Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Lawson-Ross v. Great Lakes Higher Education Corp.
Borrowers filed suit alleging that Great Lakes made affirmative misrepresentations to them and other borrowers that they were on track to have their student loans forgiven based on their public-service employment when, in fact, their loans were ineligible for the forgiveness program. Borrowers alleged a variety of claims under Florida law, including the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA). The district court ruled that Borrowers' claims were preempted by a provision of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), which prohibits the application of state law disclosure requirements to loans made under federal student loan programs. The Eleventh Circuit held that the HEA, which expressly preempts state law disclosure requirements, does not preempt Borrowers' claims in this case. The court also held that Borrowers' claims are not otherwise preempted. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lawson-Ross v. Great Lakes Higher Education Corp." on Justia Law
Darrisaw v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
Plaintiff, a student loan borrower, filed suit against PHEAA under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act after it tried to collect a debt she never incurred. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that PHEAA, which guarantees federal student loans for the Secretary of Education, is not a "debt collector" under the Act. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and agreed with the district court that PHEAA fell within an exception for persons who collect debts "incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation." The court stated that the text of the Act makes clear that a person may attempt to collect a debt "incidential to a bona fide fiduciary obligation" whether the debt sought to be collected is "owed or due" another or only "asserted to be owed or due another." Therefore, plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that PHEAA qualified as a debt collector. View "Darrisaw v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law
Williams v. First Advantage Background Services Corp.
Defendant appealed the district court's denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, motion for a new trial or remittitur. In this Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law to the extent it challenged the reputational harm claim and the willfulness claim. However, the court vacated the jury's punitive damages award and remanded the case to the district court to enter a judgment awarding plaintiff $1 million in punitive damages. The court held that, although punitive damages were properly awarded, a $3.3 million dollar award was unconstitutionally excessive. View "Williams v. First Advantage Background Services Corp." on Justia Law
Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC
Plaintiff filed a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, alleging that DIRECTV and the company it contracted with to provide telemarketing services, Telecel, failed to maintain the do-not-call list and continued to call individuals who asked not to be contacted. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's certification order, holding that the unnamed members of the putative class who did not ask DIRECTV to stop calling them were not injured by the failure to comply with the regulation. Therefore, their injuries were not fairly traceable to DIRECTV's alleged wrongful conduct, and thus they lacked Article III standing to sue DIRECTV. The court also held that, although the case was justiciable because the named plaintiff had standing, the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class as it is currently defined. In this case, determining whether each class member asked Telecel to stop calling requires an individualized inquiry, and the district court did not consider this problem at all when it determined that issues common to the class predominated over issues individual to each class member. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Cordoba v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law
Pinson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA
Plaintiff filed suit against the Bank, asserting claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. Determining that plaintiff had Article III standing, the Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff has stated three plausible claims for relief under the FCRA, where he alleged that the Bank willfully violated the FCRA by failing to investigate his dispute and unlawfully obtained his credit report. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. However, plaintiff did not plausibly state a claim under the FDCPA, because the least sophisticated consumer would not believe that Chase Home Finance was a third-party debt collector distinct from the Bank. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the FDCPA claim. View "Pinson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA" on Justia Law
Davis v. Oasis Legal Finance Operating Co.
Plaintiffs, a class of borrowers, filed suit in Georgia against their lenders, alleging that their loan agreements violated state usury laws. After removal to federal court, the district court concluded that the forum selection clause and class action waiver were unenforceable based on Georgia public policy. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Georgia's Payday Lending Act and Industrial Loan Act articulate a clear public policy against enforcing forum selection clauses in payday loan agreements and in favor of preserving class actions as a remedy for those aggrieved by predatory lenders. View "Davis v. Oasis Legal Finance Operating Co." on Justia Law
Salcedo v. Hanna
Receiving a single unsolicited text message, sent in violation of a federal statute, is not a concrete injury in fact that establishes standing to sue in federal court. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) after he received unsolicited text messages from defendant's law firm. The court found that the history and the judgment of Congress did not support a finding of concrete injury in plaintiff's allegations. In this case, plaintiff's allegations of a brief, inconsequential annoyance were categorically distinct from those kinds of real but intangible harms. The court noted that its assessment was qualitative, not quantitative. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice the amended complaint. View "Salcedo v. Hanna" on Justia Law
Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc.
The Eleventh Circuit sua sponte vacated its previous opinion and publish this opinion in its place. This appeal involved the approval of a class action settlement against Godiva for violating the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) by printing more digits of his credit card number than the Act allowed. Objectors challenged the class settlement reached by plaintiff and Godiva, but the district court approved the settlement, class counsel's request for attorney's fees, and an incentive award for plaintiff. The court affirmed. The court held that Congress judged the risk of identity theft plaintiff suffered to be sufficiently concrete to confer standing, and the risk of identity theft bears a close enough relationship to the common law tort of breach of confidence to make plaintiff's injury concrete. In this case, plaintiff alleged he suffered a heightened risk of identity theft as a result of a FACTA violation and his allegation was sufficient under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016). The court declined to follow the Third Circuit's rule that actual identity theft was required to bring a FACTA claim. Rather, the court held that Congress conferred the procedural right in FACTA to reduce the risk of identity theft. View "Muransky v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc." on Justia Law
Holzman v. Malcolm S. Gerald & Associates, Inc.
Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, arising from an attempt by defendants to collect on plaintiff's time-barred consumer debt. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the FDCPA claim and held that the collection letter plaintiff received plausibly could be misleading or deceptive to the "least sophisticated consumer" in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692e. Although the court found that plaintiff stated a plausible claim, the court held that attempting to collect on time-barred debt was not a per se unfair or unconscionable practice that automatically violates section 1692f of the FDCPA. Finally, the court reinstated plaintiff's state claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Holzman v. Malcolm S. Gerald & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law
Marchisio v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC.
Plaintiffs filed suit against defendant, alleging violation of the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), violation of the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, and breach of contract. This action arose when defendant incorrectly confirmed to credit reporting agencies that plaintiffs had a balloon payment pending, and then charged plaintiffs for lender-placed insurance on the property that plaintiffs had turned over to defendant years earlier and no longer owed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's finding of a willful FCRA violation, but reversed the denial of emotional distress and punitive damages because genuine issues of material fact exist concerning these claims; reversed the grant of summary judgment for defendant on the state claim, because genuine issues of material fact exist concerning where defendant made debt collection calls to plaintiff in the fall of 2013, whether defendant maintained procedures reasonably adapted to avoid violations of the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act that would entitle defendant to the bona fide error defense, and whether defendant's vendor was acting as defendant's agent when it sent lender-placed insurance letters to plaintiffs; reversed the grant of summary judgment for defendants on the breach of contract claims, because genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether defendant breached the settlement agreement and whether plaintiffs have proved damages; vacated the award of attorney's fees to plaintiffs so that the district court can recalculate those fees at the conclusion of the litigation; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Marchisio v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC." on Justia Law