Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Defendant, a neurosurgeon, chose to use implants distributed by DS Medical, a company wholly owned by his fiancée. Physicians in other practices grew suspicious and filed various claims under the False Claims Act. The jury returned a verdict for the government on two of the three claims. The district court then awarded treble damages and statutory penalties in the amount of $5,495,931.22. Following the verdict, the government moved to dismiss its two remaining claims without prejudice, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2), on the ground that any recovery would be “smaller and duplicative of what the [c]ourt ha[d] already awarded.”   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial. The court explained that are several ways to prove that a claim is “false or fraudulent” under the False Claims Act. One of them is to show that it “includes items or services resulting from a violation” of the anti-kickback statute. This case required the court to determine what the words “resulting from” mean. The court concluded that it creates a but-for causal requirement between an anti-kickback violation and the “items or services” included in the claim. Thus, the court reversed and remanded because district court did not instruct the jury along these lines. View "United States v. Midwest Neurosurgeons, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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In June 2019, Plaintiffs submitted a FOIA request to the IRS seeking disclosure of the terms of a third-party authentication process set forth within IRM Sec. 21.1.3.3, pertaining to the tax professional authentication process. in August 2019, the IRS denied Plaintiffs' request citing the material was properly withheld pursuant to 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(7)(E), and then plaintiffs filed an action in federal court.The district court granted the IRS’s motion for summary judgment, rejecting Plaintiffs' request for an in-camera review of the documents.The Eighth Circuit reversed, remanding for the district court to conduct an in-camera inspection of the documents. To meet its burden under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(7)(E), the IRS must prove the withheld material was “compiled for law enforcement purposes." Here, to effectively determine whether the IRS meets the requirements of 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(7)(E), an in-camera review is necessary. Thus, the district court erred in failing to hold an in-camera review. View "T. Keith Fogg v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff commenced a class action, alleging SC Data Center, Inc. (“SC Data”) committed three violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1681x. In May 2016, the parties reached a tentative settlement agreement. Four days later, the Supreme Court decided Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016), which led SC Data to move to dismiss this action for lack of standing. On remand, the district court determined that Plaintiff had standing as to all three claims.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s orders and held that Plaintiff lacked Article III standing and remanded the matter to the district court with directions to remand the case to state court. The court held that the text of the FCRA nor the legislative history provide support for Plaintiff’s claim that she has a right under the FCRA to not only receive a copy of her consumer report but also discuss directly with the employer accurate but negative information within the report prior to the employer taking adverse action. Further, the court concluded that Plaintiff has not established that she suffered a concrete injury due to the improper disclosure, thus she lacks standing to pursue her improper disclosure or failure to authorize claims. View "Ria Schumacher v. SC Data Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff commenced a class-action lawsuit alleging that SC Data Center, Inc. (“SC Data”) committed three violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The parties reached a settlement agreement. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016), SC Data moved to dismiss the action. The plaintiff first alleged that SC Data took an adverse employment action based on her consumer report without first showing her the report. The court reasoned that the right to pre-action explanation to the employer is not unambiguously stated in the statute’s text. Next, the plaintiff asserts that SC Data obtained her consumer report without first obtaining an FCRA compliant disclosure form. The court found that plaintiff has not established that she suffered a concrete injury due to the improper disclosure. Finally, the plaintiff’s last claim asserts that she did not authorize SC Data to obtain a consumer report. She did authorize a company to conduct a criminal background search. The court found that plaintiff has not pleaded any facts demonstrating concrete harm—a prerequisite for Article III standing. As such, she lacks standing to pursue her failure-to-authorize claim. The court vacated the district court's orders. View "Ria Schumacher v. SC Data Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that an automated marketing system that sends promotional text messages to phone numbers randomly selected from a database of customers' information is not an automated telephone system (an Autodialer) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Plaintiffs, persons who received promotional text messages from defendants through their marketing software called Txt Live, allege that these messages violated the TCPA because they were sent using an Autodialer without plaintiffs' consent. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that Txt Live did not meet the statutory definition of an Autodialer. View "Beal v. Outfield Brew House, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' putative class action, alleging that they were misled by claims made on packages of dog food manufactured and distributed by Champion. Because plaintiffs have not challenged the district court's determinations that they lacked standing to claim that Champion misrepresented that the dog food is BPA-free, the court did not reach the merits of their related arguments.In this case, plaintiffs were required to plausibly allege that because of defendant's affirmative misrepresentations or material omissions, their dog food packaging could deceive a reasonable consumer. The court concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' omission-based claims because none of Champion's packaging statements are deceptive or misleading, and thus none require corrective disclosures. The court rejected plaintiffs' argument that Champion was required to disclose further information because of its special knowledge of material facts to which plaintiffs did not have access. The court stated that this duty to disclose based on special knowledge arises only in limited circumstances, which are not present in this case. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiffs' breach of warranty and unjust enrichment claims are premised on the same allegations of deception that are insufficient to support the fraud claims, and thus they fail for the same reasons. View "Song v. Champion Petfoods USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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A judgment creditor’s attorney, Rodenburg, mailed the consumer debtor, Ojogwu a copy of the garnishment summons Rodenburg had served on garnishee US Bank, knowing that Ojogwu had retained counsel after the default judgment was entered and that he disputed the debt. The district court held that Minn. Stat. 571.72(4), which requires that copies of papers served on a third-party garnishee “be served by mail at the last known mailing address of the debtor not later than five days after the service is made upon the garnishee” was inconsistent with, and therefore preempted by, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: “Without the prior consent of the consumer . . . or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with collection of any debt . . . if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt.” 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(2).The Eighth Circuit ordered the dismissal of the case. Under recent Supreme Court precedent, Ojogwu lacks Article III standing to pursue this claim in federal court because he failed to allege and the record does not show that he suffered concrete injury-in-fact from Rodenburg’s alleged violation of section 1692c(a)(2). View "Ojogwu v. Rodenburg Law Firm" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Carrington on plaintiff's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim. The court agreed with the district court that Carrington's alleged misrepresentations and unfair conduct were not made or carried out in connection with an attempt to collect a debt, and thus plaintiff failed to allege a claim under the Act.In this case, the communications at issue were not made in connection with an attempt to collect on the underlying mortgage debt. Although the boilerplate disclosures section of each letter stated "for the purpose of collecting a debt," these types of boilerplate mini-Miranda disclosures do not automatically trigger the protections of the Act. Rather, the court looked to the substance of the letter, which did not try to induce plaintiff to pay his outstanding debt. View "Heinz v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action against numerous companies for violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) through their marketing of men's and women's antiperspirants. Plaintiff alleges that Conopco, Inc.—doing business as Unilever—discriminates based on gender in pricing two Dove product lines.The court concluded that plaintiff mistakes gender-based marketing for gender discrimination where she ignores the fact that the different scents, packaging, and labels make the products potentially attractive to different customers with different preferences. Because preference-based pricing is not necessarily an unfair practice, the MMPA does not prohibit defendants' pricing here. View "Schulte v. Conopco, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against two debt collectors, TAG and CMLP, alleging that they violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in attempting to collect debt related to her treatment at North Memorial Health Care.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the debt collectors, concluding that the assignment of a contract is enough to put the assignee into privity with an original party to that contract under Minnesota law. In this case, the record before the district court established that there was a written agreement between North Memorial and CMLP due to TAG's assignment. Therefore, there is no dispute over a material fact and summary judgment on this issue was proper. The court also concluded that the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment under 15 U.S.C. 1692(e) where CMLP was the valid assignee of the contract between North Memorial and TAG; CMLP could legally take action to collect that debt on behalf of North Memorial, and CMLP did not violate section 1692e by saying as much; and even viewing all of this from the perspective of the unsophisticated consumer, no reasonable jury would believe that there was any deception. Finally, the court concluded that the district court properly interpreted section 1692e(5) and 1692f(1) and that, because TAG and CMLP are not hospital organizations and do not operate hospital facilities, the Treasury Department regulations governing North Memorial do not apply. View "Klein v. The Affiliated Group, Inc." on Justia Law