Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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After the district court granted summary judgment in favor of two government agencies and a pharmaceutical company in this Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") case. Plaintiff, a science writer and journalism professor, sought records from the government agencies relating to the pharmaceutical company's successful application for accelerated approval of a drug for the treatment of a neuromuscular disease. The agencies produced over 45,000 pages of documents, some of which were redacted under Exemption 4 of FOIA. The district court granted summary judgment for the agencies and the pharmaceutical company on the basis that the redacted information fell within Exemption 4 and publication would either cause foreseeable harm to the interests protected by Exemption 4 or was prohibited by law.Plaintiff appealed and the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court held that the interests protected by Exemption 4 are the submitter's commercial or financial interests in the information that is of a type held in confidence and not disclosed to any member of the public by the person to whom it belongs. Defendants' declarations show that the release of the information Plaintiff seeks would foreseeably harm the pharmaceutical company’s interests and Plaintiff does not raise a genuine dispute as to that showing. View "Seife v. FDA, et al." on Justia Law

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Adelphia Gateway, LLC, applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission)_  for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to acquire an existing pipeline system. It also sought authorization to construct two short lateral pipeline segments extending from the existing pipeline infrastructure it would acquire. Adelphia also sought approval to construct facilities necessary to operate the pipeline. Together, these acquisitions and improvements would comprise the Adelphia Gateway Project (“the Project”).   In their joint brief, Petitioners challenge: (1) the Commission’s finding of market need for the Project under the Natural Gas Act; (2) the sufficiency of the Commission’s environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”); and (3) the constitutionality of the Commission’s purported preemption of state and local authorities’ ability to protect public health.   The Court is persuaded that the Commission did not act arbitrarily and capriciously. The court explained that as in Birckhead v. FERC, 925 F.3d 510 (D.C. Cir. 2019), Petitioners here “have identified no record evidence that would help the Commission predict the number and location of any additional wells that would be drilled as a result of production demand created by the Project.” Further, Petitioner did not argue before the Commission that section 1502.21(c) required the use of the Social Cost of Carbon tool. Their rehearing request referred to the regulation once in a footnote, and only in the context of the version of the argument petitioners then relied on and that passing reference was not enough to “alert the Commission” to the position Petitioners now take. View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Wabash Valley Power Association is an Indiana-based cooperative established to generate and transmit electricity. This case centers on a provision newly added to the 2020 contracts. Section 22 of these contracts purport to subject any changes to the Formulary Rate Tariff to the Mobile-Sierra presumption of justness and reasonableness. After Wabash submitted the new contracts to FERC, Tipmont Rural Electric Membership Cooperative, one of the two-member utilities that did not sign, filed a protest arguing that the Mobile-Sierra presumption should not apply to changes to the Formulary Rate Tariff. The Commission agreed. After FERC failed to act on an application for rehearing within 30 days, Wabash filed a petition for review.   The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review finding that the Commission reasonably rejected Wabash’s new contracts. The court wrote that  FERC reasonably determined that the 2020 contracts do not set a contractually negotiated rate. Under the Mobile Sierra doctrine, the key question is whether rates are set bilaterally or unilaterally. Here, the governing contracts give the Wabash board broad discretion to raise rates unilaterally: The board may approve rates that it believes are necessary to cover Wabash’s expenses and to maintain a reasonable profit margin, which is what any utility filing a unilateral tariff rate may seek to do. View "Wabash Valley Power Association, Inc. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC or Commission) promulgated a mandatory safety standard governing all previously unregulated infant sleep products, including ones for which there was no voluntary safety standard in effect. Finnbin, LLC sold baby boxes, an infant flat sleep product covered by the final rule. Finnbin’s boxes lack a firm stand and elevation, so Finnbin may no longer sell them as designed. Finnbin sought judicial review of the final rule.   The DC Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part Petitioner’s motion seeking judicial review of the final review. Finnbin made two arguments why, in its view, the final rule exceeds the CPSC’s statutory authority under section 104. The court held that because the extant voluntary standard here covers only inclined sleep products, the Commission could not impose a broader standard extending to previously unregulated flat sleep products.   Finnbin further contended that section 104 permits the CPSC to impose safety standards but not product bans, which it says must be done under 15 U.S.C. Section 2057. Moreover, Finnbin continues, the final rule bans products like baby boxes. The court explained that by its terms, the final rule creates performance requirements for infant sleep products not already covered by a section 104 standard. Finnbin provides no reason to think that the rule effectively bans any discrete product.   Finally, the court explained in contending the CPSC failed to provide an adequate explanation, Finnbin highlights cases faulting the Commission for relying on imprecise injury reports. But these cases involved rules promulgated under the Consumer Product Safety Act—which, unlike section 104, requires a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. View "Finnbin, LLC v. CPSC" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court in this (Cooper II) lawsuit brought by Jack Cooper against Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau (RMCB) asserting an additional violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) arising out of the same debt that was the subject of an appeal in a separate civil action between the same parties (Cooper I), holding that the sanctions award was improper.Plaintiff sued RMCB alleging that a letter from RMCB he received seeking to collect a consumer debt violated the FDCPA. Plaintiff then filed this separate action against RMCB claiming additional violations of the FDCPA arising from the same debt. RMCB filed a motion to dismiss the Cooper II complaint, arguing that it was improper claim splitting. The trial court dismissed the action with prejudice. Thereafter, RMCB moved for sanctions. The court granted the motion in part and imposed sanctions on two lawyers and their firm. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court's stated grounds for imposing monetary sanctions against counsel did not support the sanctions. View "Cooper v. Retrieval Masters Creditors" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit vacated the fee award entered by the district court in this dispute over attorney fee awards to prevailing plaintiffs under consumer-protection statutes where damages are modest and the plaintiff has rejected a substantial early settlement offer, holding that the fee award was an abuse of discretion.Plaintiff sued Defendant for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S. 1692 et seq., in attempting to collect a debt. The district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff on liability and awarded Plaintiff $500. Plaintiff and his attorneys then sought an award of attorney fees and costs of more than $66,000. The district court awarded fees and costs of less than $8,000. The Seventh Circuit vacated the award, holding that the district court's refusal to grant any post-offer fees was an abuse of discretion. View "Cooper v. Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief in this challenge to a district court order reinstating a claim against a cigarette manufacturer under the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act (NDTPA), holding that mandamus relief was not warranted.Plaintiffs brought filed suit against Petitioner, a cigarette manufacturer, alleging civil conspiracy and a violation of the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act (NDTPA). The district court granted Petitioner's motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiffs were not consumer fraud victims under Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.600(1) because they never used Petitioner's products. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiffs were not consumer fraud victims under the statute. The district court then granted reconsideration, concluding that the earlier dismissal order was erroneous. Petitioner then brought this petition, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the deceptive trade practices claim against Petitioner because they never used Petitioner's products. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the allegations in the complaint were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. District Court" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that when a landlord attempts to collect unpaid rent from a tenant during a period when the landlord was unlicensed a tenant may have a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) to the extent that the landlord's unlawful collection activity caused the tenant to suffer damages, including any rent payments made responding to the landlord's attempts to collect unpaid rent.Specifically, the the Court of Appeals held (1) a tenant who voluntarily paid rent to a landlord who lacked a rental license may not bring a private action under the MCPA or MCDCA to recover restitution of rent based upon the landlord's lack of licensure pursuant to the Baltimore City Code, Art. 13, 5-4; and (2) when a municipality or county enacts a rental license law conditioning the performance of a residential lease upon the issuance of a rental license a landlord may not file an action against a tenant to recover unpaid rent attributable to the period when the property was not licensed. View "Assanah-Carroll v. Law Offices of Maher" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against GoDaddy.com, LLC (“GoDaddy”) in district court alleging that GoDaddy had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”) when it allegedly called and texted Plaintiff solely to market its services and products through a prohibited automatic telephone dialing system. Her case was consolidated with two other cases.  Plaintiff and the plaintiffs in the two other related cases purported to bring a class action on behalf of similarly situated individuals. After negotiating with GoDaddy, the three plaintiffs submitted a proposed class settlement agreement to the District Court.   The District Court determined that “even though some of the included class members would not have a viable claim in the Eleventh Circuit, they do have a viable claim in their respective Circuit [because of a circuit split]. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s approval of class certification and settlement. The court held that the class definition does not meet Article III standing requirements. The court explained that it has not received briefing on whether a single cellphone call is sufficient to meet the concrete injury requirement for Article III standing and TransUnion has clarified that courts must look to history to find a common-law analogue for statutory harms. Thus, the court concluded its best course is to vacate the class certification and settlement and remand in order to give the parties an opportunity to redefine the class with the benefit of TransUnion and its common-law analogue analysis. View "Susan Drazen v. Godaddy.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a neurosurgeon, chose to use implants distributed by DS Medical, a company wholly owned by his fiancée. Physicians in other practices grew suspicious and filed various claims under the False Claims Act. The jury returned a verdict for the government on two of the three claims. The district court then awarded treble damages and statutory penalties in the amount of $5,495,931.22. Following the verdict, the government moved to dismiss its two remaining claims without prejudice, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2), on the ground that any recovery would be “smaller and duplicative of what the [c]ourt ha[d] already awarded.”   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial. The court explained that are several ways to prove that a claim is “false or fraudulent” under the False Claims Act. One of them is to show that it “includes items or services resulting from a violation” of the anti-kickback statute. This case required the court to determine what the words “resulting from” mean. The court concluded that it creates a but-for causal requirement between an anti-kickback violation and the “items or services” included in the claim. Thus, the court reversed and remanded because district court did not instruct the jury along these lines. View "United States v. Midwest Neurosurgeons, LLC, et al" on Justia Law