Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al.
Darilyn Baker, individually and on behalf of a certified class, appealed an order denying her motion for a new trial after a jury returned a verdict in favor of RW Enterprises, Inc. and Randy Westby. This case has been before the North Dakota Supreme Court three times. Prior to the Baker III decision, the district court dismissed Baker’s claims after finding the defendants did not violate disclosure requirements of the North Dakota Retail Installment Sales Act (“RISA”). Baker appealed. In Baker III, the Supreme Court concluded the retail installment contracts did not comply with RISA’s disclosure requirements. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for consideration of a willful violation of RISA and the remedies available for noncompliance with the disclosure requirements. On remand, Baker filed a motion requesting the district court to approve a settlement with Autos, Inc., Robert Opperude, and James Hendershot, dismiss all claims under RISA, and grant summary judgment on the usury claim against RW Enterprises and Westby. The court approved the settlement but denied the motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. At trial, Baker requested the jury be instructed on a partnership between the defendants. The district court declined to provide the partnership instruction, but provided an instruction on “acting in concert” in order for Baker to establish the defendants worked together. The jury found RW Enterprises and Westby did not violate RISA. By answering “no” to the RISA violation, the verdict form instructed the jury to stop answering other questions and return the form to the court. Had the jury found RW Enterprises and Westby in violation, the next question was whether the contract charged usurious interest and if so, what damages were suffered by the plaintiffs. Baker moved for a new trial arguing the district court provided an improper verdict form and jury instructions. The district court denied Baker’s motion. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Discover Bank v. Hornbacher
Discover Bank (Discover) appealed a district court order denying its motion for judgment and dismissing the case. Discover sued Bryan Hornbacher, alleging he was indebted to it on a credit card debt for $14,695.13. The parties entered into a stipulation and consent. The stipulation provided an acknowledgment by Hornbacher that he had been served with the summons and complaint and an admission that he had no defenses to the allegations in the complaint. Hornbacher consented to entry of judgment in the amount of $14,695.13 in exchange for Discover’s agreement to accept $10,080.00 payable over three years as full satisfaction of the judgment, and to forego execution on the judgment unless there were a default in the agreed-upon payment schedule. In its order, the trial court found that “[p]laintiff files a stipulation stating it will not move for judgment unless the terms of the agreement are [breached].” The North Dakota Supreme Court found this was an error, as was the trial court's focus on the lack of default under the stipulation having occurred: "Discover was not moving to execute the judgment, but rather was, by affidavit, moving for judgment to be entered against Hornbacher pursuant to the stipulation. The court misread the stipulation and misapplied the law." Because the plain language of the stipulation provided for judgment against Hornbacher to be entered, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of judgment. View "Discover Bank v. Hornbacher" on Justia Law
Discover Bank v. Bolinske, Sr.
Robert V. Bolinske, Sr., appealed an order denying his motion to vacate a default judgment. Discover Bank (“Discover”) sued Bolinske for unpaid debt in the amount of $3,915.53 on a credit card Discover issued to Bolinske. Notice of entry of judgment was served on Bolinske on December 23, 2019. Bolinske moved to vacate judgment on January 10, 2020. Bolinske claimed he attempted to respond to Discover’s summons and complaint by mail on December 6, 2019, but accidentally misaddressed the envelope to Discover’s counsel and sent his answer and counterclaims to an incorrect address. Bolinske argued after his answer and counterclaims were returned as undelivered, he mailed them to the proper address on December 16, 2019. Bolinske argued that same day, he placed a call to Discover’s counsel and left a voicemail stating that he was making an appearance to avoid a default judgment and explaining he had sent his answer and counterclaim to the wrong address. Discover’s counsel asserted she did not receive Bolinske’s voicemail until after e-filing the motion for default judgment, but acknowledged the voicemail was received on December 16. Bolinske argued in his brief supporting his motion to vacate that his voicemail left with Discover’s counsel constituted an appearance entitling him to notice before entry of default. Bolinske also argued that he was entitled to relief from judgment due to his mistake, inadvertence, and excusable neglect. The district court denied Bolinske’s motion on January 31, 2020 without holding a hearing, stating Bolinske had not demonstrated sufficient justification to set the judgment aside. Fining no reversible error in the district court judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Discover Bank v. Bolinske, Sr." on Justia Law
McDougall, et al. v. AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA, et al.
Michael and Bonita McDougall appealed a judgment dismissing their deceit and unjust enrichment claims against AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA and granting summary judgment in favor of AgCountry on its claims to enforce assignment of rents and to foreclose a mortgage. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by concluding the McDougalls’ deceit claim was precluded by the statute of frauds. Therefore the Court reversef the judgment as to the deceit and unjust enrichment claims, affirmed judgment on the remaining claims, and remanded. View "McDougall, et al. v. AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA, et al." on Justia Law
Rodenburg Law Firm v. Sira, et al.
The Rodenburg Law Firm appealed a judgment dismissing its action against Kathy Sira, Mikhail Usher, and the Usher Law Group, P.C., for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and exemplary damages. Sira initiated a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) action against Rodenburg in New Jersey federal court, alleging Rodenburg, a North Dakota law firm, engaged in harassment and abusive debt collection tactics and violated 15 U.S.C. 1692 et. seq. Sira’s action was ultimately dismissed by agreement of the parties. After the dismissal of Sira’s action, Rodenburg sued Sira and her attorney, Usher and the Usher Law Group, in this action, alleging malicious prosecution. Rodenburg subsequently amended its complaint to include claims for abuse of process and exemplary damages. After a bench trial, the district court dismissed Rodenburg’s claims. The court found Sira lived in New Jersey, her allegations in the federal FDCPA action stated a claim for relief, and her allegations were based on reasonable trustworthy information made after a reasonable inquiry under the circumstances. The court found Sira’s lawsuit was not for an improper purpose and was not an abuse of process. The court also found her lawsuit was not a malicious prosecution because there was probable cause for the action and there was no malice. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in dismissing Rodenburg’s claims for abuse of process and malicious prosecution. View "Rodenburg Law Firm v. Sira, et al." on Justia Law
Heartland State Bank v. Larson, et al.
Jared Larson appealed a district court judgment foreclosing a mortgage in favor of Heartland State Bank. Larson argued the judgment should have been reversed because Heartland’s notice before foreclosure was legally insufficient. The North Dakota Supreme Court found Larson raised an issue of defective notice during the pendency of the action after Heartland moved to amend its complaint. After reviewing the record, the Supreme Court concluded the defect did not impair Larson’s rights and was not fatal to Heartland’s foreclosure action. Rather than impair Larson’s rights, the Court found the defect benefited him: had he paid the amount due under the notice, the mortgage would have been reinstated under N.D.C.C. 32-19-28 and Heartland would have been required to start the process over to foreclose the mortgage. Because the defect did not impair Larson’s right to reinstate the mortgage, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting Heartland’s motion to amend the complaint and motion for summary judgment. Judgment was affirmed. View "Heartland State Bank v. Larson, et al." on Justia Law
Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al.
Darilyn Baker, individually and on behalf of a class of more than 500 persons similarly situated, appealed dismissal of her class action against Autos, Inc. d/b/a Global Autos, Robert Opperude, James Hendershot, RW Enterprises, Inc., and Randy Westby, for claimed violations of the North Dakota Retail Installment Sales Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 51-13, and state usury laws. Baker also appealed an order denying her motion to amend the judgment. Baker argued the retail sellers failed to make required disclosures of certain finance charges and late fees in retail installment contracts and they lost their regulated lender status and were subject to state usury laws. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the retail installment contracts failed to disclose loan fees as finance charges, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
American Express Centurion Bank v. Corum
Karen Corum appealed the grant of summary judgments in two collection actions brought by American Express Centurion Bank. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court's summary judgments were proper as a matter of law and the district court did not err by denying Corum's request to allow her husband to be her spokesperson in court. A party who is not represented by a licensed attorney cannot be represented by another person, including their spouse, in any court of record in this state, absent authorization provided by state law or supreme court rule. The right of free speech does not encompass in-court advocacy by a non-lawyer on behalf of another person, including a spouse. View "American Express Centurion Bank v. Corum" on Justia Law
Thompson v. Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1
The Federal Arbitration Act does not preempt all state arbitration law. A party alleging an arbitration agreement is unconscionable must demonstrate some quantum of both procedural and substantive unconscionability. A party's failure to clearly object to a defect in arbitration proceedings prior to or during arbitration may constitute a waiver of the objection. Lynne Thompson appealed a district court order compelling arbitration, a judgment confirming the arbitration award, and an order denying her motion to vacate the judgment or for a new trial. Thompson sued Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1, seeking to rescind a contract to purchase a vehicle and for damages for unjust enrichment and unlawful sales practices. Lithia moved to dismiss Thompson's complaint and to compel arbitration, arguing there was an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. Thompson responded to the motion, arguing the arbitration agreement was unenforceable and unconscionable and claiming she was entitled to a jury trial on the issue of the enforceability. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in compelling arbitration or confirming the arbitrator's award. View "Thompson v. Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1" on Justia Law
A. R. Audit Services, Inc. v. Tuttle
Trinity Health provided Charles Tuttle with $127,001.07 in medical services. Tuttle applied for financial assistance with Trinity, but was denied. Tuttle failed to pay the medical bill after Trinity demanded payment. Trinity subsequently assigned the debt to A.R. Audit Services. A.R. Audit sued Tuttle to collect the medical debt. Tuttle counterclaimed, alleging A.R. Audit failed to provide him thirty days to respond to the debt collection demand. A.R. Audit moved for summary judgment, arguing Tuttle was responsible for the entire debt because he failed to provide to Trinity information necessary to complete the application for financial assistance. Tuttle responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing Trinity should have sued him to collect the debt instead of A.R. Audit. He also claimed Trinity representatives told him he qualified for financial assistance with Trinity and would not owe any money to Trinity. The district court denied Tuttle's motion to dismiss, dismissed his counterclaims, and granted A.R. Audit's summary judgment motion, concluding Tuttle failed to show he was not responsible for the debt. Tuttle appealed. After review, the Supreme Court modified the judgment to reimburse Tuttle for paying A.R. Audit's $80 filing fee, and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "A. R. Audit Services, Inc. v. Tuttle" on Justia Law