Articles Posted in Alaska Supreme Court

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Two credit card holders defaulted on their accounts, and the issuing bank elected to litigate debt-collection actions. After courts entered default judgments against both card holders, the card holders filed new and separate suits alleging that the bank violated the Uniform Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA) during the earlier debt collection actions. The bank moved in each case to arbitrate the UTPA claims, and the superior court stayed the UTPA litigation and ordered arbitration. The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the bank waived its right to demand arbitration of the subsequent UTPA claims by litigating the debt-collection claims. Because the Court concluded that the two claims were not sufficiently closely related, it held that the bank did not waive its right to demand arbitration of the separate UTPA claims. But The Court also concluded that it was error for the superior court to interpret the arbitration agreement on the question of the availability of statewide injunctive relief: the interpretation of an arbitration agreement is in the first instance a matter for the arbitrator. View "Hudson v. Citibank (South Dakota) NA" on Justia Law

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A client personally financed the sale of his business corporation. His attorney drafted documents that secured the buyer’s debt with corporate stock and an interest in the buyer’s home. Over seven years later the government imposed tax liens on the corporation’s assets; according to the client, it was only then he learned for the first time that his attorney had not provided for a recorded security interest in the physical assets. The client sued the attorney for malpractice and violation of the Alaska Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA). The superior court held that the statute of limitations barred the client’s claims and granted summary judgment to the attorney. But after review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that it was not until the tax liens were filed that the client suffered the actual damage necessary for his cause of action to be complete. Therefore, the Court reversed the superior court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jones v. Westbrook" on Justia Law

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Brett and Josephine Ambridge defaulted on their home loan. Alaska Trustee, LLC sent the Ambridges a notice of default that failed to state the full amount due as required by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Ambridges filed suit against Alaska Trustee and its owner, Stephen Routh, seeking damages under the FDCPA and the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), as well as injunctive and declaratory relief. The superior court held that both Alaska Trustee and Routh were “debt collectors” subject to liability under the FDCPA, awarded damages under the Act, and awarded injunctive relief under the UTPA. Alaska Trustee and Routh appealed, arguing that neither of them is a debt collector as defined by federal law and that injunctive relief was improperly awarded. The Supreme Court found no reversible error in the Superior Court's judgment and affirmed. View "Alaska Trustee, LLC v. Ambridge" on Justia Law

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Diana Albrecht brought a class-action lawsuit against Alaska Trustee, LLC, on behalf of a group of Alaska homeowners who had faced foreclosure on their homes. Alaska Trustee, acting as foreclosure trustee, had provided Albrecht and the other homeowners reinstatement quotes that included the costs of foreclosure. Albrecht maintained that the inclusion of foreclosure costs in her reinstatement quote violated her right to cure under a former version of AS 34.20.070(b), the non-judicial foreclosure statute, which provided that a homeowner’s "default may be cured by payment of the sum in default other than the principal that would not then be due if no default had occurred, plus attorney fees or court costs actually incurred by the trustee due to the default." According to Albrecht, Alaska Trustee's inclusion of foreclosure costs in addition to "attorney's fees or court costs" constituted a violation of not only the non-judicial foreclosure statute but also Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA). The superior court concluded that Albrecht lacked standing to sue and denied her motion for class certification. The superior court further ruled that Alaska Trustee's practice of including various fees and charges as foreclosure costs was permitted under the statute. The superior court awarded attorney's fees to Alaska Trustee as the prevailing party, enhancing those fees under AS 45.50.537(b) on the ground that Albrecht's claims were frivolous. Because the inclusion of foreclosure costs in a reinstatement quote did not violate AS 34.20.070, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court in most respects. But because the Court concluded that Albrecht’s claims were not frivolous and attorney's fees could not be awarded under Rule 82 for time spent litigating the structure of a class action, the Court remanded for recalculation of fees awarded. View "Albrecht v. Alaska Trustee, LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue presented to the Supreme Court in this case was whether under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act a misrepresentation by a seller of a used motor home is subject to a defense that the misrepresentation was made in good faith. Plaintiff Robert Borgen bought a used Travelaire motor home from A&M Motors, Inc. in 2004. The motor home had previously been owned by Thom and Linda Janidlo; the Janidlos traded in the vehicle to A&M Motors about two weeks before Borgen bought it. When the Janidlos traded in the motor home, they indicated that it was a 2002 model. At some point, someone changed the model year to 2003 on the documents at A&M Motors. The title from the State of Alaska showed that the motor home was a 2003 model, but the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicated that the motor home was a 2002 model. Both trial experts testified that the tenth digit of a VIN of a chassis indicates the model year of the chassis, but their testimony as to whether the same holds true for the VIN of a coach was unclear. The VIN on the chassis is the VIN on the vehicle’s title, but a motor home’s model year is determined by the model year of the coach. A&M Motors sold the Travelaire to Borgen as a 2003 model. In August 2005 Borgen discovered documents in the motor home indicating the motor home was actually a 2002 model. He contacted A&M Motors to complain; the only compensation they offered him was a $1,000 service contract. Borgen sued A&M Motors, pleading three causes of action: (1) misrepresentation, (2) violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), and (3) breach of contract. Borgen moved for summary judgment on his UTPA claim in February 2008. The trial court denied that motion, and a jury ultimately decided that A&M Motors had not engaged in an unfair or deceptive act in its dealings with Borgen. Finding that the trial court did not err by finding the UTPA implied an unknowing affirmative misrepresentation of material fact would not give rise to liability, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment with respect to Borgen's UTPA claims, but remanded for further proceedings on treble damages. View "Borgen v. A&M Motors, Inc." on Justia Law