Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries
Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC
In 1991, Congress prohibited almost all robocalls to cell phones and landlines, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(B). A 2015 amendment attempted to allow robocalls if they were made “solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The Supreme Court, in AAPC, held the amendment was unconstitutional content discrimination but that the exception was severable from the rest of the restriction, leaving the general prohibition intact. In 2019-2020, Lindenbaum received two robocalls from Realgy advertising its electricity services. She sued, alleging violations of the robocall restriction. After the Supreme Court decided AAPC, the district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction reasoning that severability is a remedy that operates only prospectively, so the robocall restriction was unconstitutional and therefore “void” for the period the exception was on the books. Because it was “void,” the district court believed, it could not provide a basis for federal-question jurisdiction.The Sixth Circuit reversed. Because severance is not a remedy, it would have to be a legislative act in order to operate prospectively only. The Court recognized only that the Constitution had “automatically displace[d]” the government-debt-collector exception from the start, then interpreted what the statute has always meant in its absence. View "Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC" on Justia Law
Wadsworth v. Kross, Lieberman & Stone, Inc
PRA hired Wadsworth and, in its offer letter, described a signing bonus: $3,750 payable after 30 days of employment, followed by another $3,750 after 180 days of employment. If Wadsworth voluntarily ended her employment or PRA fired her for cause within 18 months, she was obligated to repay the full bonus. Wadsworth collected both signing payments, but after she completed one year of employment, PRA fired her. Kross, a debt-collection agency, attempted to recover the bonus payments. Kross mailed Wadsworth a collection letter and a Kross employee called Wadsworth by telephone four times. Wadsworth sued Kross claiming that its letter and phone calls violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, by failing to provide complete written notice of her statutory rights within five days of the initial communication and because the caller never identified herself as a debt collector.The district court entered summary judgment for Wadsworth. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The alleged violations did not cause Wadsworth any concrete harm and allege nothing more than “bare procedural violation[s],” which Article III precludes courts from adjudicating. View "Wadsworth v. Kross, Lieberman & Stone, Inc" on Justia Law
Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. ACT, Inc.
The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court against Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley, a small private high school on its action seeking injunctive relief and statutory damages against ACT, Inc., a non-profit entity that develops and administers the ACT college admissions test, holding that the district court erred in finding that Bais Yaakov's individual claim was rendered moot.In its complaint, Bais Yaakov claimed that three one-page faxes sent by ACT in 2012 were unsolicited advertisements sent in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCAP, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C) and seeking injunctive relief and statutory damages in the amount of approximately $400 million dollars. After extended litigation, the district court concluded that class certification was unwarranted and that Bais Yaakov's individual claim was rendered moot by ACT's offer to pay the full amount of that claim and a promise not to sent further faxes to the high school. The First Circuit affirmed the denial of class certification and the dismissal of the claim for injunctive relief but otherwise vacated the judgment, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the proposed classes could not be certified or in denying injunctive relief; and (2) Bais Yaakov's damage claim was not moot. View "Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. ACT, Inc." on Justia Law
Lupia v. Medicredit
On a Monday, Medicredit, a debt collection agency, received a letter from a consumer, plaintiff-appellee Elizabeth Lupia, demanding that it cease calling her about an unpaid medical debt. The next day, before Medicredit processed the letter, it called Ms. Lupia again about the debt. This call served as grounds for Ms. Lupia's suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). According to Medicredit, its Tuesday call was a bona fide error, thereby shielding the agency from liability. Lupia argued Medicredit’s policy allowed for more time than that: permitting up to three business days of lag time between its receipt and processing of mail (which was how long it took Medicredit to process the letter). For that, Lupia contended, Medicredit could not shield itself under the bona fide-error defense. The district court agreed and granted Lupia’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Medicredit challenged Lupia’s standing in federal court and claimed the district court committed several reversible errors in granting Lupia’s motion. After review, the Tenth Circuit found no merit in any of these claims, and affirmed the district court. View "Lupia v. Medicredit" on Justia Law
Ward v. National Patient Account Services Solutions, Inc.
Ward received twice medical treatment at Stonecrest. Stonecrest hired NPAS, Inc. to collect Ward’s outstanding balances. NPAS first sent Ward a billing statement on October 3 related to his July hospital visit. The statement provided NPAS's full name and address at the top of the first page; the reverse side explained who it was. NPAS called Ward on October 24 and left a voice message: We are calling from NPAS on behalf of Stonecrest … Please return our call. On November 17, NPAS, sent a second billing statement. On December 27, NPAS left a second, identical, voice message. NPAS then returned his account to Stonecrest. Ward’s second account regarding his October hospital visit followed a similar process. On December 28, after retaining counsel, Ward sent a cease-and-desist letter to “NPAS Solutions, LLC,” an entity unrelated to NPAS, Inc. Ward stated at his deposition that NPAS, Inc.’s voice messages caused him to become confused as to which entity had called him.Ward filed suit under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11) alleging NPAS failed, in its voice messages, to identify itself as a debt collector and failed to identify the “true name” of its business. The Sixth Circuit held that the case should be dismissed because Ward lacks Article III standing. Ward does not automatically have standing simply because Congress authorizes a plaintiff to sue for failing to comply with the Act. The procedural injuries Ward asserts do not bear a close relationship to traditional harms. View "Ward v. National Patient Account Services Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Loyhayem v. Fraser Financial & Insurance Services, Inc.
Loyhayem filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)–(B), which prohibits robocalls to cellphones except for emergency purposes or with the prior express consent of the called party. Loyhayem received a call to his cell phone that left a pre-recorded voicemail message: Hi, this is Don with Fraser Financial... I recently saw your industry experience and I wanted to let you know that we’re looking to partner with select advisors ... I thought you might be a fit.” Loyhayem characterized this call as a “job recruitment call,” and alleged that it was made using an automated telephone dialing system and an artificial or pre-recorded voice and that he did not expressly consent to calls from Fraser.The district court dismissed Loyhayem’s suit, holding that the TCPA and the implementing regulation do not prohibit job-recruitment robocalls. The court read the Act as prohibiting robocalls to cell phones only when the calls include an “advertisement” or constitute “telemarketing,” as those terms have been defined by the FCC. The Ninth Circuit reversed. The statute prohibits in plain terms “any call,” regardless of content, that is made to a cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or pre-recorded voice. Loyhayem adequately alleged that the call he received was not made for emergency purposes and that he did not expressly consent to it. View "Loyhayem v. Fraser Financial & Insurance Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Bilek v. Federal Insurance Co.
Bilek received unauthorized robocalls concerning health insurance that allegedly violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Illinois Automatic Telephone Dialing Act (47 U.S.C. 227; 815 ILCS 305/30(a)(b)). Bilek sued on a vicarious liability theory, claiming that Federal contracted with Innovations to sell its insurance; Innovations hired lead generators to effectuate telemarketing; and the lead generators made the unauthorized robocalls that form the basis of Bilek’s claims. Bilek cited three agency theories: actual authority, apparent authority, and ratification.The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Bilek’s complaint. Expressing no view on whether Bilek will ultimately succeed in proving an agency relationship between the lead generators and either Federal or Innovations, the court concluded that Bilek alleged enough at the pleading stage for his complaint to move forward. Bilek alleges more than a barebones contractual relationship, and did enough to plead that the lead generators acted with Federal’s actual authority. Bilek alleged that Federal authorized the lead generators, through Innovations, to use its approved scripts, tradename, and proprietary information to solicit and advertise its insurance; Bilek received a robocall, and after pressing 1, he spoke to a lead generator who used this proprietary information to quote Federal’s insurance. View "Bilek v. Federal Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Zylstra v. DRV, LLC
The Zylstras purchased their RV from a non-party dealership for $91,559.15. A one-year warranty covered portions of the RV manufactured by DRV. “Written notice of defects subject to warranty coverage must be given to the selling dealer or DRV … within 30 days after the defect is discovered.” The owner is required to take the RV to the selling dealer or factory for repair. Each DRV vehicle is custom-built for the purchaser. The Zylstras took the vehicle in for punch-list items and for warranty repairs. During a subsequent long trip, Zylstra discovered that the black waste tank valve was leaking and that sewage had been leaking into the insulation throughout the RV's underbelly. He could not find a DRV authorized dealer but an independent mobile technician came and completed the repair. After the leak, the Zylstras stopped using the RV out of concern for their health. They contend that it is not, and never has been, fit for its ordinary purpose of recreational use.They filed a complaint alleging breach of express and implied warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (MMWA), and violation of state consumer protection laws. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of DRV. Even in the light most favorable to the Zylstras, DRV never had a reasonable opportunity to repair the defects as required under the warranty. View "Zylstra v. DRV, LLC" on Justia Law
Anoush Cab, Inc. v. Uber Technologies, Inc.
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's final judgment against Plaintiffs on their claims that Uber Technologies competed unlawfully in the on-demand, ride-hail ground transportation in and around Boston, Massachusetts, holding that Uber did not compete unfairly in violation of statutory and common law prohibitions governing the commercial marketplace.Plaintiffs - owners of companies that dispatched, leased, and maintained taxicab vehicles and owned taxi medallions - brought this complaint alleging that, in violation of Boston regulations, Uber caused asset devaluation by competing unfairly under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, violating the common law for unfair competition, and aiding and abetting a conspiracy to engage in unfair competition. The district court issued judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Uber's conduct in the transportation market during a period of regulatory uncertainty did not violate the statutory or common law governing the commercial marketplace. View "Anoush Cab, Inc. v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC
In this two putative class action cases concerning the applicable statute of limitations for claims filed by consumer debtors against a consumer debt buyer, Midland Funding, LLC, the Court of Appeals held that Petitioners' claims for unjust enrichment and statutory claims for money damages were subject to the three-year statute of limitations established by Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-101.Petitioner Clifford Cain and Petitioner Tasha Gambrell each filed a putative class action complaint against Midland, alleging improper debt collection activities in connection with money judgments that Midland obtained against the plaintiffs during a time when Midland was not licensed as a collection agency under Maryland law. In Cain's case, the circuit court granted summary judgment to each party in part and a separate declaratory judgment declaring the rights of the parties. In Gambrell's case, the circuit court granted Midland's motion to dismiss. The court of appeals held (1) Petitioners were not entitled to injunctive relief, and (2) Petitioners' claims seeking restitution under an unjust enrichment theory and money damages for statutory claims were barred by CJ 5-101's three-year statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment as to Gambrell in its entirety and reversed the judgment in part as to Cain, holding that Cain's individual claims were timely filed. View "Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law