Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
Gonzalez v. Cullimore
The Supreme Court took the opportunity of this case to follow the overwhelming majority of courts, holding that claims under section 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692-1692p, are subject to a strict liability standard.The Supreme Court here abrogated a Utah Court of Appeals decision, Midland Funding LLC v. Sotolongo, 325 P.3d 871 (Utah Ct. App. 2014), holding that the court of appeals misstated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ standard for section 1692e claims and that the standard set forth in Midland Funding clearly contradicts the language of the FDCPA. Further, a strict liability interpretation of section 1692e is consistent with section 1692k(c) of the FDCPA. The Supreme Court thus reversed the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s section 1692e claims based solely on Midland Funding and remanded the case for further proceedings in light of this opinion. View "Gonzalez v. Cullimore" on Justia Law
WestGate Resorts, Ltd. v. Adel
Shawn Adel, a former employee of Westgate Resorts, a timeshare company, formed Consumer Protection Group (CPG) to right perceived wrongs stemming from Westgate's offer of certificates to consumers that were virtually irredemable. CPG solicited people who had received certificates to assign their claims to CPG. Westgate sued Adel, claiming intentional interference with existing and potential economic relations, conversion, breach of contract, and violation of the Utah Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Adel and CPG counterclaimed on behalf of 500 claimants, alleging breach of contract, fraudulent inducement, and violation of the Utah Consumer Protection Act. The jury awarded actual economic damages of between $5 and $550 for each claimant and awarded each claimant punitive damages of $66,666. The Supreme Court vacated the jury's punitive damages award, holding that the award violated Westgate's procedural due process rights under Philip Morris USA v. Williams because the statements made by CPG's counsel during closing argument created a risk that the jury would improperly consider harm allegedly caused by Westgate to nonparties when it fixed its punitive damages award. Remanded for a new evaluation of the punitive damages award only. View "WestGate Resorts, Ltd. v. Adel" on Justia Law
Judson v. Wheeler RV Las Vegas, LLC
Plaintiffs William and Donna Judson secured a default judgment against Wheeler RV Las Vegas on a complaint asserting breach of contract and misrepresentation claims arising out of the Judsons' purchase of a recreational vehicle from Wheeler. Wheeler sought to set aside the default judgment, asserting surprise or excusable neglect in its failure to answer the complaint, suggesting that Wheeler was the wrong party because its predecessor was the entity that sold the Judsons their RV, and questioning their district court's jurisdiction over Wheeler. The district court denied Wheeler's motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Wheeler failed to make a "clear and specific proffer" of a meritorious defense required as a predicate for setting aside a default judgment under Utah R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the simple pleading standard set forth under Rule 60(b), Wheeler's meritorious defense allegations were sufficient. Remanded to resolve the issue of whether Wheeler established the "surprise and excusable neglect" predicate for setting aside the default judgment. View "Judson v. Wheeler RV Las Vegas, LLC" on Justia Law
Pyper v. Bond
David Pyper hired attorney Justin Bond to represent him in a probate matter. Bond's law firm subsequently sued Pyper to obtain payment of the attorney fees. The district court entered a judgment in favor of the law firm for $10,577. To satisfy the judgment, Bond filed a lien against a house owned by Pyper that was worth approximately $125,000. Bond was the only bidder at the sheriff's sale auctioning Pyper's home and purchased Pyper's home for $329. Pyper later communicated his desire to redeem his property to Dale Dorius, another attorney at the firm, but was unable to speak to Bond after several attempts. After the redemption period expired, the deed to Pyper's home was transferred to Bond. Pyper subsequently filed a petition seeking to set aside the sheriff's sale of his property. The district court set aside the sheriff's sale. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the court of appeals did not err in (1) concluding that gross inadequacy of price together with slight circumstances of unfairness may justify setting aside a sheriff's sale and (2) affirming the district court's conclusion that Bond and Dorius's conduct created, at least, slight circumstances of unfairness.
Park v. Stanford
This case concerned the application of payments made in connection with a real estate transaction between Kang Park and Marsha Park and Gary Stanford. The district court granted summary judgment to the Parks, determining, as a matter of law, that none of the payments Stanford submitted to the Parks could be credited toward a personal guaranty Stanford had made on the note payable to the Parks. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, concluding that no evidence indicated the Parks had actual knowledge that Stanford intended for the past payments to apply to his guaranty and no agreement or contractual provision expressly required the Parks to make such an application. On certiorari, the Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals applied the wrong test in its holding, and rather, a rule in which payments are credited toward a personal guaranty when the recipient of the payments has a reasonable basis to know the payments were submitted in satisfaction of the guaranty governed the application of payments toward a personal guaranty; and (2) genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment under the rule and the record required further development. Remanded.