Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court denied Defendants' petition for a writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing its order permitting the Attorney General to amend a complaint and granting the Attorney General's motion to sever the counts in the complaint for discovery and trial, holding that the circuit court did not err as a matter of law or exceed its legitimate powers.The order at issue permitted the parties to conduct discovery regarding whether the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitation on the Attorney General's claim that Defendants violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (CCPA) and allowed the parties to discover and present evidence on whether Defendants committed multiple violations of the CCPA such that the circuit court might consider imposing multiple penalties. The Supreme Court denied Defendants' petition for a writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court had jurisdiction and did not exceed its legitimate powers. View "State, ex rel. 3M Co. v. Hoke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court considered a question certified by the circuit court and answered that the deceptive trade practices provisions of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (the Act), W. Va. Code 46A-6-101 to -106, do not apply to educational and recreational services offered by a religious institution.The Attorney General sued the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Michael Bransfield, in his capacity as former bishop of the Diocese, alleging (1) the Diocese knowingly employed persons who admitted to sexually abusing others or who were credibly accused of sexual abuse at its camps and schools, and (2) by misrepresenting or hiding that danger, the Diocese violated the deceptive practices provisions of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The circuit court dismissed the Attorney General's claims but stayed its order and certified a question of law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that the deceptive practices provisions of the Act do not apply to educational and recreational services offered by a religious institution. View "State ex rel. Morrisey v. Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion to compel arbitration of Respondents' claims against them, holding that a merger clause in the retail sales installment contract (RISC) between the parties served to supplant the arbitration agreement contained in the previously-executed credit application.Respondents purchased a new truck from Petitioners. Respondents first executed a credit application that contained an arbitration provision. Thereafter, the parties executed the RSIC, which did not contain an arbitration clause. After Respondents defaulted on their loan Petitioners began collection efforts. Respondents filed this complaint asserting that Petitioners harassed them by phone even after being advised they were represented by counsel. Petitioners moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision contained in the credit application. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration provisions in the credit application did not survive the merger clause of the RISC, thereby nullifying Respondents' obligation to arbitrate their claims against Petitioners. View "TD Auto Finance LLC v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court denying a motion to compel arbitration, holding that the court's order did not contain sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law for the Supreme Court to conduct a proper review.Plaintiff sued Defendant for invasion of privacy and alleging that they violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W.Va. Code 46A-1-101 to -8-102. Defendants moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration, apparently determining that no arbitration agreement was formed and, simultaneously, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and should not be enforced. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that the case must be remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings, including the determination of whether any arbitration agreement existed between the parties and, if so, whether that agreement was unconscionable. View "Certegy Check Services v. Fuller" on Justia Law

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West Virginia’s consumer credit protection statute does not regulate the residential rental fees a landlord may charge a tenant pursuant to a lease for residential real property.The Attorney General filed a civil action against Defendant Landlord, one of the largest residential lessors in the state, alleging that Landlord’s residential leases included fees and charges that violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (CCPA), W.Va. Code 46A-1-101 et seq. Landlord filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the CCPA does not apply to residential leases. The circuit court denied the motion. Thereafter, the circuit court certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether the CCPA applies to the relationship between a landlord and tenant under a residential lease. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative. View "State ex rel. Morrisey v. Copper Beech Townhome Communities Twenty-Six, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute concerning a liability insurance policy, the Supreme Court granted relief in prohibition to State Auto Property Insurance Companies, holding that State Auto was entitled to a dismissal of CMD Plus, Inc.’s third-party complaint as a matter of law.When Plaintiffs filed an action against CMD, a residential construction company, seeking recovery for damages to their house and property, CMD filed a third-party complaint against State Auto, its insurer, alleging that State Auto delayed investigating Plaintiffs’ claim, settling Plaintiffs’ lawsuit, and indemnifying CMD. In this petition for a writ of prohibition, State Auto challenged the circuit court’s denial of its motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court held that relief in prohibition was warranted because the record showed that State Auto defended and indemnified CMD throughout the lawsuit as required by the commercial general liability policy, and the terms of the policy provided no coverage to CMD for damage to its own property. View "State ex rel. State Auto Property Insurance Cos. v. Honorable James C. Stucky" on Justia Law

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Sue Walters filed a lawsuit against Quicken Loans, Inc., alleging that Quicken Loans violated the “illegal loan” provision of the West Virginia Residential Mortgage Lender, Broker and Servicer Act, W. Va. Code 31-17-8(m)(8), in originating a primary mortgage loan for her. A jury found in favor of Walters and awarded her damages in the amount of $27,000. Walters sued additional defendants - an appraiser and the entity that serviced the loan - with whom she settled. In total, the court offset $59,500 of the $98,000 paid by the settling defendants against the total damages, costs and fees awarded against Quicken Loans. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in allowing the illegal loan claim to go to the jury, as section 31-17-8(m)(8) applies to a single primary mortgage loan; (2) did not err in ruling that Walters was a prevailing party and thus entitled to an award of fees and costs; (3) erred in offsetting only a portion of the settlement monies received from the settling defendants against the total compensatory damages received by Walters. View "Quicken Loans, Inc. v. Walters" on Justia Law

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The volume of telephone calls made by a debt collector to a consumer, absent any other evidence of intent to annoy, abuse, oppress or threaten, is not sufficient to establish a violation of W. Va. Code 46A-2-125(d).Plaintiff-consumer filed suit against Defendant-debt collector. The circuit court ruled that 230 unanswered collection calls Defendant placed with Plaintiff violated section 46A-2-125(d) and awarded Plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court reversed after noting that the telephone calls continued because Plaintiff never answered the calls and never informed Defendant that he contested the debt, holding (1) the volume of unanswered calls in this case did not establish intent in violation of section 46A-2-125(d); and (2) therefore, the circuit court’s ruling is deficient as a matter of law. View "Valentine & Kebartas, Inc. v. Lenahan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling that Petitioner was not a “consumer” within the applicable definitions of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondent, a debt collector, concluding that Petitioner lacked standing to seek relief under the Act because Petitioner did not have any specific debt in connection with the calls that Respondent made to her land line phone. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner clearly did not come within the definition of “consumer” set forth in the Act, and (2) therefore, the circuit court correctly ruled that Petitioner lacked standing to pursue a claim under the Act. View "Young v. EOSCCA" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the decedent filed a complaint alleging violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and other causes of action against Respondent, Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland, Inc. After the decedent died in 2014, Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the decedent’s claims under the Act did not survive his death pursuant to W. Va. Code 55-7-8a(a) because the claims were personal to the consumer who owed the debt and that the decedent’s estate did not have standing to bring a claim under the Act because an estate is not a natural person under the Act. Petitioner, the executrix of the estate of the decedent, moved to substitute the decedent’s estate as plaintiff. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent, concluding that the decedent’s estate lacked standing to maintain a private right of action as a “consumer” within the meaning of the Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a claim brought under W. Va. Code 46A-2-127(c) of the Act is not sufficiently analogous to a claim for fraud so that the claim survives the death of the consumer pursuant to section 55-7-8a(a). View "Horton v. Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland" on Justia Law