Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
Dzielak v. Whirlpool Corp
Since 1992, the Energy Star Program has set energy efficiency standards for categories of products and permitted approved products to bear the Energy Star logo. Three models of Whirlpool top-loading clothes washers were approved to display that logo and did so from 2009-2010. Under one method of measurement, those machines did not meet the Program’s energy- and water-efficiency standards; the washers did satisfy the Program’s standards under another measurement technique, which the Program previously endorsed. Program guidance from July 2010 disapproved of that method.Consumers in several states who had purchased those models commenced a putative class action against Whirlpool and retailers that sold those machines, alleging breach of express warranty and violations of state consumer protection statutes based on the allegedly wrongful display of the Energy Star logo. The district court certified a class action against Whirlpool but declined to certify a class against the retailers. At summary judgment, the court rejected all remaining claims.The Third Circuit affirmed, finding no genuine dispute of material fact. The plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the models were unfit for their intended purpose. A reasonable jury could not find that the retailer defendants were unjustly enriched from selling the washers. Without evidence of a false or misleading statement attributable to Whirlpool or the retailers, the state consumer protection claims failed. View "Dzielak v. Whirlpool Corp" on Justia Law
Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
il”) in Connecticut state court, alleging that Exxon Mobil had engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception to knowingly mislead and deceive Connecticut consumers about the negative climatological effects of the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil was marketing to those consumers. Based on these allegations, Connecticut asserted eight claims against Exxon Mobil, all under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Exxon Mobil removed the case to federal district court, invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, the federal-officer removal statute, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (the “OCSLA”), as well as on other bases no longer pressed in this appeal. The district court rejected each of Exxon Mobil’s theories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and thus remanded the case to state court. Exxon Mobil appealed. The Second Appellate affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained that there are only three exceptions to the “general rule” that “absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.” The court reasoned that Exxon Mobil cannot establish Grable jurisdiction simply by gesturing toward ways in which “this case” loosely “implicates” the same subject matter as “the federal common law of transboundary pollution.” The court wrote that because no federal issue is necessarily raised by any of Connecticut’s CUTPA claims, the Grable/Gunn exception from the well-pleaded complaint rule is inapplicable here. View "Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
Plaintiff asserted that ZoomInfo did not obtain her permission or compensate her when it used her name and likeness in its online directory to promote its product, in violation of California’s Right of Publicity statute and her common-law privacy and intellectual property rights. ZoomInfo moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute. In the district court, ZoomInfo moved to dismiss the complaint and to cut off the claims at the pleading stage. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and rejected ZoomInfo’s special motion to strike the complaint under California anti-SLAPP statute. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to review the denial of ZoomInfo’s anti-SLAPP motion. The panel also held that, at this stage, Martinez has plausibly pleaded that she suffered sufficient injury to establish constitutional standing to sue. The panel wrote that although the district court did not address the exemptions, Plaintiff’s case fell within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP law. Plaintiff met the three conditions for the public interest exemption: Plaintiff requests all relief on behalf of the alleged class of which she is a member and does not seek any additional relief for herself; Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the public interest of the right to control one’s name and likeness; and private enforcement is necessary and disproportionately burdensome. View "KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC." on Justia Law
Nelson v. P.S.C., Inc.
Plaintiffs Matthew and Melanie Nelson (collectively Nelsons) married in 2020. The following year, defendant Puget Sound Collections Inc. (PSC), a debt collection agency, garnished Matthew’s wages in an attempt to satisfy a 2014 default judgment against him and his former wife, stemming from her medical expenses. The Nelsons argued RCW 26.16.200 required any eligible debt be reduced to judgment within the three years before and the three years after the marriage. In their view, the marital bankruptcy statute barred PSC from garnishing Matthew’s wages because the 2014 judgment was entered too soon and not “within three years” of their 2020 marriage. In contrast, PSC argued “within three years of the marriage” simply meant “not later in time than three years after the marriage.” Under this interpretation, PSC lawfully garnished Matthew’s wages because it reduced the debt to judgment not later than three years after the Nelsons’ marriage. The federal appellate court certified questions of Washington law in this case about the so-called marital bankruptcy statute, RCW 26.16.200. The Washington Supreme Court found that while the Nelsons’ interpretation might hold “some logical appeal, and their situation is certainly sympathetic, only PSC’s interpretation of RCW 26.16.200 effectuates the purpose of the statute to provide limited debt collection relief to diligent creditors.” The Court answered the first and second certified questions based on the statute’s plain language and held that “within” in this context means “not later in time than” three years of the marriage. “This interpretation permits wage garnishment where, as here, the creditor had reduced the debt to judgment more than three years before the marriage.” As to the additional certified question, which asked whether Washington law placed any limitation on the amount of wages subject to garnishment, the Nelsons correctly conceded this issue. The Supreme Court held that where other statutory requirements are met, RCW 26.16.200 permitted a creditor to garnish the entirety of the debtor spouse’s wages. View "Nelson v. P.S.C., Inc." on Justia Law
DiCroce v. McNeil Nutritionals, LLC
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's putative class action against McNeil Nutritionals, LLC and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. challenging certain statements on the packaging of Lactaid products, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the complaint.Plaintiff brought this action claiming that Lactaid's labels violated federal labeling requirements, leading Plaintiff to have been mislead into purchasing Lactaid products, which she claimed were more expensive than other lactase supplements. The district court granted Defendants' second motion to dismiss. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's claims were impliedly preempted by the statutory enforcement authority of the Food and Drug Administration. View "DiCroce v. McNeil Nutritionals, LLC" on Justia Law
JUNIOR SPORTS MAGAZINES INC., ET AL V. ROB BONTA, ET AL
AB 2571, as later amended by AB 160, is codified at Section 22949.80 of the California Business and Professions Code. The statute mandates that “[a] firearm industry member shall not advertise, market, or arrange for placement of an advertising or marketing communication offering or promoting any firearm-related product in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.” Junior Sports Magazines Inc. publishes Junior Shooters, a youth-oriented magazine focused on firearm-related activities and products. According to Junior Sports Magazines, its ability to publish Junior Shooters depends on advertising revenue. Junior Sports Magazines ceased distributing the magazine in California and has placed warnings on its website deterring California minors from accessing its content. Shortly after California enacted AB 2571, Junior Sports Magazines challenged its constitutionality under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Junior Sports Magazines also moved to preliminarily enjoin the enforcement of Section 22949.80. The district court denied the injunction. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial. The panel first concluded that because California permits minors under supervision to possess and use firearms for hunting and other lawful activities, Section 22949.80 facially regulates speech that concerns lawful activity and is not misleading. Next, the panel held that section 22949.80 does not directly and materially advance California’s substantial interests in reducing gun violence and the unlawful use of firearms by minors. Finally, the panel held that section 22949.80 was more extensive than necessary because it swept in truthful ads about lawful use of firearms for adults and minors alike. View "JUNIOR SPORTS MAGAZINES INC., ET AL V. ROB BONTA, ET AL" on Justia Law
Window Covering Manufacturers Association v. CPSC
In 2022, the Commission promulgated a rule that set stringent safety standards for the operating cords on custom-made window coverings based on a finding that such cords pose a strangulation risk to young children. The rule sought to eliminate the risk of injury by essentially prohibiting corded window products, and it set an aggressive timeline for industry compliance with the new standards. The Window Covering Manufacturers Association (“WCMA”) filed a petition in this court challenging the rule and its compliance deadline. The DC Circuit granted WCMA’s petition for review and vacated the rule. The court held that the Commission breached notice-and-comment requirements, erroneously relied on certain data in its cost-benefit analysis, and selected an arbitrary effective date for the rule. The court reasoned that the Commission did not explain why it chose to credit the opinion of Safe T Shade’s company president over the contrary feedback that it received from 401 other commenters, the Small Business Association, and its own staff. The court explained that if the Commission wishes to extend a safety standard’s effective date, it must find good cause to do so, and regardless of such an extension, the Commission must find that the effective date. View "Window Covering Manufacturers Association v. CPSC" on Justia Law
Anvar v. Dwyer
In this appeal arising out of a challenge to Rhode Island's liquor laws the First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants as to all claims, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to the constitutionality of the in-state-presence requirement for retailers.Plaintiffs, Rhode Island wine consumers, brought this action alleging that, in violation of the Commerce Clause, Rhode Island consumers are denied access to alcohol deliveries from out-of-state retailers. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The First Circuit vacated the lower judgment in part, holding that the district court erred in entering summary judgment as to the constitutionality of the in-state-presence requirement for retailers and remanded for a fuller consideration of the parties' respective offers of proof. The district court upheld the in-state-presence requirement for retailers. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment in part and vacated it in part and remanded the matter for further proceedings, holding that a discriminatory aspect of the State's version of the "three-tier system" could not be affirmed. View "Anvar v. Dwyer" on Justia Law
Rogers v. Superintendent Greene SCI
Three men joined in a shootout, but only Rogers was convicted of murdering a bystander caught in their crossfire. At his trial, Rogers’s attorney did not object while the trial judge admonished a trial witness (Singleton) about perjury after that witness gave testimony favorable to Rogers. The attorney offered no arguments when Singleton changed his testimony and did not cross-examine Singleton about the change. The Third Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief. Counsel’s failure to object to the trial judge’s admonishment, conduct he “did not think” was problematic, fell below an objective standard of reasonableness under “Strickland” as did counsel’s later failure to cross-examine Singleton regarding his changed testimony. Counsel characterized Singleton as “a liar, trying to help his buddy out,” whose testimony would not be “determinative of the outcome of this case,” but Singleton was the only witness to ever claim Rogers shot first—the ultimate issue in the case. Had Rogers’s counsel objected to the trial judge’s admonishment of Singleton and cross-examined Singleton about his changed testimony, “a reasonable probability” exists that “the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Without Singleton’s testimony against Rogers, the prosecution’s remaining evidence was negligible. View "Rogers v. Superintendent Greene SCI" on Justia Law
Yeh v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County
In 2017, the plaintiffs leased a Mercedes-Benz B250E from a dealer. In 2020, at the end of the lease, they signed a Retail Installment Sales Contract (RISC) with the dealer to finance the purchase of the vehicle. Both the lease and the RISC contained arbitration agreements.The plaintiffs allege that Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), as the manufacturer or distributor of the vehicle, provided them with two express warranties and a separate implied warranty of merchantability and that the vehicle had undisclosed defects covered by the warranties, They took the vehicle to the dealer, which was authorized by MBUSA for repairs, but despite multiple attempts, the vehicle could not be fixed. The plaintiffs filed suit, alleging violations of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. MBUSA moved to compel arbitration, arguing that it had standing to compel arbitration as a third-party beneficiary of both the lease and the RISC, and equitable estoppel. While the trial court rejected MBUSA’s argument that it was a third-party beneficiary of the agreements, it agreed with MBUSA’s equitable estoppel argument. The court of appeal reversed. MBUSA is not a party to the agreements with the vehicle dealer and the claims against MBUSA are not intertwined with those agreements. View "Yeh v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County" on Justia Law