Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
Seamans v. Temple University
In 1989, Seamans received a Federal Perkins Loan of $1,180.00 from Temple University. The first payment was due in 1992. The loan was declared delinquent the following month. Nonths later, Temple notified Seamans that the account had been placed for collection. In 2010, Seamans enrolled at Drexel University. He sought a Pell Grant, but Drexel refused to provide with financial assistance until Seamans repaid the Temple Loan. In 2011, Seamans repaid that loan in full. Seamans then noticed a “trade line” on his credit report. The trade line may or may not have appeared on his credit report when the account was in default. Seamans formally disputed some of the information by contacting the credit reporting agency. Temple, had its loan servicer investigate, but resubmitted information virtually unchanged. Seamans again contacted Temple and credit agencies, to dispute the trade line. After a second investigation, Temple modified certain elements, but still did not report various details. There was evidence that Temple treated other disputes in a similar manner. Seamans sued, alleging that Temple negligently or willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681–1681x. The district court granted Temple summary judgment, finding that the Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1001–1155, exempted Temple from FCRA compliance because the credit instrument was a Perkins Loan. The Third Circuit vacated, stating that Seamans’s dispute appears to have merit and that failure to report the dispute may constitute a material inaccuracy on his credit report. View "Seamans v. Temple University" on Justia Law
Heffner v. Murphy
Plaintiffs involved in, or wishing to be involved in the “death care industry” challenged Pennsylvania’s Funeral Director Law, 63 Pa. Stat. 479.1 provisions that: permit warrantless inspections of funeral establishments by the state Board of Funeral Directors; limit the number of establishments in which a funeral director may have an ownership interest or practice the provision; restrict the capacity of unlicensed individuals and certain entities to hold ownership interests in a funeral establishment; require every funeral establishment to have a licensed full-time supervisor; require funeral establishments to have a “preparation room”; prohibit service of food in a funeral establishment; prohibit use of trade names by funeral homes; govern the trusting of monies advanced under pre-need contracts for merchandise; and prohibit payment of commissions. The district court found several provisions unconstitutional. The Third Circuit reversed: invalidation of the warrantless inspection scheme; holdings on dormant Commerce Clause challenges to certain provisions; conclusions that disputed provisions violate substantive due process; a ruling that the Board’s actions unconstitutionally impair private contractual relations with third parties; and invalidation of the ban on payment of commissions to unlicensed salespeople. The court affirmed that the ban on the use of trade names in the funeral industry violates First Amendment protections. The court noted that antiquated provisions are not necessarily unconstitutional. View "Heffner v. Murphy" on Justia Law
Simon v. FIA Card Servs., NA
The Simons filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, identifying a nonpriority credit-card debt to FIA. FIA retained Weinstein, which sent the Simons a letter and notice through their bankruptcy counsel, stating that FIA was an adversary proceeding under 11 U.S.C. 523 to challenge dischargeability, but offering to forego the proceeding if the Simons stipulated that the debt was nondischargeable or agreed to a reduced amount. The letter stated that a Rule 2004 examination had been scheduled, but that Weinstein was open to settlement; it mentioned the possibility of rescheduling and set out information about challenging the debt. The subpoena certificate, signed by a Weinstein attorney, stated that a copy was mailed to the Simons’ home and their attorney’s office. The Simons allege that Weinstein did not actually send it to their home. Their counsel received copies. The Simons moved to quash, alleging violations of Bankruptcy Rule 9016 and Civil Rule 45 subpoena requirements, and filed an adversary proceeding asserting Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claims based on the letter. The Bankruptcy Court quashed the notices, but ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the FDCPA claims. The Simons then sued FIA and Weinstein in the district court, which dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of 15 U.S.C 1692e(5) and (13) claims for allegedly failing to identify the recording method in the Rule 2004 examination and by issuing the subpoenas from a district other than where the examinations were to be held. The court also affirmed dismissal of a 1692e(11) claim because its mini-Miranda requirement conflicts with the Bankruptcy Code automatic stay. The court reversed dismissal of claims based failing to serve the subpoenas directly on the individuals and failing to include the text of Civil Rule 45(c)–(d) in the subpoenas. View "Simon v. FIA Card Servs., NA" on Justia Law
Gager v. Dell Fin. Servs. LLC
In 2007, Gager applied for a line of credit to purchase computer equipment. The application required that she provide her home phone number. Gager listed her cellular phone number without stating that the number was for a cellular phone, or indicating that Dell should not use an automated telephone dialing system to call her at that number. Gager defaulted on the loan Dell granted. Dell began using an automated telephone dialing system to call Gager’s cell phone, leaving pre-recorded messages concerning the debt. In 2010, Gager sent a letter, listing her phone number and asking Dell to stop calling it regarding her account. The letter did not indicate that the number was for a cellular phone. Dell continued to call, using an automated telephone dialing system. Gager filed suit, alleging that Dell violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The district court dismissed on the theory that she could not revoke her consent once it was given. The Third Circuit reversed. The fact that Gager entered into a contract with Dell does not exempt Dell from the TCPA. Dell will still be able to call Gager about her delinquent account, but not using an automated dialing system. View "Gager v. Dell Fin. Servs. LLC" on Justia Law
Carrera v. Bayer Corp.
Carrera sued Bayer, claiming that Bayer falsely advertised its product One-A-Day WeightSmart as a multivitamin and dietary supplement that had metabolism-enhancing effects due to its ingredient, epigallocatechin gallate, a green tea extract. The daily dose was one tablet and the price was about $8.99 for 50 tablets. Bayer sold WeightSmart through retail stores until 2007 and did not sell directly to consumers. Carrera initially sought to certify a nationwide class under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3), bringing a claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. The court denied certification because New Jersey law did not apply to out-of-state customers. Carrera then moved to certify a Rule 23(b)(3) class of Florida consumers under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Bayer challenged certification, reasoning that class members are unlikely to have documentary proof of purchase and Bayer has no list of purchasers. The Third Circuit vacated class certification. If class members are impossible to identify without extensive and individualized fact-finding or mini-trials, a class action is inappropriate. If class members cannot be ascertained from a defendant’s records, there must be “a reliable, administratively feasible alternative,” not a method that would amount to no more than ascertaining by potential class members‟ say so.”View "Carrera v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law
Hayes v. WalMart Stores Inc
Sam’s Club is a members-only retail warehouse that features a section for clearance items, called “as-is” items. Items may be designated “as-is” for various reasons and may be damaged or undamaged. Every as-is item is marked with an orange sticker; when a cashier scans the item, the original price appears and the cashier must perform a manual override. The software records the fact that a price override was performed, but does not include the reason. Overrides can occur for reasons other than “as-is” designation. Sam’s contracted with NEW to sell extended warranties for items sold in the store. NEW will not cover some “as is” products, including some purchased by Hayes. On each occasion, Sam’s employees offered and Hayes purchased a NEW warranty. The store provided Hayes with a manual and remote missing from a television he purchased and offered to refund the warranty price. Hayes declined. Hayes sued, on behalf of himself and all other persons who purchased a warranty for an as-is product from Clubs in New Jersey since 2004, asserting violation of the state Consumer Fraud Act, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. The trial court certified a Rule 23(b)(3) class. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for consideration of Rule 23’s class definition, ascertainability, and numerosity requirements in light of a recent decision. View "Hayes v. WalMart Stores Inc" on Justia Law
Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC
In 2009, Guidotti began attempting to settle approximately $19,550 in unsecured consumer debt without declaring bankruptcy. She entered into contracts with several “credit counseling agencies.” Dissatisfied with the results, Guidotti brought a putative class action against the companies, alleging that they conspired to provide unlicensed debt adjustment services in violation of the New Jersey Debt Adjustment and Credit Counseling Act, the New Jersey RICO statute, the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, and various common law principles. With two of the companies, RMBT and Global, Guidotti opened a special bank account into which she automatically deposited a monthly amount. Those funds were then supposedly to be used to pay the various defendants for their debt negotiation services, with the remaining funds to be used to pay a negotiated settlement. The district court granted a motion to compel arbitration as to most of the defendants, but denied the motion as to RMBT and Global, finding that there had been no meeting of the minds on an agreement to arbitrate. The Third Circuit vacated, finding the record insufficient to prove that there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the two companies and Guidotti agreed to arbitrate. View "Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC" on Justia Law
Maniscalco v. Brother Int’l Corp.
BIC, which has its principal place of business in New Jersey, distributed machines manufactured by BIL, BIC’s parent entity located in Japan. In 2001 BIC began distributing the Brother 3220C, a printer, fax machine, scanner and copier, accompanied by a Limited Warranty and User Manual drafted by BIL in Japan and translated by BIC. Huryk alleges that from 2002 to 2005, BIC and its executives in New Jersey, knew about but concealed information regarding defects in the 3220C that caused printer heads to fail and caused the machines to purge excess amounts of ink when not used frequently enough. The district court dismissed his putative class action claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J. Stat. 56:8 on the ground that South Carolina law, not New Jersey law, applied. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that South Carolina was the place where Huryk acted in reliance upon BIC’s representations, the place where Huryk, a domiciliary of South Carolina, received the representations, and the place where a tangible thing which is the subject of the transaction between the parties was situated at the time. View "Maniscalco v. Brother Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Caprio v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Grp., LLC
HRRG is in the business of acquiring or collecting debts under the FDCPAs definition of a “debt collector,” 15 U.S.C. 1692a(6), and sent Caprio a double-sided “Collection Letter.” Caprio filed a putative class action, alleging two claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, claiming that the letter’s instructions would confuse “the least sophisticated consumer” about how to dispute the alleged debt. The district court granted Caprio judgment on the pleadings. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded, concluding that the collection letter was deceptive because it can be reasonably read to have two or more different meanings, one of which is inaccurate. View "Caprio v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Grp., LLC" on Justia Law
In re: Baby Products Antitrust Litig.
Antitrust class actions alleged that defendants conspired to set a price floor for baby products. The court initially approved a settlement. Notice was sent to putative class members informing them of their right to submit a claim, opt out, or object. The deadline for submitting claims expired; the court approved the settlement and an allocation plan. Defendants deposited $35,500,000 into a settlement fund. After payment of attorneys’ fees and expenses, the remainder was slated for distribution to the settlement class. Claimants are entitled to different levels of compensation. The remainder would go to charitable organizations proposed by the parties and selected by the court. The Third Circuit vacated, stating that cy pres distributions are permissible, but inferior to direct distributions to the class, because they only imperfectly serve the purpose of compensating class members. The district court did not adequately consider that about $14,000,000 will go to class counsel, roughly $3,000,000 will be distributed to class members, and the rest, approximately $18,500,000 less administrative expenses, will be distributed to cy pres recipients. The court also needs to consider the level of direct benefit to the class in calculating attorneys’ fees. View "In re: Baby Products Antitrust Litig." on Justia Law