Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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In 1996 Aldaco pleaded guilty to battery and received a sentence of six months’ supervision, a diversionary disposition under Illinois law. The court entered a finding of guilt and deferred proceedings. After Aldaco complied with the conditions of her supervision, the court dismissed the charge. Aldaco could have had the battery record expunged, but did not ask the court to do so. Nineteen years later Aldaco wished to rent an apartment. As part of one application process, she consented to a criminal background check, which the landlord outsourced to Yardi. Its report flagged her battery sentence and the landlord refused to rent to Aldaco. She protested to Yardi, falsely asserting that the battery record did not pertain to her. She did not inform Yardi that the reported length of her sentence was incorrect. Yardi reexamined its work and confirmed that the record pertained to Aldaco. Aldaco filed suit, contending that Yardi—as a consumer reporting agency—violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act when it disclosed her criminal history. The Act prohibits reporting agencies from disclosing any arrest record or other adverse items more than seven years old but permits them to report “records of convictions” no matter how old, 15 U.S.C. 1681c(a). The Act does not define the word “conviction.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Yardi. Federal law controls; the word “convictions” encompasses pleas of guilt. View "Aldaco v. Rentgrow, Inc." on Justia Law

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A Zestimate is an estimated value for real estate, generated on the Zillow website by applying a proprietary algorithm to public data, such as location, tax assessment, number of rooms, and recent selling prices. Zillow does not inspect the building nor adjust for whether a property is attractive or well-maintained. Zillow states that its median error (comparing a Zestimate with a later transaction price) is less than 6%. The Zestimate is off by more than 20% in about 15% of all sales. Zillow informs users that Zestimates may be inaccurate. Plaintiffs learned that the Zestimates for their parcels were below the amounts they hoped to realize. Zillow declined requests to either to increase the Zestimates or remove the properties from the database. Plaintiffs sued, citing the Illinois Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Acts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The plaintiffs lack a private right of action under the appraisal statute, which makes unlicensed appraisal a crime; an administrative agency may impose fines for unlicensed appraisal and issue cease-and-desist le\ers that can be enforced by injunctions. Illinois courts create a non-statutory private right of action “only in cases where the statute would be ineffective, as a practical ma\er, unless such action were implied.” Given the multiple means of enforcing the licensing act, and the penalties for noncompliance, a private action is not necessary. The Trade Practices Act deals with statements of fact, while Zestimates are opinions. View "Patel v. Zillow, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rhone’s physical therapy provider (Institute), billed her $134 for each session. Insurance covered all but a $60 co-pay per session. Rhone did not remit her part of the bills. Institute turned to the Bureau for debt collection. After three years of collection efforts did not work, the Bureau reported to Equifax that Rhone owes nine debts of $60 each. Rhone contends that the Bureau had to report the aggregate debt of $540 rather than nine $60 debts. The district court found the at the Bureau made a “false representation” about “the character, amount, or legal status of any debt,” 15 U.S.C.1692e(2)(A) and imposed a $1,000 penalty. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The credit report was factually correct. The word “character” does not require aggregation of debts arising from multiple transactions with a single entity. The number of transactions between a debtor and a single merchant does not affect the genesis, nature, or priority of the debt and so does not concern its character. View "Rhone v. Medical Business Bureau, LLC" on Justia Law

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O’Boyle claimed a debt-collection letter sent by RTR violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by “overshadowing” the consumer’s rights under 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b) and failing to communicate the FDCPA rights effectively. The letter consisted of two sheets the validation notice is not on either side of the first sheet. The front of this sheet directs the reader to “the back of this page for additional important information” but that “additional important information” does not include the notice. Instead, the notice is at the second sheet’s front top. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of O’Boyle’s claim. The FDCPA does not say a debt collector must put the validation notice on the first page of a letter. Nor does the FDCPA say the first page of a debt-collection letter must point to the validation notice if it is not on the first page. Nor does the FDCPA say a debt collector must tell a consumer the validation notice is important. Nor does the FDCPA say a debt collector may not tell a consumer that other information is important. View "O' Boyle v. Real Time Resolutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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When Beaton’s laptop malfunctioned, he discovered SpeedyPC, which offered a diagnosis and a cure. Beaton took advantage of Speedy’s free trial, which warned that his device was in bad shape and encouraged him to purchase its software, The software failed to improve his laptop’s performance. Beaton filed a consumer class action, raising contract and tort theories. The district court certified a nationwide class and an Illinois subclass of software purchasers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Speedy’s argument that the class definitions and legal theories covered by the certification orders impermissibly differ from those outlined in the complaint by the narrowing of the class from everyone in the U.S. who had purchased SpeedyPC Pro, to individual persons (not entities) who downloaded the free trial and purchased the licensed software over a three‐year period. Speedy did not suffer “unfair surprise,” given that the “legal basis for liability is based on the same allegations” about the sale of worthless software. By not raising the argument before the district court, Speedy forfeited its assertion that Beaton is judicially estopped from seeking relief under the law of British Columbia, having initially argued for Illinois law. Class certification satisfied Rule 23(a); common questions of fact and law predominate and the amount of damages to which each plaintiff would be entitled is so small that no one would otherwise bring suit. Consumer class actions are a crucial deterrent against the proliferation of bogus products. View "Beaton v. SpeedyPC Software" on Justia Law

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Duncan fell behind on her car payments, ARS repossessed the vehicle on behalf of the lender, Wells Fargo. Duncan had left some personal items in the car, and when she sought to retrieve them, ARS allegedly demanded $100. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of her suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692f. The $100 charge was not a demand for loan repayment by Duncan, but rather an administrative property-retrieval fee that Wells Fargo had agreed to pay, Duncan was not able to back her allegation that ARS demanded the $100 fee of her with anything beyond her own testimony. ARS backed its contrary testimony with the Receipt for Redeeming Personal Property, which expressly established that Wells Fargo—not Duncan—would make the $100 payment. The same documentary evidence shows that the $100 handling fee was just an administrative expense, not a masked demand for a principal payment to Wells Fargo. View "Duncan v. Asset Recovery Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against GC Services, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of GC Services' motion to compel arbitration and held that the company waived any right to arbitrate. In this case, GC Services did not discover the existence of the arbitration agreement for eight months, and then the company did not notify the court or move to compel arbitration for another five months. Furthermore, none of the explanations offered for the delays were adequate, and GC Services' decision to litigate the merits of plaintiff's legal theory and request for class certification was inconsistent with a desire to arbitrate. View "Smith v. GC Services LP" on Justia Law

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The definition of "consumer" under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act includes consumers who have been alleged by debt collectors to owe debts that the consumers themselves contend they do not owe. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action against Main Street, alleging violations of the FDCPA and the Illinois Collection Agency Act. The court held that, based on the text of the FDCPA, plaintiff was a qualifying consumer under 15 U.S.C. 1692 where Main Street alleged that plaintiff owed debt and tried its case to the bench in small claims court, even if it failed to prove the claim. View "Loja v. Main Street Acquisition Corp." on Justia Law

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Allied offered Robertson a job, but ran a background check before she reported to work. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 15 U.S.C. 1681a(d)(1), Robertson claims that Allied violated a requirement to notify her “clear[ly] and conspicuous[ly],” in writing, unadorned by additional information, of its intent to obtain the report and to secure her consent (notice claim). Non‐conviction information appeared in Robertson’s background check. Allied revoked its offer. An employer that relies on a background check for an adverse employment decision must provide the applicant with a copy of the report and a written description of her rights under FCRA before acting. Allied provided neither (adverse action claim). After mediation, the parties reached a tentative settlement. Months later, the Supreme Court held that federal jurisdiction exists only if the plaintiff has alleged an injury that is concrete and particular. Months later, Robertson moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) for preliminary approval of the settlement and for certification of two settlement classes. The court rejected, as “simply wrong,” Robertson’s assertion that it could approve the settlement without jurisdiction over the underlying case and dismissed the case for lack of standing. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to the adverse action claim. Allied’s alleged violations of the Act caused Robertson concrete injury. Dismissal of the notice claim was proper because authority to adjudicate must exist before a court can resolve the case, even if that resolution is only a Rule 23(e) fairness hearing, followed by approval of a settlement. View "Robertson v. Allied Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Holcomb did not pay her credit-card bill. The creditor hired the Freedman law firm, which sued Holcomb on the creditor’s behalf in state court. Holcomb initially appeared pro se but later retained Attorney Finko. When Freedman moved for default judgment, Finko had not yet filed a written appearance. Freedman served the motion on both Holcomb and Finko. Holcomb alleges that Freedman violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits a debt collector from directly contacting a debtor who is represented by counsel absent “express permission” from “a court of competent jurisdiction,” 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(2). Freedman argued that it had “express permission” because Illinois Supreme Court Rule 11 requires service of court papers on a party’s “attorney of record,” if there is one, but “[o]therwise service shall be made upon the party.” Freedman argued that Finko was not yet Holcomb’s “attorney of record” for purposes of Rule 11, requiring service on Holcomb directly. The district judge rejected this argument as “hyper-technical.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. An attorney becomes a party’s “attorney of record” for Rule 11 purposes only by filing a written appearance or another pleading with the court. Finko had done neither, so Rule 11 required Freedman to serve the default motion on Holcomb directly. View "Holcomb v. Freedman Anselmo Lindberg, LLC" on Justia Law