Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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The case involves a group of bettors who sued Churchill Downs, Inc., and trainers Robert Baffert and Bob Baffert Racing, Inc., after the horse they bet on, Medina Spirit, was disqualified from the 2021 Kentucky Derby due to a failed post-race drug test. The bettors claimed that they would have won their bets under the new order of finish after Medina Spirit's disqualification. However, under Kentucky law, only the first order of finish marked "official" counts for wagering purposes. The plaintiffs brought claims for negligence, breach of contract, violation of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, and unjust enrichment.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, which granted the defendants' motions to dismiss and denied the plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint. The court found that the plaintiffs' claims were based on the theory that they had "unpaid winning wagers," but under Kentucky law, the first official order of finish is final. Therefore, the plaintiffs' wagers were lost, and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The case was then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, agreeing that the plaintiffs' claims were based on the theory that they had "unpaid winning wagers." However, under Kentucky law, the first official order of finish is final for wagering purposes. Therefore, the plaintiffs' wagers were lost, and the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court also found that the proposed amendment to the complaint did not cure this flaw, so the lower court properly denied leave to amend. View "Mattera v. Baffert" on Justia Law

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The case involves a truck driver, Frank McKenna, who sued his former employer, Dillon Transportation, LLC, for defamation based on a report Dillon sent to HireRight, a consumer reporting agency. The report claimed McKenna had an unsatisfactory safety record and had been involved in an accident. McKenna alleged the report was defamatory and resulted in his inability to secure employment. Dillon argued that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) preempted McKenna’s claims.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision granting summary judgment in favor of Dillon. The court ruled that the FCRA does preempt McKenna's defamation claim. The court determined that under the FCRA, McKenna was a consumer, HireRight was a consumer reporting agency, and Dillon was a furnisher of information. The court found that the FCRA's preemption clause applied in this case, as it preempts state causes of action based on providing information to consumer reporting agencies like HireRight.Additionally, the court rejected McKenna’s argument that his suit was authorized under a Department of Transportation regulation that requires motor carriers to investigate the safety performance history of drivers, which preempts certain state-law claims against those providing such information. The court found the two preemption statutes, the FCRA, and the Department of Transportation regulation, complemented each other and could coexist. The court also ruled that the district court did not err in denying McKenna's request to postpone summary judgment to obtain additional documents related to his accident. View "McKenna v. Dillon Transportation, LLC" on Justia Law

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FedEx Ground Package Systems, Inc. (FXG) filed a lawsuit against Route Consultant, Inc., alleging that the latter company had made nine false or misleading statements about FXG's business practices. FXG contended that these statements were intended to foster discontent between FXG and its contractors, thereby damaging FXG and benefiting Route Consultant. The suit was brought under both the Lanham Act's false advertising provision and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act's statutory disparagement provision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit confirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the case. The court found that FXG had failed to plausibly allege that Route Consultant made a single false or misleading statement. The court emphasized that only statements of fact--not opinions, puffery, or rhetorical hyperbole--are actionable under the false advertising provision of the Lanham Act. Moreover, a plaintiff must plead and prove the literal falsity of the defendant's statement or demonstrate that the statement is misleading. FXG's complaint did not meet these standards.The court also held that FXG's claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act failed for the same reasons as its Lanham Act claim. Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of FXG's lawsuit against Route Consultant. View "FedEx Ground Package Systems, Inc. v. Route Consultant, Inc." on Justia Law

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Consumers alleged that Ford cheated on its fuel economy and emissions testing for certain truck models, including the F-150 and Ranger. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act, 42 U.S.C. 6201, and its regulations control such testing, the results of which are sent to the EPA. The EPA uses the information to provide fuel economy estimates for labels affixed to new vehicles. The FTC regulates advertising to consumers; Its “Guide Concerning Fuel Economy Advertising for New Vehicles” advises vehicle manufacturers and dealers about disclosing the established fuel economy of a vehicle, as determined by the EPA. The EPA and Department of Justice investigated Ford’s testing and resultsThe Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the purported class action, which included claims of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty, fraud, and unjust enrichment under the laws of every state. The claims are preempted by federal law as they inevitably conflict with the EPA’s regime. The EPA accepted Ford’s testing information and published its own estimate based on that information. The EPA has the authority to approve or reject Ford's figures. The tort claims essentially challenge the EPA’s figures. The EPA must balance several objectives in reaching those figures, and these claims would skew this balance. View "Lloyd v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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Acuity operates a website that connects people looking to buy or sell homes with a local real estate agent. Acuity’s services are free to home buyers and sellers but realtors pay a fee for referrals. The real-estate broker that employed Lewis, a real estate agent, signed up to receive Acuity’s referrals. The broker required its agents (including Lewis) to pay Acuity’s fee out of their commissions from home sales. Lewis sued, alleging that Acuity makes false claims to home buyers and sellers on its website and that this false advertising violates the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1)(B).The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Lanham Act provides a cause of action only for businesses that suffer commercial injuries (such as lost product sales) from the challenged false advertising. The Act does not provide a cause of action for customers who suffer consumer injuries (such as the cost of a defective product) from false advertising. Lewis alleges that type of consumer harm as his injury from Acuity’s allegedly false advertising: He seeks to recover the referral fee (that is, the price) he paid for Acuity’s services. View "Lewis v. Acuity Real Estate Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ward twice received medical treatment at Stonecrest after signing agreements, stating that Ward was responsible for charges not covered by insurance and that Stonecrest may “utilize the services of a third party" as an extended business office (EBO) for billing and account servicing, and that while the account is being serviced by the EBO it is not considered delinquent, past due or in default. Stonecrest would “determine the account to be delinquent, past due, and in default” after its return from the EBO and the account could be referred to a collection agency. After Ward did not pay bills from Stonecrest, Ward’s accounts were referred to a third party, NPAS, which mailed Ward statements and left him messages. NPAS identified itself as “a company that is managing your account." Ward contacted a law firm, which erroneously sent a cease-and-desist letter to the wrong company.Ward sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), alleging NPAS had not disclosed its identity as a debt collector, 15 U.S.C. 1692d(6); used a name other than its “true name” (NPAS instead of NPAS, Inc.); and called him after he attempted to send a cease-and-desist letter. The court held that NPAS did not qualify as a “debt collector” under the FDCPA. The Third Circuit found that Ward did not have Article III standing but remanded. On remand, Ward amended his complaint and submitted documents to show he had suffered concrete harm. The Third Circuit affirmed that those changes were sufficient to demonstrate Ward’s standing but that NPAS is not a debt collector. View "sWard v. NPAS, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bouye financed a furniture purchase with Winner through a retail installment contract (RIC). Winner supposedly sold the debt to Mariner. Bouye defaulted. Mariner, through its attorney (Bruce), sued in state court to recover the debt and attorney’s fees “of one-third of the amount" collected; the RIC limited fees to 15% of the unpaid balance. The attached RIC did not establish a transfer to Mariner. The court ordered Mariner to file proof of assignment. Mariner filed an updated RIC that listed Winner’s store manager as assigning the debt to Mariner. The court granted Mariner summary judgment. The Kentucky appellate court found that Mariner had not sufficiently demonstrated a valid transfer. Mariner dismissed the case.Bouye sued Bruce in federal court under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692(e), 380 days after Mariner sued in state court. The district court dismissed the complaint as untimely under FDCPA’s one-year limitations period. Bruce sought attorney’s fees. Meanwhile, Bouye and Mariner entered into a settlement that released Mariner, later clarifying that Bruce was not released.Three months before the court denied motions for reconsideration and attorney’s fees, Bruce learned of the settlement. The Sixth Circuit first held the settlement did not moot the appeal, then reversed, The statute of limitations did not bar an allegation Bruce filed an updated RIC and moved for summary judgment on that basis, affirmatively misrepresenting that the assignment occurred before Mariner filed suit. View "Bouye v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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Mohamad and Ahmed Hammoud, father and son, each filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, just over a year apart using the same attorney. The petitions contained their similar names, identical addresses, and—mistakenly—Ahmed’s social security number. Although the attorney corrected the social security number on Mohamad’s bankruptcy petition the day after it was filed, Experian failed to catch the amendment and erroneously reported Mohamad’s bankruptcy on Ahmed’s credit report for nine years. Ahmed learned of the uncorrected mistake while attempting to refinance his mortgage. He sued Experian and Equifax, alleging that each had violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by failing to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of his reported information, 15 U.S.C. 1681e(b). Equifax and Ahmed settled.The district court granted Experian summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Ahmed had standing to sue but cannot establish that Experian’s procedures were unreasonable as a matter of law. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Ahmed, his cognizable injury was fairly traceable to Experian’s actions. A credit reporting agency’s reliance on information gathered by outside entities is reasonable if the information is not “obtained from a source that was known to be unreliable” and is “not inaccurate on its face” or otherwise inconsistent with information already had on file. Experian was not required to implement additional procedures for collecting and verifying corrected information from bankruptcy proceedings. View "Hammoud v. Equifax Information Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hurst sought a loan modification in 2018. Caliber notified Hurst that her application was complete as of April 5, 2018, that it would evaluate her eligibility within 30 days, that it would not commence foreclosure during that period, and that it might need additional documents for second-stage review. On May 1, Caliber requested additional documents within 30 days. Although Hurst responded, she did not meet all of Caliber’s requirements. On May 31, Caliber informed Hurst that it could not review her application. Hurst sent some outstanding documents on June 7, but her application remained incomplete. Caliber filed a foreclosure action on June 18. Hurst spent $13,922 in litigating the foreclosure but continued working with Caliber. Caliber again denied the application as incomplete on August 31 but eventually approved her loan modification and dismissed the foreclosure action.Hurst filed suit under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), alleging that Caliber violated Regulation X’s prohibition on “dual tracking,” which prevents a servicer from initiating foreclosure while a facially complete loan-modification application is pending, 12 C.F.R. 1024.41(f)(2); failed to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining documents and information necessary to complete her application, section 1024.41(b)(1); and failed to provide adequate notice of the information needed to complete its review (1024.41(b)(2)). The district court granted Caliber summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to the “reasonable diligence” claim. Hurst identified communications where Caliber employees provided conflicting information and had trouble identifying deficiencies. View "Hurst v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ohio’s Necessaries Statute permits creditors to collect certain debts from one spouse incurred by the other.. Seeking to recover outstanding legal defense bills owed by Snyder’s husband, who had been convicted of embezzlement, Finley filed a debt-collection lawsuit against Finley and her husband, asserting joint liability. Snyder contends that the lawsuit was “objectively baseless” and violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e.The Sixth Circuit reversed the entry of summary judgment in favor of Finley. The Ohio Supreme Court has clearly held that the Necessaries Statute does not impose joint liability on a married person for the debts of a spouse. A creditor must first seek satisfaction of its claim from the assets of the spouse who incurred the debt and must show that the debtor-spouse is “unable to pay” for a non-debtor spouse to be liable under the Necessaries Statute. Finley’s claims against the husband remain pending in the Ohio state trial court. View "Snyder v. Finley & Co., L.P.A." on Justia Law