Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Katherine Rosenberg-Wohl procured a homeowners insurance policy from State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, which covered various risks including fire. After her neighbor fell on her staircase, she discovered the stairs needed replacement and filed a claim with State Farm. The insurer denied her claim, citing policy exclusions. Rosenberg-Wohl then filed two lawsuits: one for breach of contract and another under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief regarding State Farm’s general claims-handling practices.The San Francisco City and County Superior Court sustained State Farm’s demurrer, concluding that the one-year limitations period in the insurance policy applied to all of Rosenberg-Wohl’s claims, including her UCL claim. The court reasoned that her claims were essentially “on the policy” because they were grounded in the denial of her insurance claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed this decision, with a majority agreeing that the one-year limitations period applied, while a dissenting justice argued that the UCL’s four-year limitations period should govern.The Supreme Court of California reviewed the case and concluded that the one-year limitations period in section 2071 of the Insurance Code and the insurance policy did not apply to Rosenberg-Wohl’s UCL cause of action. The court determined that her lawsuit was not a “suit or action on [the] policy for the recovery of any claim” because she sought only declaratory and injunctive relief, not a financial recovery under the policy. The court emphasized that the UCL’s four-year statute of limitations governed her claim. Consequently, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remanded the matter for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Rosenberg-Wohl v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The case involves a putative class action brought by the plaintiff against Kimberly Clark Corp., alleging that the labeling of the defendant's baby wipes was misleading under California's false advertising laws. The plaintiff claimed that the terms "plant-based wipes" and "natural care®" on the front label, along with nature-themed imagery, suggested that the wipes contained only natural ingredients without chemical modifications. However, the wipes contained synthetic ingredients.The United States District Court for the Central District of California separated the product labels into two categories: those with an asterisk and a qualifying statement ("Asterisked Products") and those without ("Unasterisked Products"). The district court dismissed the plaintiff's claims, concluding that both categories were not misleading as a matter of law. The court reasoned that the asterisk and qualifying statement on the Asterisked Products clarified that the wipes were not entirely plant-based, and the back label's disclaimer about synthetic ingredients dispelled any potential misrepresentation for both categories.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's claims regarding the Unasterisked Products, holding that the front label could plausibly mislead a reasonable consumer to believe the wipes contained only natural ingredients, precluding reliance on the back label at the pleadings stage. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of claims regarding the Asterisked Products, finding that the asterisk and qualifying statement, along with the back label, made it impossible for the plaintiff to prove that a reasonable consumer would be deceived. The court also rejected the defendant's argument that the complaint failed to meet the particularity requirements of Rule 9(b). The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion. View "WHITESIDE V. KIMBERLY CLARK CORP." on Justia Law

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Michigan First Credit Union reimbursed its customers for unauthorized electronic fund transfers resulting from a SIM Swap scam involving T-Mobile USA, Inc. Michigan First sought to recover these funds from T-Mobile, claiming indemnification or contribution under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and state law. The district court dismissed the complaint, ruling that Michigan First failed to state a claim for indemnification or contribution under both the EFTA and state law.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed Michigan First’s claims, finding no basis for indemnification or contribution under the EFTA or state law. Michigan First appealed, arguing that the EFTA implies a right to indemnification or contribution, that the Michigan Electronic Funds Transfer Act (MEFTA) is not preempted by the EFTA, and that its state common-law indemnification claim should stand.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reviewed the case de novo. The court held that the EFTA does not imply a right to indemnification or contribution for financial institutions, as the statute is designed to protect consumers, not financial institutions. The court also found that the EFTA preempts the MEFTA and any state common-law claims for indemnification or contribution, as allowing such claims would conflict with the EFTA’s comprehensive regulatory scheme. Consequently, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Michigan First’s complaint. View "Michigan First Credit Union v. T-Mobile USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Samuel Boytor, an engineer and businessman, and his wife Carol, defaulted on loans they had personally guaranteed. They entered into a settlement agreement with EFS Bank’s successor, restructuring their debt into three new promissory notes secured by mortgages on their properties. PNC Bank, which eventually held these notes, filed a complaint in 2018 against the Boytors for defaulting on two of the notes. PNC sought foreclosure on the Boytors’ residential property and a money judgment for the nonpayment of a separate note.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held a bench trial and found in favor of PNC on both counts. The court ordered foreclosure on the Boytors’ residential property and issued a deficiency judgment after the property was sold. The Boytors appealed the decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The appellate court held that PNC had established a prima facie case for foreclosure by presenting the mortgage and underlying note. The Boytors’ affirmative defenses, including lack of consideration and payment of the notes, were rejected. The court found that the $203,000 note was supported by consideration and that the Boytors had not paid the note. Additionally, the court determined that the $200,000 note was not paid, and the release of the mortgage did not extinguish the underlying debt. The court also rejected the Boytors’ argument of accord and satisfaction, finding no evidence of a new arrangement to pay less than the outstanding debt. View "PNC Bank, National Association v. Boytor" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mark Coziahr filed a class action against Otay Water District, alleging that Otay's tiered water rates for single-family residential customers violated Section 6(b)(3) of Proposition 218, which mandates that property-related fees not exceed the proportional cost of the service attributable to the parcel. The trial court certified the class and found that Otay failed to meet its burden of demonstrating compliance with Section 6(b)(3). In the remedy phase, the court awarded an estimated refund of approximately $18 million, with monthly increases until Otay imposed compliant rates. Otay appealed the liability decision and damages, while Coziahr appealed only as to damages.The Superior Court of San Diego County found that Otay's tiered rates were based on non-cost objectives like conservation and did not correlate with the actual cost of providing water service. The court determined that Otay's reliance on peaking factors and adherence to industry standards were insufficient to justify the tiered rates. The court also found that Otay discriminated against single-family residential customers by charging them more for water than other customer classes without a cogent reason. The court rejected Otay's peaking factor analysis and Mumm's independent analysis as flawed and unsupported by the record.The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, affirmed the trial court's liability determination, holding that Otay did not establish its tiered rates complied with Section 6(b)(3). The court found that Otay's evidence did not withstand independent review and that the trial court properly applied the principles from Capistrano and Palmdale. However, the appellate court reversed the refund amount, finding the trial court's calculations unreasonable due to reliance on projected data and a proxy from another case. The matter was remanded for a new trial on the refund amount, including monthly increases and prejudgment interest. The judgment was otherwise affirmed. View "Coziahr v. Otay Wat. Dist." on Justia Law

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The case involves trade associations representing manufacturers of children's products challenging Oregon's Toxic-Free Kids Act (TFKA) and its implementing regulations. The TFKA requires the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to maintain a list of high priority chemicals of concern for children's health and imposes reporting and removal requirements for these chemicals. The trade associations argued that these state requirements are preempted by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA).The United States District Court for the District of Oregon partially dismissed the trade associations' claims and granted partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The district court concluded that the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had not exercised independent judgment or expertise to trigger the express preemption provisions of the FHSA or CPSA for all 73 chemicals listed by the OHA. Therefore, the trade associations' facial challenges failed because they could not show that the Oregon statute and its regulations were invalid in all their applications.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court's decision. The Ninth Circuit held that the FHSA and CPSA did not expressly preempt the TFKA and its regulations because the CPSC had not promulgated regulations for all the chemicals at issue. The court also found that the CPSA did not impliedly preempt the TFKA through principles of conflict preemption. The court concluded that the state law did not interfere with the federal regulatory scheme and upheld the district court's judgment. The decision was affirmed. View "AMERICAN APPAREL & FOOTWEAR ASSOCIATION, INC. V. BADEN" on Justia Law

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Demona Freeman secured a loan to purchase her home, which was assigned to the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) and serviced by Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC. After falling behind on her mortgage payments, BNY Mellon initiated a foreclosure action. Freeman filed for bankruptcy and eventually cured her mortgage default through bankruptcy payments. Despite this, Ocwen inaccurately reported her loan as delinquent and began rejecting her monthly payments, leading BNY Mellon to file a second foreclosure action, which was later dismissed. Freeman sued Ocwen and BNY Mellon, alleging violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).The United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed Freeman’s FCRA claim and granted summary judgment on her FDCPA claim, citing lack of standing. Freeman appealed both rulings. She argued that Ocwen failed to conduct a reasonable investigation after being notified by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) of her dispute over the delinquent loan reporting. She also claimed that Ocwen’s erroneous reporting and collection practices caused her various injuries.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case. The court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the FCRA claim, finding that Freeman failed to specify which CRA she notified, thus not providing Ocwen fair notice of the claim. The court also upheld the summary judgment on the FDCPA claim, concluding that Freeman lacked standing. The court determined that Freeman did not provide sufficient evidence of concrete injuries, such as monetary harm or intangible injuries closely related to common law analogues like defamation or invasion of privacy. Consequently, the court affirmed the district court’s rulings. View "Freeman v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) brought an action against Townstone Financial, Inc. and its CEO, Barry Sturner, alleging that they discouraged black prospective applicants from applying for mortgage loans, violating Regulation B of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). The CFPB cited several statements made by Townstone on their radio show that it claimed would discourage black applicants. These statements included derogatory comments about predominantly black areas and other racially insensitive remarks. The CFPB also provided statistical evidence showing that Townstone received fewer mortgage applications from black applicants compared to its peers.The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted Townstone's motion to dismiss. The court held that the ECOA does not authorize liability for discouraging prospective applicants, focusing on the ECOA’s definition of "applicant" as someone who has applied for credit. The court concluded that the ECOA’s protections do not extend to prospective applicants who have not yet applied for credit.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reviewed the case and reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the ECOA, when read as a whole, does authorize the imposition of liability for discouraging prospective applicants. The court found that the ECOA’s broad purpose of preventing discrimination in credit transactions includes actions taken before an application is submitted. The court also noted that the ECOA’s text and legislative history support the interpretation that discouraging prospective applicants is prohibited. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Townstone Financial, Inc." on Justia Law

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John Craig First purchased an agricultural combine from Rolling Plains Implement Company, which was manufactured by AGCO Corporation. First was told the combine was part of AGCO’s Certified Pre-Owned Program, had roughly 400 hours of use, and had never been to the field. However, these representations were false; the combine was not certified and had over 1,200 hours of use. After experiencing numerous issues with the combine, First discovered in 2019 that it had an extensive repair history and over 900 hours of use. He then filed a lawsuit against Rolling Plains, AGCO Corporation, AGCO Service, AGCO Finance, and other related entities.Initially, First filed his lawsuit in the District Court of Oklahoma County, but it was removed to federal court in Oklahoma, which dismissed the case without prejudice and transferred it to the Northern District of Texas. First amended his complaint multiple times, asserting claims of fraud, breach of warranty, and failure of essential purpose. The district court dismissed the fraud claims against AGCO Corporation, AGCO Service, and AGCO Finance for lack of particularity and granted summary judgment in favor of AGCO Finance on the warranty claims. The case proceeded to trial on the remaining claims, where the jury found that First knew or should have known of the fraud by April 13, 2017, and awarded him $96,000 in damages. However, the district court entered judgment in favor of Rolling Plains based on the statute of limitations.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed the case. It vacated the district court’s judgment as a matter of law in favor of Rolling Plains, finding insufficient evidence to support the jury’s selected date for the statute of limitations. The case was remanded for retrial on when First’s cause of action accrued. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of fraud claims against AGCO Corporation, AGCO Service, and AGCO Finance, and upheld the summary judgment in favor of AGCO Finance on the warranty claims. View "First v. Rolling Plains Implement Co." on Justia Law

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In September 2021, cybercriminals targeted a chain of pawnshops, a payday lender, and a prepaid-card company, exposing customers' personal information. The companies informed customers of the breach weeks later, leading to three nationwide class-action lawsuits in the District of Minnesota. The companies moved to dismiss the cases, arguing lack of standing and failure to state a claim, but did not mention arbitration. They continued to engage in litigation activities, including briefing issues, preparing a discovery plan, and requesting a pretrial conference. There is a dispute about whether the companies mentioned arbitration during the pretrial conference, but no formal motion to compel arbitration was filed until months later.The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota found that the companies had waived their right to arbitration by substantially engaging in litigation. The court noted that the companies had no credible explanation for their delay in filing the motion to compel arbitration, despite allegedly deciding to do so during the pretrial conference.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed the case and affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court applied a two-part test to determine waiver of the right to arbitration, focusing on whether the party knew of the right and acted inconsistently with it. The court concluded that the companies had knowledge of their right to arbitration and acted inconsistently by engaging in extensive litigation activities. The companies' actions, including participating in a motion-to-dismiss hearing and scheduling mediation, were deemed to have substantially invoked the litigation machinery, thus waiving their right to arbitration. The court emphasized that the companies' delay and litigation conduct were inconsistent with promptly seeking arbitration. View "Thomas v. Pawn America Minnesota, LLC" on Justia Law