Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Wallace v. Diversified Consultants, Inc.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(3) a collector must notify the individual from whom it seeks payment that it will assume the validity of the debt unless he disputes it “within thirty days after receipt of the notice.” Diversified wrote to Wallace that it would assume the validity of a debt unless he disputed it “within 30 days of receiving this notice.” Based on the letter’s use of “of” rather than “after,” as in the Act, Wallace sued Diversified. The district court granted the debt collector judgment on the pleadings. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A collector need not parrot the Act to comply with, but only must communicate with enough clarity to convey the required information to a reasonable but unsophisticated consumer. The Act and the letter mean the same thing. View "Wallace v. Diversified Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law
Marais v. Chase Home Fin., LLC
In 2006, Plaintiff financed a purchase of residential property. Residential Finance was the lender; Chase serviced the loan. In 2011 Plaintiff sent Chase a “Qualified Written Request” under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2605(e), requesting information about the amount owed on the loan, the identity of the “current holder,” the date Chase began servicing the loan, and a breakdown of accrued charges. Plaintiff disputed late fees and other charges and stated that Chase had refused a loan modification for which she qualified and had failed to provide a copy of the Note as requested. Chase sent some material, but stated that any requested information not included was either unavailable or considered proprietary; the letter did not provide the identity of the loan’s owner or information on the correctness of Plaintiff’s account, and did not provide contact information for obtaining assistance. Plaintiff sued, alleging that she made excess payments that Chase failed to credit, violations of the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1641(f)(2), RESPA, the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, and conversion. Chase finally identified the owner of the loan: Fannie Mae. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed with respect to TILA, but reversed dismissal of the RESPA claim, finding that Plaintiff adequately alleged causation of damages. View "Marais v. Chase Home Fin., LLC" on Justia Law
MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School
The Thomas M. Cooley Law School, accredited by the ABA, enrolls more students than any other U.S. law school and plans to expand. Cooley charges full-time students tuition of $36,750 per year, exclusive of other costs, and, according to U.S. News & World Report, has the lowest admission standards of any accredited law school. The school has a very low retention rate. In a 66-page complaint, 12 graduates claimed that the school disseminated false employment statistics, upon which they relied as assurances that they would obtain full-time attorney jobs after graduating. The graduates did not obtain the kind of employment the statistics advertised; some found employment at all. They claimed that, had they known the truth, they would not have attended Cooley or would have paid less tuition, and sought, among other relief, partial tuition reimbursement, which they estimated for the class would be $300,000,000. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Michigan Consumer Protection Act does not apply to the facts. The complaint shows that one of the statistics on which they relied was objectively true and reliance on the statistics, without further inquiry, was unreasonable. View "MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School" on Justia Law
Hrivnak v. NCO Portfolio Mgmt., Inc.
Hrivnak filed a purported class action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692p, and Ohio consumer-protection law, Ohio Rev. Code §§ 1345.01–.99, 4165.01–04, seeking statutory, compensatory, and punitive damages exceeding $25,000, and injunctive and declaratory relief. The suit was based on the conduct of debt management companies and a law firm in dunning hi on credit card debts. The defendants made an offer of judgment of $7,000 plus costs and attorney’s fees, under Civil Rule 68. Hrivnak rejected the offer. The district court rejected the defendants’ claim that the offer rendered the suit moot. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, characterizing defendants’ argument as asserting that claims with little to no chance of success should be dismissed as moot whenever they are mixed in with promising claims that a defendant offers to compensate in full. View "Hrivnak v. NCO Portfolio Mgmt., Inc." on Justia Law
Vassalle v. Midland Funding LLC
Plaintiffs and defendants obtained class certification and settlement approval for a nationwide class action involving three related lawsuits, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692-1692p and state law, based on the practice of “robo-signing” affidavits in debt collections. Eight individuals objected. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the disparity in the relief afforded under the settlement to the named plaintiffs (exoneration of debts, $2000, and prospective injunctive relief) and the unnamed class members ($17 and prospective injunctive relief) made the settlement unfair. The class notice was inadequate and, although the class satisfies four of the six certification requirements (numerosity, commonality, typicality and predominance), the representation is not adequate under Rule 23(a) nor is the class action vehicle superior. View "Vassalle v. Midland Funding LLC" on Justia Law
Ashland Hosp. Corp. v. Serv. Emps. Int’l Union
KDMC operates a regional medical center. SEIU is a labor union that represents health care and social service workers and has a collective bargaining agreement with KDMC. In 2010, concerned about the cost of health care for KDMC employees, SEIU launched a two-day robo-call campaign, targeting KDMC, to protest proposals that would shift a larger cost to employees. Residents within KDMC’s service area received calls from an automated system that played a prerecorded voice message criticizing KDMC’s plans in dramatic terms. The message did not disclose that the SEIU was responsible for the call. Call recipients who opted to press “1” during the call were patched through to the direct extension for KDMC CEO Jackson. KDMC alleges that Jackson’s extension received 536 live calls over the two-day period and that the high volume of calls overwhelmed its main trunk lines. KDMC filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. 227. The district court dismissed, holding that the Act does not extend to purposeful calls made by individuals seeking to express an opinion, noting that the calls required a real person to “exercise independent judgment” in order to connect to Jackson. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Ashland Hosp. Corp. v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union" on Justia Law
Glazer v. Chase Home Fin. LLC
Klie purchased property with financing from Coldwell Banker, which assigned its rights to the Federal National Mortgage Corporation (Fannie Mae) but continued to service the loan. The assignment was never recorded. In 2007, servicing rights transferred to JP Morgan. Coldwell Banker assigned its rights in the note and mortgage (none) to JP Morgan, which reassigned to Fannie Mae. Chase, an arm of JP Morgan, serviced the loan until Klie died. With the loan in default, Chase’s law firm, RACJ, prepared an assignment of the note and mortgage that purported to establish Chase’s right to foreclose and filed a foreclosure actionf, naming Glazer, a beneficiary of Klie’s estate. The court entered a decree of foreclosure, but later vacated and demanded that RACJ produce the original note. Chase dismissed the foreclosure without prejudice. Glazer filed suit, alleging that Chase and RACJ violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, and Ohio law by falsely stating that Chase owned the note and mortgage, improperly scheduling a foreclosure sale, and refusing to verify the debt upon request. Chase and RACJ moved to dismiss. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that mortgage foreclosure is debt collection under the Act. View "Glazer v. Chase Home Fin. LLC" on Justia Law
Haddad v. Alexander, Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC
In 1992, Haddad purchased a condominium. He timely paid association assessments and lived at the home until 2005. Since then, the condominium has remained vacant or leased. In October 2008, Haddad received a collection letter from the firm, representing the condominium association, stating that Haddad he was in default on $898 of association dues and that if the amount was not paid within 30 days, the association would commence proceedings for a lien against the condominium. In December 2008, Haddad received a second notice. Haddad timely responded to both, requesting verification of the debt. The firm did not verify the debts and recorded a Notice of Lien in May 2009. The condominium association eventually corrected its records. The lien was discharged in 2010. Haddad sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, and the Michigan Collection Practices Act (445.251), alleging violations of prohibitions on use of false, deceptive, or misleading representation and continuing collection of a disputed debt without verification of a debt incurred for personal rather than business purposes. The district court granted the firm summary judgment, holding that the assessments were not debts under the statutes because the property was a rental. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. View "Haddad v. Alexander, Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC" on Justia Law
Boggio v. USAA Fed.l Sav. Bank
Boggio and wife, Sarah, resided in Texas. Boggio served military tours, and assigned Sarah power of attorney. They separated; Boggio left the state. Six months later Sarah purchased a car with financing through USAA. Sarah allegedly signed Boggio’s name, unbeknownst to him, on the check issued to the car dealership. The car was later listed on Boggio’s car insurance. The divorce decree confirmed that the car was acquired during the marriage, identified the associated loan as a marital debt, and stated that Sarah alone would be responsible for payment. Later, Boggio, residing in Cincinnati, experienced credit problems due to missed payments. Boggio wrote to consumer reporting agencies and USAA disputing his status as co-obligor. USAA attempted to mail Boggio (but not his counsel) a copy of the allegedly forged check, but the letter was sent to an incorrect Texas address. Because Boggio would not go to Texas to file a police report, USAA declared the dispute a civil matter between the Boggios. In Boggio’s suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the district court granted summary judgment to USAA. The Sixth Circuit reversed. A reasonable jury could find that USAA’s investigation and notices were unreasonable.View "Boggio v. USAA Fed.l Sav. Bank" on Justia Law
Ouwinga v. Benistar 419 Plan Servs., Inc.
Lesley and Fogg presented the Benistar 419 Plan to the Ouwingas, their accountant, and their attorney, providing a legal opinion that contributions were tax-deductible and that the Ouwingas could take money out tax-free. The Ouwingas made substantial contributions, which were used to purchase John Hancock life insurance policies. In 2003, Lesley and Fogg told the Ouwingas that the IRS had changed the rules; that the Ouwingas would need to contribute additional money; and that, while this might signal closing of the “loophole,” there was no concern about tax benefits already claimed. In 2006, the Ouwingas decided to transfer out of the Plans. John Hancock again advised that there would be no taxable consequences and that the Plan met IRS requirements for tax deductible treatment. The Ouwingas signed a purported liability release. In 2008, the IRS notified the Ouwingas that it was disallowing deductions, deeming the Plan an “abusive tax shelter.” The Ouwingas filed a class action against Benistar Defendants, John Hancock entities, lawyers, Lesley, and Fogg, alleging conspiracy to defraud (RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), (d)), negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and violations of consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, View "Ouwinga v. Benistar 419 Plan Servs., Inc." on Justia Law