Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Pushpin Holdings, LLC v. Johnson
A class action complaint, filed in state court, alleged that Pushpin acted as an unlicensed debt collector in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and filed 1100 Illinois small‐claims suits, all fraudulent, but that the class (defendants in those suits) sought “no more than $1,100,000.00 in compensatory damages and $2,000,000.00 in punitive damages,” and would ‘incur attorneys’ fees of no more than $400,000.00,” below the $5 million threshold for removal of a state‐court class action to a federal district court under the Class Action Fairness Act. Pushpin removed the case to federal court under the Act, 28 U.S.C. 1453(b), but the district court remanded to state court. The Seventh Circuit reversed, reasoning that the plaintiff did not irrevocably commit to obtaining less than $5 million for the class, and Pushpin’s estimate that the damages recoverable by the class could equal or exceed that amount may be reliable enough to preclude remanding the case to the state court. The lower court’s reasoning that most of the claims were barred by the Rooker‐Feldman rule was a mistake as was a statement that “there is a strong presumption in favor of remand” when a case has been removed under the Class Action Fairness Act. View "Pushpin Holdings, LLC v. Johnson" on Justia Law
Wagener Equities, Inc. v. Chapman
A business that manages commercial real estate and its owners were sued in a purported class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, for having paid a “fax blaster” (Business to Business Solutions) to send unsolicited fax advertisements. Aggregate statutory damages would be more than $5 million or, if the violation is determined to be willful or knowing, as much as three times greater. The Seventh Circuit denied leave to appeal class certification in the suit, which is more than five years old. The court noted that it had no knowledge of the value of the defendant-business and that, even if the defendants could prove that they will be forced to settle unless class certification is reversed, they would have to demonstrate a significant probability that the order was erroneous. Rejecting challenges concerning individual class members, the court noted that no monetary loss or injury need be shown to entitle junk‐fax recipient to statutory damages. The adequacy of the class representative was not challenged. View "Wagener Equities, Inc. v. Chapman" on Justia Law
Batson v. Live Nation, Entm’t, Inc.
Batson went to Live Nation’s Chicago box office and purchased a non‐refundable ticket to see a popular band. He later realized that the ticket price included a $9 parking fee for a spot he did not want. Believing that the bundled $9 fee was unfair, he sued on behalf of himself and a proposed class, citing the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(1), and claiming that Live Nation had committed an unfair practice in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The complaint referred to the 2010 merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster (which was not blocked by the Department of Justice). The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that there are times when consumers must accept a package deal in order to get the part of the package they want. The relevant factors ask whether the practice offends public policy; is immoral, unethical, oppressive, or unscrupulous; or causes substantial injury to consumers.View "Batson v. Live Nation, Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law
Acosta v. Target Corp.
Target Guest Cards only permit purchases only at Target. Target Visa Cards are all-purpose credit cards that can be used anywhere. Target used different underwriting criteria and agreements for the cards. Between 2000 and 2006, Target sent unsolicited Visas to 10,000,000 current and former Guest Card holders, with agreements and marketing materials to entice activation of the new card. If a customer activated a new Visa, its terms became effective and the Guest Card balance was transferred to the Visa. If the customer did not activate the Visa, Target closed the account. The materials did not suggest that keeping the Guest Card was an option, but customers could opt out. A Guest Card holder could call Target to reject the Visa but ask to keep the Guest Card. If a holder attempted to use the Guest Card after the Visa was mailed, she was informed that the account had been closed but that she could reopen it. The credit limits on the Autosubbed Visas were between $1,000 and $10,000, and Target could change the credit limit. New customers had to open a Target Visa through a standard application, and cards could have credit limits as low as $500. The Autosub materials did not indicate that credit limits were subject to change; customers often had their credit limits reduced after activation. The district court rejected a putative class action under the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1642, which prohibits mailing unsolicited credit cards and requires credit card mailings to contain certain disclosures in a “tabular format.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Acosta v. Target Corp." on Justia Law
McMahon v. LVNV Funding, LLC
McMahon apparently did not pay a 1997 utility bill. In 2011, LVNV purchased the debt, then $584.98. LVNV retained a collection agency, Tate, which sent a letter that said nothing about when the debt was incurred or the four-year Illinois statute of limitations. The district court dismissed McMahon’s classwide allegations, but did not dismiss his individual claim. McMahon ignored two settlement offers. The court found that the proposed settlement offered McMahon complete recovery for his individual claim, that it was made prior to class certification, and that it had the effect of depriving McMahon of a personal stake in the litigation. The Seventh Circuit consolidated appeals and held that, in some circumstances, a dunning letter for a time‐barred debt could mislead an unsophisticated consumer to believe that the debt is enforceable in court, and thereby violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692. The court also held that the McMahon case is not moot. View "McMahon v. LVNV Funding, LLC" on Justia Law
Scott v. Westlake Servs., LLC
Scott alleged that Westlake repeatedly called her cell phone using an automated dialer in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and sought, for herself and a putative class, statutory damages of $500 for each negligent violation and $1500 for each intentional violation, injunctive relief, and attorney fees. Before she moved for class certification, Westlake sent Scott’s attorney an offer to pay Scott $1500 (the statutory maximum) “for each and every dialer-generated telephone call made to plaintiff.” Westlake agreed to pay costs and to entry of an injunction. The message concluded by warning Scott that, in Westlake’s opinion, its offer rendered her case moot. The next day, Scott moved for class certification and declined the offer, stating that there was “a significant controversy” concerning how many dialer-generated calls Westlake had placed to her phone, so the offer was inadequate and did not render her case moot. The district court dismissed, finding that Westlake had offered Scott everything she sought, depriving the court of subject matter jurisdiction, but retained jurisdiction to enforce compliance with the offer and directed the parties to conduct discovery to determine how many calls Scott received from Westlake. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the case is not moot. View "Scott v. Westlake Servs., LLC" on Justia Law
Wheelahan v. Trans Union LLC
Beginning in 1998, consumer class actions were filed against Trans Union alleging violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, by selling consumer information to target marketers and credit and insurance companies. The court approved a settlement. Trans Union agreed to give all class members “basic” credit monitoring services. Class members could also either claim cash from a $75 million fund or claim “enhanced” in-kind relief consisting of additional financial services. Trans Union was to provide $35 million worth of enhanced relief. The class was estimated at 190 million people. The Act authorizes damages of between $100 and $1000 per consumer for willful violations, so Trans Union faced theoretically possible liability of $190 billion. To persuade the court to approve the settlement, the parties agreed to an unusual provision that preserved substantive claims after settlement. Instead of releasing their claims, class members who did not get cash or enhanced in-kind relief retained the right to bring individual claims. Trans Union also partially waived the limitations period. The settlement authorized reimbursements from the fund to Trans Union itself “equal to any amounts paid to satisfy settlements or judgments arising from Post-Settlement Claims,” not including defense costs. There have been more PSCs than expected, depleting the fund. In a second appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the orders authorizing disbursement of the remainder of the fund. View "Wheelahan v. Trans Union LLC" on Justia Law
Borucki v. Vision Fin. Corp.
Plaintiffs received letters from defendants that stated: Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office within 30 days from receiving this notice, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of the judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C 1692g(a) requires the debt collector to include “a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector” and a “statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.” Plaintiffs claimed noncompliance because the notice omits the phrase “that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed.” One letter referred to “your just debt;” the recipient alleged that the phrase suggests that the debt’s validity has been confirmed. Four trial courts dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that any written request for verification constitutes a dispute for purposes of the Act. The reference to “just debt” was mere puffery. View "Borucki v. Vision Fin. Corp." on Justia Law
Phillips v. Asset Acceptance, LLC
Plaintiff was sued by Asset Acceptance, a debt collector, for a debt arising from her purchase of natural gas for household use. She sued, claiming that Asset Acceptance sued after the statute of limitations on the creditor’s claim had run, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692. Plaintiff moved to certify a class of debtors sued, after the limitations period, by Asset Acceptance for debts from sale of natural gas to consumers. The district judge waited 25 months and denied the motion. The class would have 793 members, of whom 343 reside in Illinois; 290 were sued four to five years after the claims accrued and 45 were sued more than five years after accrual. The judge shrank the class to 45, then to 23, ruling that suing to collect a debt but failing to serve the defendant did not violate the Act even if the suit was untimely, and concluded that 23 was too small a number to justify a class action. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that all 343 Illinois residents were proper class members because the applicable statute of limitations is four years. Certification need not be limited to Illinois residents or to claims under the federal Act. View "Phillips v. Asset Acceptance, LLC" on Justia Law
Suesz v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC
Med‐1 buys delinquent debts and purchased Suesz’s debt from Community Hospital. In 2012 it filed a collection suit in small claims court and received a judgment against Suesz for $1,280. Suesz lives one county over from Marion. Though he incurred the debt in Marion County, he did so in Lawrence Township, where Community is located, and not in Pike Township, the location of the small claims court. Suesz says that it is Med‐1’s practice to file claims in Pike Township regardless of the origins of the dispute and filed a purported class action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act venue provision requiring debt collectors to bring suit in the “judicial district” where the contract was signed or where the consumer resides, 15 U.S.C. 1692i(a)(2). The district court dismissed after finding Marion County Small Claims Courts were not judicial districts for the purposes of the FDCPA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.View "Suesz v. Med-1 Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law