-in-fact and lack standing to pursue an injunction to increase the fill levels of the tanks and may not seek disgorgement of profits. View "Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

by
In November 2013, the Consumer Credit Research Foundation (CCRF) entered a consulting agreement with the Kennesaw State University Research and Service Foundation under which Dr. Jennifer Lewis Priestley, a professor at Kennesaw State University (KSU), would research the effects of payday loans on the financial health of their consumers. As part of this project, Dr. Priestley – but not KSU or the KSU foundation – signed a confidentiality agreement with CCRF agreeing not to disclose any information “relating in any manner to CCRF or CCRF’s contributing sponsors.” Dr. Priestley published an article about her findings in December 2014. In June 2015, the Campaign for Accountability (CFA) sent a request to KSU under Georgia’s Open Records Act, asking for copies of all correspondence, electronic or otherwise, between Dr. Priestley and a number of organizations and individuals, including CCRF and its chairman and CEO. After KSU notified CFA and CCRF that it intended to disclose the requested records subject to possible redactions, CCRF filed a complaint against the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (the Board). CCRF sought a declaratory judgment that the records requested by CFA were exempt from disclosure under OCGA 50-18-72(a)(35) and (36) and a permanent injunction prohibiting the Board from disclosing the records. The trial court granted CFA’s motion to intervene in the case as a party defendant. The Court of Appeals held, based on its reading of the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Bowers v. Shelton, 453 SE2d 741 (1995), Georgia’s Open Records Act prohibited the disclosure of all information that was not required to be disclosed based on the ORA exemptions listed the statute. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to address that issue, disapproved of the Court of Appeals’ broad reading of Bowers and reversed the court’s judgment. View "Campaign for Accountability v. Consumer Credit Research Foundation" on Justia Law

by
Arla, a Denmark-based global dairy conglomerate, launched a $30 million advertising campaign aimed at expanding its U.S. cheese sales, branded “Live Unprocessed.” The ads assure consumers that Arla cheese contains no “weird stuff” or “ingredients that you can’t pronounce,” particularly, no milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin (“rbST”), an artificial growth hormone. The flagship ad implies that milk from rbST-treated cows is unwholesome. Narrated by a seven-year-old girl, the ad depicts rbST as a cartoon monster with razor-sharp horns. Elanco makes the only FDA-approved rbST supplement. Elanco sued, alleging that the ads contain false and misleading statements in violation of the Lanham Act. Elanco provided scientific literature documenting rbST’s safety, and evidence that a major cheese producer had decreased its demand for rbST in response to the ads. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the issuance of a preliminary injunction, rejecting arguments that Elanco failed to produce consumer surveys or other reliable evidence of actual consumer confusion and did not submit adequate evidence linking the ad campaign to decreased demand for its rbST. Consumer surveys or other “hard” evidence of actual consumer confusion are unnecessary at the preliminary-injunction stage. The evidence of causation is sufficient at this stage: the harm is easily traced because Elanco manufactures the only FDA-approved rbST. The injunction is sufficiently definite and adequately supported by the record and the judge’s findings. View "Eli Lilly and Co. v. Arla Foods USA, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Nationwide, its principal and sole shareholder, and Loan Payment (collectively, petitioners) operate a debt payment service that claims to reduce the amount of interest owed by accelerating debt repayment via an extra annual payment. The California Department of Business Oversight and the District Attorneys of four counties (the People) challenged petitioners’ business practices, seeking civil penalties under Business and Professions Code sections 17200 and 17500, and Financial Code section 12105(d), plus injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, the voiding of petitioners’ allegedly unlawful contracts, costs and attorney fees. Petitioners demanded a jury trial, which the People successfully moved to strike. The California Supreme Court transferred the matter back to the court of appeals, with directions to issue an order to show cause why petitioners do not have a right to a jury trial. The court of appeal then partially granted the petitioners’ request, concluding the “gist” of the statutory causes of action asserted against them are legal, giving rise to a right to jury trial. The court held that that right to jury trial extends only to the issue of liability; the amount of statutory penalties, and whether any equitable relief is appropriate, is properly determined by the trial court. View "Nationwide Biweekly Administration, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was the certification of a class composed of individuals whose payment card information was compromised as a result of the 2013 Target security breach. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's recertification of the class on remand, holding that the district court did not err in certifying the proposed class, which included both persons who suffered an actual financial loss and those who had not yet suffered a loss. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by including the costs of notice and administration expenses as a benefit to the class as a whole in calculating the total benefit to the class, and in finding that the settlement agreement was fair, reasonable, and adequate. Finally, the court affirmed the attorneys' fee award. View "Sciaroni v. Target Corp." on Justia Law

by
Optometrists across the country noticed that Chase Amazon Visa credit card accounts had been fraudulently opened in their names, using correct social security numbers and birthdates. The victims discussed the thefts in Facebook groups dedicated to optometrists and determined that the only common source to which they had given their personal information was NBEO, where every graduating optometry student submits personal information to sit for board-certifying exams. NBEO released a Facebook statement that its “information systems [had] NOT been compromised.” Two days later, NBEO stated that it had decided to further investigate. Three weeks later, NBEO posted “a cryptic message stating its internal review was still ongoing.” NBEO advised the victims to “remain vigilant in checking their credit.” Victims filed suit under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2). The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The Fourth Circuit vacated. These plaintiffs allege that they have already suffered actual harm in the form of identity theft and credit card fraud; they have been concretely injured by the use or attempted use of their personal information to open credit card accounts without their knowledge or approval. There is no need to speculate on whether substantial harm will occur. The complaints contain allegations demonstrating that it is both plausible and likely that a breach of NBEO’s database resulted in the fraudulent use of the plaintiffs’ personal information. View "Hutton v. National Board of Examiners in Optometry, Inc." on Justia Law

by
At issue was how to calculate “fair market value” of a repossessed automobile under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 255B, 20 B and the notices that are required with respect to this calculation. Under section 20B, a creditor who repossesses and sells a vehicle is entitled to recover form the debt the deficiency that remains after deducting the “fair market value” of the vehicle from the debtor’s unpaid balance. Plaintiff in this case alleged that the fair market value of her repossessed automobile was the fair market retail value of the automobile, rather than the amount paid at an auction open to licensed dealers. The federal district court granted summary judgment to American Honda Finance Corporation (Honda). The court of appeals certified to the Supreme Judicial Court three questions. The Court answered (1) the ultimate determination of fair market value is left to the courts in contested cases, taking into account both creditor and debtor interests, and the means, methods, and markets used to sell the vehicle; and (2) the resale and postsale notices provided to the debtor must expressly describe the deficiency as the difference between the amount owed on the loan and the fair market value of the vehicle. View "Williams v. American Honda Finance Corp." on Justia Law

by
California consumer protection laws do not obligate Mars, Inc. to label their goods as possibly being produced by child or slave labor. In the absence of any affirmative misrepresentations by the manufacturer, the manufacturer did not have a duty to disclose the labor practices in question, even though they were reprehensible, because they were not physical defects that affected the central function of the chocolate products. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action alleging that Mars had a duty to disclose on its labels the labor practices that may have tainted its supply chain. In this pure omissions case concerning no physical product defect relating to the central function of the chocolate and no safety defect, the panel held that plaintiff has not sufficiently pleaded that Mars had a duty to disclose on its labels the labor issues in its supply chain. Absent such a duty, plaintiff's claims under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law claims were foreclosed. View "Hodsdon v. Mars, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Appellant Rodger Lindsay, a debtor who, in response to a mortgage foreclosure complaint filed by Appellee Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC (“Bayview”), asserted as an affirmative defense in new matter Bayview’s failure to provide him with the required thirty days’ notice. The issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review was whether, following Bayview’s discontinuance of the case, Lindsay was entitled to recover attorneys’ fees arising from the assertion of his affirmative defense. The Court concluded that to be entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees under section 503(a) of the Loan Interest and Protection Law (“Act 6”), the debtor must commence an “action” asserting a violation of section 403(a) and prevail. Because an affirmative defense was not an “action” for purposes of Act 6, under the facts and procedural history presented here, Lindsay was not entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees. View "Bayview Loan v. Lindsay" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners were companies or wholly-owned subsidiaries involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of pharmaceuticals or generic prescription drugs, including the prescription drug Niaspan. In October 2016, the Orange County District Attorney, representing "the People of the State of California" in association with private counsel, filed a complaint for violations of the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL), alleging that petitioners either entered into agreements or otherwise engaged in conduct that prevented other generic manufacturers from launching their own Niaspan equivalent, causing purchasers and others in California to overpay for the drug. In this writ proceeding, petitioners asked the Court of Appeal to resolve a single issue: whether section 17204 of the UCL "permit[s] a county district attorney to bring a claim that seeks relief for alleged injuries to residents of California counties whom he or she does not represent, based on conduct occurring outside the county he or she serves . . . ." Petitioners argued district attorneys have no authority to prosecute civil actions absent specific legislative authorization, and neither the Government Code, nor Business and Professions Code section 17204, authorized the district attorney of a single county to seek statewide penalties for alleged UCL violations. The Court granted the petition: "[t]hough section 17204 confers standing on district attorneys to sue in the name of the people of the State of California, it cannot constitutionally or reasonably be interpreted to grant the District Attorney power to seek and recover restitution and civil penalty relief for violations occurring outside the jurisdiction of the county in which he was elected. A contrary conclusion would permit the District Attorney to usurp the Attorney General's statewide authority and impermissibly bind his sister district attorneys, precluding them from pursuing their own relief. Thus, in the absence of written consent by the Attorney General and other county district attorneys, the District Attorney must confine such monetary recovery to violations occurring within the county he serves." View "Abbott Laboratories v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law