Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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In this case involving complex and protracted litigation regarding multiple high-interest loans between commercial borrowers and lenders the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting partial summary judgment in favor of the partnership plaintiffs and the Cambio plaintiffs, holding that there was no error.The superior court's grant of partial summary judgment primarily determined that a series of loans made by the RFP defendants was usurious and null and void. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the accrual of interest at rates in excess of twenty-one percent per annum is deemed usurious under the usury law; (2) the release and waiver of claims provision contained in a forbearance agreement did not fall within the category of cases in which the Supreme Court will permit a debtor's release of a usury claim; and (3) the remaining allegations of error were unavailing. View "Commerce Park Realty, LLC,v. HR2-A Corp." on Justia Law

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In this case involving complex litigation surrounding usurious loans between commercial borrowers and letters the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that there was no error.In the first appeal, the RFP defendants appealed from the grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the receivership plaintiffs and the Cambio plaintiffs. The summary judgment declared that a series of loans made by the RFP defendants were usurious and null and void. The Supreme Court affirmed. In the second appeal, addressed in this opinion, the Cambio plaintiffs cross-appealed seeking review of secondary determinations made by the superior court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice correctly granted summary judgment in favor of the RFP defendants on the Cambio plaintiffs' disgorgement claims; (2) the trial justice correctly ruled that the Cambio plaintiffs were not entitled to seek punitive damages against the RFP defendants under the usury statute; (3) the trial justice made correct rulings on certain stayed counts; and (4) the Cambio plaintiffs' claims under R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-2 were barred by the ten-year statute of limitations set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws 9-1-13(a). View "Commerce Park Realty, LLC v. HR2-A Corp." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit certified a question of law to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on whether Progressive Northern Insurance Company's Underinsured Motorist (UM) Exclusion--which operated to deny uninsured motorist coverage to insureds who recover at least the statutorily mandated minimum in the form of liability coverage--contravened Oklahoma's Uninsured Motorist Statute, codified at 36 O.S. section 3636. The Supreme Court responded "yes:" Because of the sweeping nature of the UM Exclusion contained in the insurance policy at issue, Progressive found a way to entirely avoid providing the promised coverage. "[A]n insurer in Oklahoma cannot deprive its policyholder of uninsured-motorist coverage for which a premium has been paid through an exclusion that effectively erases its policyholder's choice to purchase that coverage in the first place. We conclude that Progressive's UM Exclusion contravenes section 3636 and is therefore void as against public policy." View "Lane v. Progressive Northern Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq., did not preempt the State's in-use motor vehicle emission control system tampering claims against Volkswagen, holding that the Clean Air Act did not preempt Ohio law and preclude an anti-tampering claim under Ohio's Air Pollution Control Act, Ohio Rev. Code 3704.01 et seq.After the United States Environmental Protection Agency discovered Volkswagen's scheme to enable its vehicles to perform better than they otherwise would have on federal emissions tests, the State of Ohio sued Volkswagen for its vehicle-emissions tampering, alleging that Volkswagen's conduct violated Ohio's Air Pollution Control Act. The trial court granted Volkswagen's motion to dismiss, concluding that Ohio's anti-tampering statute was preempted by the federal Clean Air Act. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the federal Clean Air Act neither expressly nor impliedly preempts section 3704.16(C)(3) or precludes an anti-tampering claim under the state Air Pollution Control Act for a manufacturer's post-sale tampering with a vehicle's emissions-control system. View "State ex rel. Yost v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaf" on Justia Law

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When a business opted into its Name Screen Alert service, TransUnion would conduct its ordinary credit check of the consumer and would also use third-party software to compare the consumer’s name against the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control's list of terrorists, drug traffickers, and other serious criminals. If the consumer’s first and last name matched the first and last name of an individual on that list, TransUnion would note on the credit report that the consumer’s name was a “potential match.”A class of 8,185 individuals with such alerts in their credit files sued TransUnion under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681. for failing to use reasonable procedures to ensure the accuracy of their credit files. The parties stipulated that only 1,853 class members had their misleading credit reports containing alerts provided to third parties during the seven-month period specified in the class definition. The Ninth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict, awarding each class member statutory and punitive damages.The Supreme Court reversed. Only plaintiffs concretely harmed by a defendant’s statutory violation have Article III standing to seek damages in federal court. An injury-in-law is not an injury-in-fact. The asserted harm must have a close relationship to harm traditionally recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit. Physical or monetary harms and various intangible harms—like reputational harms--qualify as concrete injuries under Article III; 1,853 class members suffered harm with a “close relationship” to the harm associated with the tort of defamation. The credit files of the remaining 6,332 class members contained misleading alerts, but TransUnion did not provide that information to potential creditors. The mere existence of inaccurate information, absent dissemination, traditionally has not provided the basis for a lawsuit. Exposure to the risk that the misleading information would be disseminated in the future, without more, cannot qualify as concrete harm in a suit for damages. View "TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

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Craig Stark entered into a contract with McCarthy Corporation to construct a storage facility for recreational vehicles and boats. The relationship turned sour after McCarthy sent Stark an invoice for work Stark believed he had already paid for in full. After the parties were unable to resolve their dispute, Stark terminated McCarthy’s contract. McCarthy then filed a lien against Stark’s property and brought suit for breach of contract and to foreclose its lien. Stark, Stark Investment Group, and U.S. Bank, Stark’s construction lender on the project, counterclaimed for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent misrepresentation, slander of title by the recording of an unjust lien, and breach of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act (“ICPA”). After a bench trial, the district court largely agreed with Stark's counterclaims and dismissed McCarthy's complaint. McCarthy appealed the district court’s findings, damages award, and attorney fees award. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's holdings that McCarthy breached the contract between the parties and McCarthy violated the ICPA. View "McCarthy Corporation v. Stark Investment Group" on Justia Law

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Lee, a San Francisco independent optometrist, sued corporate affiliates operating optical retail stores in California that offer competing eyeglass products and optometry services, on behalf of a putative class of independent optometrists. He alleged that the chain stores operated in a manner that violated state laws regulating the practice of optometry and the dispensing of optical products, constituting unfair and/or unlawful business practices in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL). He claimed that “adults are, on average, willing to drive more than 20 miles for routine medical care” and that “[i]f patients had not been able to visit illegal optometry locations, a statistically significant and statistically ascertainable percentage of such patients would have instead visited at least one member of the Class. The complaint sought a judgment “[o]rdering the restitution/disgorgement of all sums obtained by Defendants through improper taking of market share from Class Members through violations of the UCL.”The court of appeal affirmed the suit's dismissal. Compensation for lost market share is not a remedy authorized by the UCL, because it does not constitute restitution, the only form of nonpunitive monetary recovery authorized under the UCL. Compensation for expected but unearned future income to which the plaintiff has no legal entitlement is not recoverable as restitution under the UCL, regardless of how it is characterized. View "Lee v. Luxottica Retail North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this class action complaint alleging violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act the Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition seeking to preclude the circuit court from enforcing its order granting a motion to compel discovery, holding that the circuit court clearly erred and exceeded its legitimate powers by granting the motion to compel.The order at issue compelled Petitioner to disclose the names and addresses of individuals with a West Virginia billing address who received communications from Health Care Financial Services (HCFS) during a certain time period and account information regarding the individuals who received those communications and ordered Petitioner to provide the information "in searchable format." Petitioner then filed this petition for writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding that the circuit court clearly erred in compelling Petitioner to disclose at this stage names and addresses of third-party individuals to whom debt collection letters were sent, dates of letters sent by HCFS, and other information. View "State ex rel. Health Care Alliance, Inc. v. O'Briant" on Justia Law

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National Western Life Insurance Company (NWL) appealed a jury verdict holding the company liable for negligence and elder abuse arising from an NWL annuity sold to Barney Williams by Victor Pantaleoni, an independent agent. In 2016, Pantaleoni sold a $100,000 NWL annuity to Williams, who had contacted Pantaleoni to revise a living trust after the death of Williams’ wife. When Williams returned the annuity to NWL during a 30-day “free look” period, Pantaleoni wrote a letter over Williams’ signature for NWL to reissue a new annuity. In 2017, when Williams cancelled the second annuity, NWL charged a $14,949.91 surrender penalty. The jury awarded Williams damages against NWL, including punitive damages, totaling almost $3 million. NWL moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which was denied. The Court of Appeal reversed: “Assuming NWL had monitored Pantaleoni as Williams suggested, there was no evidence showing that NWL knew or should have known of Pantaleoni’s fraud. … That Williams wrote the note cancelling the first annuity and Pantaleoni apparently wrote the letter requesting that it be reissued for Williams’ signature did not suggest to NWL that the letter was forged.” View "Williams v. National Western Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Soliman entered a California Subway sandwich shop. An employee showed her an in-store, hard-copy advertisement, on which Subway offered to send special offers if she texted a keyword. Soliman sent a text message to Subway. Subway began sending her, via text message, hyperlinks to electronic coupons. Soliman alleges that she later requested by text that Subway stop sending her messages, but her request was ignored. She filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Subway moved to compel arbitration, arguing that a contract was formed because the in-store advertisement, from which Soliman got the keyword and shortcode, included a reference to terms and conditions, including an arbitration requirement, located on Subway’s website and provided the URL.The Second Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to compel arbitration. Under California law, Soliman was not bound by the arbitration provision because Subway did not provide reasonably conspicuous notice that she was agreeing to the terms on the website. Because of barriers relating to the design and content of the print advertisement, and the accessibility and language of the website itself, the terms and conditions were not reasonably conspicuous under the totality of the circumstances; a reasonable consumer would not realize she was being bound to such terms by sending a text message to Subway in order to receive promotional offers. View "Soliman v. Subway Franchisee Advert. Fund Trust, Ltd." on Justia Law