Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
Lamirand, et al v. Fay Servicing, LLC
Charles and Tracy Lamirand took out a mortgage loan to buy a home in Florida but did not keep up with the payments. After they defaulted, the loan servicer sued to foreclose on the home. While the foreclosure suit was pending, Fay Servicing took over the loan. A disagreement arose, leading the Lamirands to sue Fay Servicing. The parties soon settled both lawsuits and agreed that the Lamirands owed $85,790.99 on the loan, to be paid in one year. But four months later, Fay Servicing sent the Lamirands a mortgage statement notifying them that their loan had “been accelerated” because they were “late on [their] monthly payments.” On Fay Servicing’s fast-tracked timetable, the Lamirands owed $92,789.55 to be paid in a month. If they did not pay, Fay Servicing’s statement warned, they risked more fees and even “the loss of [their] home to a foreclosure sale.” The statement then detailed many ways the Lamirands might pay. The statements distressed the Lamirands, who thought they needed to pay only $85,790.99 and make that payment by the date set in the settlement agreement. They eventually sued, alleging that by sending the statements Fay Servicing had violated the FDCPA and Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act. To the district court, the periodic statements were unrelated to debt collection, even though they urged the Lamirands to make their past-due loan payments, because Fay Servicing was required to send monthly updates under the Truth in Lending Act. The court thus held that the Lamirands had not stated an FDCPA claim, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Florida law claims, and dismissed the complaint. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found a periodic statement mandated by the Truth in Lending Act could also be a debt-collection communication covered by the FDCPA. Because the complaint here plausibly alleged the periodic statements sent to the plaintiffs aimed to collect their debt, the district court’s dismissal of their complaint was reversed. View "Lamirand, et al v. Fay Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law
Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al.
Plaintiff and his counsel, Anderson + Wanca (“Wanca”), appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for Wanca to receive a portion of the attorneys’ fees resulting from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. Section 227. Wanca, while not appointed as class counsel in this case, began the chain of litigation that resulted in the settlement below and so contends that it provided a substantial and independent benefit to the class justifying a portion of the attorneys’ fees. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that while the court did find that Wanca has shown it provided one substantial and independent benefit to the class, Wanca’s prioritization of its interests over the class’s interests throughout the litigation forecloses the equitable relief Wanca seeks. The court explained that non-class counsel is generally entitled to a portion of a common fund recovered in a class action as attorneys’ fees under Rule 23(h) if non-class counsel confers a substantial and independent benefit to the class that aids in the recovery or improvement of the common fund. Here, the mere fact that Wanca devoted substantial time and effort to litigating this class action does not entitle Wanca to attorneys’ fees. Simply put, most of the 671.95 hours Wanca spent litigating Arkin I and II did not aid in the recovery or improvement of the common fund obtained under the Pressman Settlement in Arkin III. View "Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Barnett v. American Express National
American Express National Bank (“AmEx”) filed suit for breach of contract in Mississippi state court to recover $2,855.74 of unpaid credit card debt incurred on Plaintiff's account. Plaintiff contended an unknown person incurred this debt fraudulently. Plaintiff then filed Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) claims against AmEx and other defendants in Mississippi state court. The district court denied AmEx’s motion to compel arbitration. The Fifth Circuit vacated the decision of the district court and remanded for reconsideration in the first instance in light of Forby v. One Techs., L.P and Morgan v. Sundance, Inc. The court held that these cases were decided on the same day and after the district court’s ruling. Forby clarified the test for waiver by a party of the right to compel arbitration and reiterated that waiver analysis occurs on a claim-by-claim basis. In addition, Morgan addressed this and other sister circuits’ tests for waiver by a party of the right to compel arbitration. The court explained that although it can apply subsequent precedent to cases before it, “[a]s a court for review of errors, we are not to decide facts or make legal conclusions in the first instance." Thus, the court’s task is to review the actions of a trial court for claimed errors. View "Barnett v. American Express National" on Justia Law
Donovan v. Hastings
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals upholding that trial court's determination that the plaintiff homeowner's award of attorneys fees and costs under Tenn. Code Ann. 20-12-119(c) was limited to those incurred after the date the defendant contractor filed an amended countercomplaint, holding that the lower courts erred.Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract for the renovation of a residence. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Defendant filed an amended countercomplaint asserting breach of contract. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims and then dismissed the countercomplaint. On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the attorney fee and costs award granted by the trial court. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's award of attorney fees and costs, holding that the fees and costs recoverable by Plaintiff in connection with the dismissal of Defendant’s breach of contract claim are not limited to those incurred after the amended countercomplaint was actually filed. View "Donovan v. Hastings" on Justia Law
Northstar Wireless, LLC v. FCC
Petitioners, Northstar Wireless, LLC (“Northstar”), and SNR Wireless LicenseCo, LLC (“SNR”) placed more than $13 billion in winning bids at a Federal Communications Commission (“Commission”) auction to license wireless spectrum. The Commission determined that neither company was eligible for the very-small-business discount because both were de facto controlled by their biggest investor, the large telecommunications company DISH Network Corporation (“DISH”). Northstar and SNR (collectively, “Companies”) petitioned for a review of that decision. Northstar and SNR have again sought our review, contending that the Commission flouted this court’s orders in SNR Wireless by not working closely enough with them to reduce DISH’s control, wrongfully found them to be controlled by DISH, and penalized them without fair notice. The DC Circuit rejected the Companies’ challenges to the Commission’s orders. The court held that the Commission complied with the court’s previous decision by affording the Companies an opportunity to cure. The Commission also reasonably applied its precedent to the Companies and gave them fair notice of the legal standards that it would apply in analyzing their claims to be very small companies. View "Northstar Wireless, LLC v. FCC" on Justia Law
Snyder v. Finley & Co., L.P.A.
Ohio’s Necessaries Statute permits creditors to collect certain debts from one spouse incurred by the other.. Seeking to recover outstanding legal defense bills owed by Snyder’s husband, who had been convicted of embezzlement, Finley filed a debt-collection lawsuit against Finley and her husband, asserting joint liability. Snyder contends that the lawsuit was “objectively baseless” and violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e.The Sixth Circuit reversed the entry of summary judgment in favor of Finley. The Ohio Supreme Court has clearly held that the Necessaries Statute does not impose joint liability on a married person for the debts of a spouse. A creditor must first seek satisfaction of its claim from the assets of the spouse who incurred the debt and must show that the debtor-spouse is “unable to pay” for a non-debtor spouse to be liable under the Necessaries Statute. Finley’s claims against the husband remain pending in the Ohio state trial court. View "Snyder v. Finley & Co., L.P.A." on Justia Law
CRAIG MOSKOWITZ V. AMERICAN SAVINGS BANK
Plaintiff American Savings Bank, F.S.B (“ASB”) sent text messages to his mobile phone without the consent required by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Affirming the district court’s summary judgment, the Ninth Circuit held that under Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Grp., LLC, 847 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2017), messages sent by Plaintiff’s phone to ASB’s “short code” number provided the required prior express consent for ASB’s responsive messages. The district court granted ASB’s motion for an award of costs under Rule 41(d) for costs, including attorney’s fees, that ASB incurred in defending identical litigation commenced and later voluntarily dismissed by Plaintiff in the District of Connecticut. Joining other circuits, and reversing in part, the court held that Rule 41(d) “costs” do not include attorney’s fees as a matter of right. Accordingly, the district court abused its discretion in including attorney’s fees in its award of costs under Rule 41(d). The court explained that it did not decide if bad faith is sufficient to allow a party to recover attorney’s fees as “costs” under Rule 41(b), as bad faith was not alleged, much less proven, by ASB in the district court. The court did not address whether attorney’s fees are available under Rule 41(b) if the underlying statute so provides because, here, it was undisputed that the TCPA does not provide for the award of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. View "CRAIG MOSKOWITZ V. AMERICAN SAVINGS BANK" on Justia Law
Field v. U.S. Bank Nat. Assn.
Plaintiff executed a 2007 note for over a million dollars. She defaulted on her payments and applied for a loan modification in 2017. After a 2018 foreclosure sale, Plaintiff brought a wrongful foreclosure action against a bank and Rushmore Loan Management Services, LLC. During discovery answered a key contention interrogatory with one word: “Unsure.” When later confronted with a defense summary judgment motion, however, Plaintiff developed belated clarity and finally specified the type of wrongdoing she was accusing Defendant of committing. The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court explained that Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.310 provides a mechanism for parties to amend responses to interrogatories under certain circumstances, yet Plaintiff did not attempt to amend. Thus, Plaintiff's untimely and contradictory effort cannot support any attack on this grant of summary judgment, which was proper. View "Field v. U.S. Bank Nat. Assn." on Justia Law
Claudio De Simone v. VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Defendants, VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Alfasigma USA, Inc., appealed the district court’s order finding them in contempt of the court’s permanent injunction. The injunction prohibited Defendants from suggesting in promotional materials that their probiotic contained the same formulation as one marketed by Claudio De Simone and ExeGi Pharma, LLC. On appeal, Defendants (1) their statements weren’t contemptuous, (2) their statements didn’t harm Plaintiffs (3) the district court improperly awarded attorneys’ fees, and (4) VSL and Alfasigma shouldn’t be jointly liable for the fee award. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained a party moving for civil contempt must establish four elements by clear and convincing evidence, relevant here are the last two: that the alleged contemnor by its conduct violated the terms of the decree, and had knowledge (at least constructive knowledge) of such violations; and that the movant suffered harm as a result. Defendants emphasized that consumers couldn’t access the Letter from Alfasigma’s home page. That’s true, as De Simone and ExeGi showed only that consumers could access the Letter by searching “vsl3 litigation” on Google. But the way in which consumers could access the Letter is irrelevant to Alfasigma’s constructive knowledge that it remained on the website. Further, under the Lanham Act, “commercial advertising or promotion” is “commercial speech . . . for the purpose of influencing consumers to buy goods or services.” Here, Defendants’ press release’s final sentence emphasizes VSL#3’s commercial availability, so the district court reasonably viewed the message as an attempt to realize economic gain. View "Claudio De Simone v. VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law
INTER-COOPERATIVE EXCHANGE V. USDOC
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to federal defendants in a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) action brought by Inter-Cooperative Exchange (“ICE”), a cooperative of fishers who harvest and deliver crab off the coast of Alaska, seeking the government’s communications concerning the government’s decision not to factor Alaska’s minimum wage increase into the arbitration system that sets the price of crab. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council manages fisheries off the coast of Alaska. In 2005, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) implemented a program recommended by the Council to allocate crab resources among harvesters, processors, and coastal communities. Alaska increased the minimum wage, which raised the question of whether costs should be considered under the arbitration system. The Council reviewed the matter at a 2017 meeting where an Assistant Regional Administrator of NMFS and a voting member of the Council, introduced an unsuccessful motion to include costs for consideration in the arbitration system. The court held that on the facts here, the three search terms were not reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to ICE’s request. ICE contended that the government’s choice of search terms was unduly narrow and not reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to its FOIA request. The court held that the government’s choice of search terms was overly narrow. View "INTER-COOPERATIVE EXCHANGE V. USDOC" on Justia Law