Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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Plaintiff alleges she bought her Richmond home in 1973, refinanced her mortgage in 2005, and unsuccessfully applied for a loan modification in 2015. Plaintiff was not allowed to make payments in the interim and owed $20,000 in arrears. Plaintiff sought Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief. She was required to make monthly payments to cover her pre-petition mortgage arrears plus her regular monthly mortgage payments. Plaintiff failed to make her regular October 2016 mortgage payment. Defendant sought relief from the automatic bankruptcy stay. The bankruptcy court approved an agreement that she would pay the October and November payments over a period beginning in January 2017. Plaintiff claims defendant violated that agreement, that her attempts to make those payments failed, and that she was unable to contact the defendant’s “single point of contact” for foreclosure avoidance (Civil Code 2923.7) Defendant obtained relief from the bankruptcy stay and would not accept the January 2017 payment. At the time of the bankruptcy sale, plaintiff’s home was worth approximately $550,000; defendant sold the home for $403,000. The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claim that she should have been able to avoid foreclosure by tendering the amount in default (Civ. Code 2924c) and that it was unlawful for defendant also to demand payment on amounts subject to a confirmed bankruptcy plan and reversed the dismissal of the section 2923.7 claim but upheld the dismissal of breach of contract, negligence, and elder abuse claims. View "Williams v. 21st Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned consolidated putative class actions brought by plaintiffs whose vehicles were towed at the direction of local police and without plaintiffs’ consent. Each plaintiff was charged for the non-consensual tow by a privately owned towing company that had a contract with the respective local government to perform that towing service. Plaintiffs brought suit challenging those charges in three class actions with common legal claims. Plaintiffs alleged that the fees imposed by the private companies violated the New Jersey Predatory Towing Prevention Act (Towing Act), the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), and the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA). One class action was dismissed on summary judgment and the other was allowed to proceed only as an individual case. Plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Division reversed in a consolidated opinion. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined 2018 legislation amending the Towing Act did not have retroactive effect, and agreed with the Appellate Division’s construction of the pre-2018 Act. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision as to exhaustion of administrative remedies, derivative immunity, and the remand as to the Towing Act and CFA claims, all substantially for the same reasons. Separately, the Supreme Court addressed whether plaintiffs could pursue claims under the TCCWNA and found they were unable to state a claim under that statute. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division on that issue but affirmed as to all others. View "Pisack v. BC Towing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Preston brought a putative class action, claiming that Midland Credit sent him a collection letter that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692[. He claimed the words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on the envelope violated section 1692f(8)’s prohibition against “[u]sing any language or symbol,” other than the defendant’s business name or address, on the envelope of a debt collection letter. He claimed that those words, and the combination statements about discounted payment options with a statement that Midland was not obligated to renew those offers, in the body of the letter, were false and deceptive, under section 1692e(2) and (10). The district court dismissed the complaint, citing a "benign‐language exception" to the statutory language because the language “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” did not create any privacy concerns or expose Preston to embarrassment. The court also rejected Preston’s section 1692e claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part: the language of section 1692f(8) is clear and its application does not lead to absurd results. The prohibition of any writing on an envelope containing a debt collection letter represents a rational policy choice by Congress. The language on the envelope and in the letter does not, however, violate section 1692e(2) and (10). Midland accurately and appropriately used safe‐harbor language as described in precedent. View "Preston v. Midland Credit Management, Inc." on Justia Law