Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendant, his student loan servicer, as expressly preempted by the Higher Education Act (HEA), 20 U.S.C. 1098g, holding that Plaintiff's state law claims were not expressly or implicitly preempted by the HEA.Plaintiff raised claims that Defendant violated the Consumer Protection Act, was negligent in its accounting of his payments, breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and engaged in deceit, negligent misrepresentation, or constructive fraud. The district court dismissed the complaint, determining that the HEA expressly preempted Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's state law claims as pleaded were neither expressly preempted by 20 U.S.C. 1098g, nor were they preempted under conflict preemption, and thus the claims survived dismissal. View "Reavis v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, Inc. (SCL) on Cheryl Bratton's claims, holding that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to SCL.This case stemmed from SCL's practice of issuing refunds to its patients, for such reasons as overpayment on an account, in the form of prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued through Bank of America. Plaintiff brought this suit alleging, among other claims, constructive trust based on unjust enrichment, unfair trade practices under the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), money had and received, and declaratory judgment. During discovery, SCL asked Bank of America to issue checks to Bratton for her refunds, which Bank of America did. The district court granted summary judgment for SCL. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to SCL on Bratton's claims and by denying Bratton's cross motions for summary judgment. View "Bratton v. Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court granting a motion to dismiss in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's action seeking a declaratory judgment and asserting that provisions of the Montana Retail Installment Sales Act (RISA) barred Defendant from collecting fees under the parties' agreement, holding that the 2007 version of RISA controlled and did not confer a private cause of action but that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim.In 2009, Plaintiff purchased a mobile home and financed the majority of the purchased through an installment sales contract and security agreement that was later assigned to Defendant. Plaintiff later filed this action alleging Defendant assessed excessive late fees against her and violated RISA by failing to disclose the finance charge. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the 2007 version of RISA controlled and did not confer a private cause of action; but (2) the district court erred in dismissing the motion for failure to state a claim because Plaintiff properly asked the court for a declaratory judgment clarifying her rights under the agreement in light of the provisions of RISA. View "Strauser v. RJC Investment, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants in this putative class action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Montana Retail Installment Sales Act (RISA), Mont. Code Ann. 31-1-201, et seq., barred Defendants from recovery of any interest, finance charges, or late charges on installment contracts for the purchase of a manufactured home, holding that the 2009 version of RISA controlled in this case and did not confer a private cause of action.Plaintiffs purchased a mobile home from Cherry Creek Development Inc. and financed a portion of the price through an installment contract assigned to RJC Investment, Inc. Plaintiffs filed this putative class action against Cherry Creek and RJC Investment (together, Defendants), asserting several violations of Mont. Code Ann. 31-1-231 through -243. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants on the basis that RISA did not confer a private cause of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the applicable version of RISA did not confer a private right of action. View "Somers v. Cherry Creek Development, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for operating a noncommercial vehicle with alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (DUI per se) but reversed the district court’s order imposing the cost of legal counsel on Defendant. The court held (1) Defendant’s right to due process was not violated by a jury instruction that instructed the jurors, when choosing between two competing interpretations of circumstances evidence, to choose whichever interpretation was the “most reasonable”; but (2) the district court erred in imposing costs of legal counsel on Defendant given Defendant’s limited fixed income and disability status. View "State v. Iverson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant’s request for substitution of counsel in this criminal proceeding.Appellant pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide. Thereafter, Appellant made a request for substitution of counsel. After a hearing, the district court deemed the representation matter resolved because the Office of the State Public Defender denied Appellant’s request for new counsel and Appellant had not appealed that decision. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the district court failed adequately to inquire into Defendant’s complaints regarding his counsel, which necessitated a remand. On remand, the district court issued an order again denying Appellant’s request for substitution of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it inquired into Appellant’s complaints of ineffective assistance of counsel and in denying his request for substitution of counsel. View "State v. Schowengerdt" on Justia Law

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Sometime after loan servicing duties on Robin and Kathleen Jacobsens’ loan was transferred to Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, Bayview initiated foreclosure proceedings. The Jacobsens filed this action to enjoin the sale of their house at a trustee’s sale. The district court canceled the trustee’s sale, and the Jacobsens amended their complaint to add Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims against Bayview. The trial court awarded money damages to the Jacobsens under the FDCPA and the MCPA. After the trial, the court imposed an additional amount in damages, finding that Bayview was in violation of the FDCPA, the MCPA, and the district court’s order in the case prohibiting debt collection by bay view during the pendency of the action. Thereafter, the district court concluded that Bayview committed a second violation of the order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that Bayview violated the FDCPA and the MCPA; (2) the district court properly determined damages incurred by the Jacobsens as a result of Bayview’s actions and supported those conclusions with substantial evidence; and (3) the Jacobsens were entitled to attorney fees and costs on appeal. View "Jacobson v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Facing more than $40,000 in unsecured debt that she owed to Discover Bank and other banks, Susan Ossello enrolled in a debt reduction program and signed a contract with Global Client Solutions. Ossello subsequently stopped making payments on her credit card debt, and Discover Bank brought a collection action against her. Ossello filed a third-party complaint against Global, alleging that Global used deceptive and fraudulent representations to solicit her participation in an illegal debt settlement plan. Global filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The district court concluded that the arbitration clause in Global’s contract was unconscionable and not unenforceable and therefore denied Global’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) reserving to itself the determination of arbitrability, and (2) declaring that the arbitration provision was unconscionable and therefore not enforceable against Ossello. View "Discover Bank v. Ossello" on Justia Law

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Continental Partners bought a lot with two building pads from Yellowstone Development that was part of the Yellowstone Club subdivision. The purchase and sale agreement included an assurance that the houses Continental intended to build on the lot would have ski-in and gravity ski-out access built by the Yellowstone Club. During construction, Continental sold the homes to separate buyers, including the managing member of WLW Realty Partners, LLC. Before construction on the ski-out access on the two homes had begun, the Yellowstone Club filed for bankruptcy protection. The subsequent owners of Yellowstone Club informed the new owners that ski-out access to the homes would not be constructed. WLW Realty filed this action against Continental, alleging, inter alia, negligent misrepresentation and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for WLW Realty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by (1) imposing liability on Continental for negligent misrepresentation, as WLW Realty failed to satisfy the first and second elements of the tort; and (2) finding that Continental had violated the MCPA, as Continental did not engage in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. View "WLW Realty Partners, LLC v. Continental Partners VIII, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident and received medical treatment at Benefis Health System, Inc. Plaintiff had healthcare coverage as a TRICARE beneficiary and also had medical payments coverage through his insurance carrier, Kemper. Plaintiff's medical treatment costs totaled $2,073. Benefis accepted $662 from TRICARE as payment in full satisfaction of the bill pursuant to a preferred provider agreement (PPA) between Blue Cross Blue Shield and Benefis. Benefis subsequently received $1,866 from Kemper, upon which Benefis reimbursed TRICARE's payment in full. Plaintiff filed an individual and class action complaint, claiming that he was entitled to the additional $1,204 that Benefis received from Kemper over and above the TRICARE reimbursement rate. Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asking the district court to find Benefis breached its contract with TRICARE and that Benefis was liable for Plaintiff's damages. The district court converted the motion into a motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment, holding (1) Plaintiff was not entitled to pocket the difference between the TRICARE reimbursement rate and the amount Benefis accepted from Kemper; and (2) Plaintiff failed to establish any damages that resulted from the alleged breach. View "Conway v. Benefis Health Sys., Inc." on Justia Law