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Crown buys defaulted consumer debt, then refers the accounts to third-party servicers for collection or hires a law firm to file a collection lawsuit. Crown does not contact consumers directly. Crown purchased Barbato’s credit card debt and referred the account to Turning Point for collection. Crown’s obligation to pay Turning Point was contingent upon Turning Point’s success; Crown established settlement guidelines. Turning Point sent Barbato a collection letter, identifying itself as a “Collection Agency” and Crown as its client and left voicemail messages. Crown did not directly communicate with Barbato, nor did it review or approve the letter. When Barbato filed for bankruptcy, Crown closed Barbato’s account. Barbato sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692(a), identifying Crown as a “debt collector.” The Supreme Court decided (Henson) that “[a]ll that matters is whether the target of the lawsuit regularly seeks to collect debts for its own account or does so for ‘another.” The district court concluded that Henson pertained only to the “regularly collects” definition of “debt collector” and did not affect its holding that Crown was a debt collector under the “principal purpose” definition. On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. An entity that acquires debt for the “purpose of . . . collection” but outsources the actual collection activity qualifies as a “debt collector.” View "Barbato v. Greystone Alliance LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the the district court granting summary judgment in favor of MaineStream Finance on Jacob Berry’s complaint seeking the return of a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, holding that summary judgment was improper on the facts of this case. In 2016, MaineStream filed an action against Dwight Moody, Berry’s uncle, to repossess two race cars - including the car called “Outlaw" - that Moody had pledged as collateral in a security agreement. The court found that Moody was the owner of Outlaw and entered a final judgment. In 2017, Berry brought this action against MaineStream, alleging that MaineStream wrongfully seized his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. The district court granted MaineStream’s motion for summary judgment based on MaineStream’s assertion that, in the 2016 action, the court determined that Moody owned the car and that Berry was barred from seeking relief pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that summary judgment was improper because the record did not establish that Outlaw was the same vehicle was the one that was at issue in the instant case. View "Berry v. Mainstream Finance" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Taggart appealed a superior court order affirming a trial court’s verdict on mortgage foreclosure in favor of Great Ajax Operating Partnership (“Great Ajax”). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded Great Ajax or its predecessors failed to provide pre-foreclosure notice before initiating a second mortgage foreclosure action as required by the Loan Interest and Protection Law, 41 P.S. sections 101-605 (“Act 6”). In reaching this conclusion, the Court held the purposes of Act 6 were served by requiring each action in mortgage foreclosure to be preceded by a separate pre-foreclosure notice. A lender may not recycle a stale pre-foreclosure notice that it issued in connection with a prior complaint in mortgage foreclosure. Because Great Ajax failed to provide a separate pre-foreclosure notice before initiating the second action, the superior court's judgment was reversed. View "JP Morgan Chase Bank v. Taggart" on Justia Law

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A Zestimate is an estimated value for real estate, generated on the Zillow website by applying a proprietary algorithm to public data, such as location, tax assessment, number of rooms, and recent selling prices. Zillow does not inspect the building nor adjust for whether a property is attractive or well-maintained. Zillow states that its median error (comparing a Zestimate with a later transaction price) is less than 6%. The Zestimate is off by more than 20% in about 15% of all sales. Zillow informs users that Zestimates may be inaccurate. Plaintiffs learned that the Zestimates for their parcels were below the amounts they hoped to realize. Zillow declined requests to either to increase the Zestimates or remove the properties from the database. Plaintiffs sued, citing the Illinois Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Acts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The plaintiffs lack a private right of action under the appraisal statute, which makes unlicensed appraisal a crime; an administrative agency may impose fines for unlicensed appraisal and issue cease-and-desist le\ers that can be enforced by injunctions. Illinois courts create a non-statutory private right of action “only in cases where the statute would be ineffective, as a practical ma\er, unless such action were implied.” Given the multiple means of enforcing the licensing act, and the penalties for noncompliance, a private action is not necessary. The Trade Practices Act deals with statements of fact, while Zestimates are opinions. View "Patel v. Zillow, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rhone’s physical therapy provider (Institute), billed her $134 for each session. Insurance covered all but a $60 co-pay per session. Rhone did not remit her part of the bills. Institute turned to the Bureau for debt collection. After three years of collection efforts did not work, the Bureau reported to Equifax that Rhone owes nine debts of $60 each. Rhone contends that the Bureau had to report the aggregate debt of $540 rather than nine $60 debts. The district court found the at the Bureau made a “false representation” about “the character, amount, or legal status of any debt,” 15 U.S.C.1692e(2)(A) and imposed a $1,000 penalty. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The credit report was factually correct. The word “character” does not require aggregation of debts arising from multiple transactions with a single entity. The number of transactions between a debtor and a single merchant does not affect the genesis, nature, or priority of the debt and so does not concern its character. View "Rhone v. Medical Business Bureau, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Propel, alleging violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA). Plaintiff's action stemmed from a tax payment agreement (TPA) he entered into with Propel under Virginia Code section 58.1-3018. Propel then moved to dismiss the TILA and EFTA claims. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Propel's motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiff had standing to bring claims under EFTA because the harm that he alleged was a substantive statutory violation that subjected him to the very risks that EFTA, a consumer protection statute, was designed to protect against. The court also held that the TPA was subject to TILA and EFTA because the TPA was a consumer credit transaction. In this case, the TPA was a credit transaction because it provided for third-party financing of a tax obligation. Furthermore, the TPA was a consumer transaction because, as financing of a real property tax debt, it was a voluntary transaction that plaintiff entered into for personal or household purposes. View "Curtis v. Propel Property Tax Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action against Direct Energy, alleging breach of contract, deceptive and unfair trade practices, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff had entered into a consumer electricity contract with Direct Energy which initially guaranteed a fixed electricity rate. Consistent with the terms of the contract, the fixed‐rate plan was converted into a variable rate plan after the first twelve months. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Direct Energy and held that, by the contract's plain terms, Direct Energy promised that the variable rate would be set in its discretion and that it would reflect "business and market conditions," a phrase which encompasses more than just procurement costs. Because plaintiff's claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act were entirely duplicative of his contract claim, they also failed. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's unjust enrichment and Massachusetts unfair trade practices claims. View "Richards v. Direct Energy Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court that Plaintiff’s implied warranty claim was actionable only under the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA), Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 17.41-17.63, holding that the claim for breach of implied warranty of good and workmanlike repairs in this case was not brought under the DTPA and thus was not covered by the DTPA’s two-year limitations period. Plaintiff sought damages for injuries to himself and his small plane when the plane’s engine failed and it crash-landed. Defendant moved to strike Plaintiff’s petition, arguing that the DTPA’s two-year statute of limitations applied. The trial court agreed with Defendant and struck the petition. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s breach of implied warranty claim was not barred by the DTPA limitations period. View "Nghiem v. Sajib" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of claims against Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH, a German company, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the district court, the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Schechtl comported with due process. Stephen Knox’s hand was injured at his work when he operated a machine manufactured by Schechtl. The machine had been sold to Knox’s employer by MetalForming, Inc., an American company located in Georgia and Schechtl’s U.S. distributor. Knox sued both Schechtl and MetalForming in Massachusetts state court. MetalForming removed the case to Massachusetts federal district court and filed crossclaims against Schechtl. The district court granted Schechtl’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Schechtl had not purposefully availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Massachusetts. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Knox and MetalForming met their burden of demonstrating that Schechtl purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conduct activities within Massachusetts. View "MetalForming, Inc. v. Schechtl Maschinenbau GmbH" on Justia Law

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A prospective employer violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act's (FCRA) standalone document requirement by including extraneous information relating to various state disclosure requirements in that disclosure. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a putative class action under the FCRA, alleging that defendants failed to make a proper FCRA disclosure and failed to make a proper disclosure under California's Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA). The panel held that the district court erred by concluding that the standalone document requirements of FCRA and ICRAA were satisfied in this case, and that defendants' disclosure satisfied the FCRA and ICRAA requirements for conspicuousness but not for clarity. View "Gilberg v. California Check Cashing Stores, LLC" on Justia Law