Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
Sovereign Military Hospitaller v. Knights Hospitallers
Plaintiff, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church that undertook charitable work internationally, filed suit against defendant, a charitable organization with an expressly ecumenical association, asserting infringement and false advertising claims under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., as well as state law claims for unfair competition and violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), Fla. Stat. 501.201 et seq. The infringement claims were based on defendant's alleged use of marks that were confusingly similar to those for which plaintiff had obtained federal registrations. In the false advertising claim, plaintiff charged that defendant falsely claimed a historic affiliation with plaintiff going back to the eleventh century. The state law claims derived from these same litigations. Defendant counterclaimed, alleging that plaintiff committed fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in applying for its service marks due to plaintiff's failure to disclose its knowledge of the domestic presence of other organizations that used similar marks in commerce. The court concluded that the district court clearly erred in evaluating the claim that plaintiff committed fraud on the PTO and reversed the cancellation of the four word marks. Because the court was not presented with sufficient findings to review the Lanham Act infringement claims, the court vacated the district court's ruling on that issue and remanded. The court vacated the district court's ruling on the state law claims and affirmed the district court's finding on the Lanham Act false advertising claim in favor of defendant. View "Sovereign Military Hospitaller v. Knights Hospitallers" on Justia Law
Suntree Technologies, Inc. v. Ecosense International, Inc., et al.
Suntree appealed from the district court's order denying its motion for summary judgment and granting the motions for summary judgment filed by Ecosense and George Dussich with regard to Suntree's claims of false designation of origin and false advertising under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051-1127, common law trademark infringement and unfair competition, and deceptive and unfair trade practices pursuant to the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUPTA), Fla. Stat. 501.201 et seq. Both Suntree and Ecosense manufacture baffle boxes, a filtration product. Suntree contended that the district court erred in concluding that Suntree failed to establish that Ecosense and Dussich directly or contributorily infringed on their trademark because it failed to present evidence of actual or of a likelihood of confusion. The court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. View "Suntree Technologies, Inc. v. Ecosense International, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Curry, et al. v. AvMed, Inc.
Plaintiffs, victims of identity theft, appealed the district court's dismissal of their Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court held that among its other deficiencies, the complaint failed to state a cognizable injury. The court found, however, that the complaint stated a cognizable injury for the purposes of standing and as a necessary element of injury in plaintiffs' Florida law claims. The court also concluded that the complaint sufficiently alleged the causation element of negligence, negligence per se, breach of contract, breach of implied contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of fiduciary duty. The complaint similarly alleged facts sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss on the restitution/unjust enrichment claim. However, the complaint failed to allege entitlement to relief under Florida law for the claims of negligence per se and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Therefore, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Curry, et al. v. AvMed, Inc." on Justia Law
Zinni v. ER Solutions, Inc.; Dellapietro v. ARS National Services, Inc.; Desty v. Collection Information Bureau, Inc.
In consolidated appeals, plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their complaints for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. At issue was whether a settlement offer for the full amount of statutory damages requested under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., mooted a claim brought pursuant to the FDCPA. The court held that the failure of defendants to offer judgment prevented the mooting of plaintiffs' FDCPA claims. The district court erred in concluding that defendants' offers of settlement were for full relief such that plaintiffs' cases were mooted. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Zinni v. ER Solutions, Inc.; Dellapietro v. ARS National Services, Inc.; Desty v. Collection Information Bureau, Inc." on Justia Law
Merisier v. Bank of America, N.A.
A bank customer sued her bank to recover for unauthorized withdrawals from her checking account, made using her check card and personal identification number (PIN). Federal law requires a bank to investigate such disputed transactions, to notify the customer if it has verified the transactions as authorized, and to recredit the account if the withdrawals were unauthorized; failure to do so renders the bank liable to the customer for up to treble damages. The bank investigated the withdrawals at issue in this case, found that they were the product of a scheme to defraud the bank, and denied liability for the withdrawals. The customer, represented by counsel, brought suit. By the time the case was tried to the district court, the customer was pro se. After a two-day bench trial, the District Court rejected the customer's EFTA claims and entered judgment for the bank. Specifically, the District Court found that the transactions were authorized because they were part of a scheme to defraud the bank. The customer appealed pro se. Although the briefs were "inartfully" drawn, she challenged the District Court's finding as clearly erroneous. After thorough review, the Eleventh Circuit found no error and therefore affirmed. View "Merisier v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law
State-Boston Retirement System v. BankAtlantic Bancorp, Inc.
The issue before the Eleventh Circuit concerned a private securities fraud class action suit brought against a bank holding company and its management. State-Boston Retirement System, a shareholder and lead plaintiff, sought to prove that the holding company had misrepresented the level of risk associated with commercial real estate loans held by its subsidiary. After the trial, the District Court submitted the case to the jury on a verdict form seeking general verdicts and answers to special interrogatories. When the jury returned a verdict partially in favor of State-Boston, the holding company moved for judgment as a matter of law. Perceiving an inconsistency between two of the jury's interrogatory answers, the District Court discarded one of them and granted the motion on the basis of the remaining findings. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that was error: "[w]hen a court considers a motion for judgment as a matter of law -even after the jury has rendered a verdict- only the sufficiency of the evidence matters. . . .The jury’s findings are irrelevant." Despite the District Court’s error, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of loss causation, an element required to make out a securities fraud claim. The Court therefore affirmed. View "State-Boston Retirement System v. BankAtlantic Bancorp, Inc." on Justia Law
Virgilio, et al. v. Terrabrook Vista Lakes L.P., et al.
Plaintiffs brought a class action on behalf of themselves and others who purchased houses from a builder, Ryland, in the Newport subdivision of Vista Lakes, a residential development in Orlando, Florida. The Newport subdivision was adjacent to land known as "Pinecastle." Pinecastle was used as a bombing range during World War II and remained laden with, among other things, unexploded bombs. When plaintiffs bought houses from Ryland, they were unaware of Pinecastle. Later, after Pinecastle's existence became public, plaintiffs' houses lost considerable market value and plaintiffs brought this lawsuit to compensate for the loss. Counts 1, 3, and 4 sought compensation for the loss of value plaintiffs' houses sustained due to their close proximity to Pinecastle. Count 2 sought recovery of 1.5 percent of the purchase price of every home Ryland sold in the Newport subdivision. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Counts 1 and 2 with prejudice and Count 3 without prejudice, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on Count 4, pursuant to Rule 56. View "Virgilio, et al. v. Terrabrook Vista Lakes L.P., et al." on Justia Law
Reese, et al. v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree, & Adams, LLP
Plaintiffs defaulted on a loan that they had secured by giving the lender a mortgage on their property. A law firm representing the lender sent plaintiffs a letter and documents demanding payment of the debt and threatening to foreclose on the property if they did not pay it. Plaintiffs then filed a putative class action lawsuit against the law firm alleging that the communication violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692e. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court held, however, that the complaint contained enough factual content to allow inference that the law firm was a "debt collector" because it regularly attempted to collect debts. The complaint also alleged that the law firm was "engaged in the business of collecting debts owed to others incurred for personal, family[,] or household purposes" and that in the year before the complaint was filed, the firm had sent more than 500 people "dunning notice[s]" containing "the same or substantially similar language" to that found in the letter and documents attached to the complaint in this case. Further, the complaint alleged enough to constitute regular debt collection within the meaning of 1692a(6). Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Reese, et al. v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree, & Adams, LLP" on Justia Law
Miller v. Chase Home Finance, LLC
This case arose when plaintiff filed suit against Chase, alleging that Chase failed to comply with its obligations under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) by declining to issue him a permanent loan modification. The district court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim, finding that HAMP did not provide a private cause of action and that, even if his claims were independent of HAMP, they failed as a matter of law. The court applied the factors under Hemispherx Biopharma, Inc. v. Johannesburg Consol. Inves. to Hamp and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA), 12 U.S.C. 5201-5261, holding that there was no implied right of action. Therefore, plaintiff lacked standing to pursue his claims. To the extent plaintiff's claims fell outside of HAMP, they failed as a matter of law. Rejecting plaintiff's remaining claim of promissory estoppel, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Miller v. Chase Home Finance, LLC" on Justia Law
Bourff v. Lublin, LLC
Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his civil action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692. The district court concluded that plaintiff's claim was covered by the FDCPA but that he did not allege acts that violated the FDCPA. Accepting plaintiff's allegations as true and construing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the statement on the May 2009 notice that BAC was plaintiff's "creditor" was a false representation and was made by a "debt collector" as defined by section 1692a. Therefore, the complaint stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under the FDCPA and the judgment of the district court was vacated and remanded. View "Bourff v. Lublin, LLC" on Justia Law