Justia Consumer Law Opinion Summaries

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Louisiana-Pacific produces “engineered-wood” building siding—wood treated with zinc borate, a preservative that poisons termites; Hardie sells fiber-cement siding. To demonstrate the superiority of its fiber cement, Hardie initiated an advertising campaign called “No Wood Is Good,” proclaiming that customers ought to realize that all wood siding—however “engineered”—is vulnerable to damage by pests. Its marketing materials included digitally-altered images and video of a woodpecker perched in a hole in Louisiana-Pacific’s siding with nearby text boasting both that “Pests Love It,” and that engineered wood is “[s]ubject to damage caused by woodpeckers, termites, and other pests.” Louisiana-Pacific sued Hardie, alleging false advertising, and moved for a preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Louisiana-Pacific failed to show that it would likely succeed in proving the advertisement unambiguously false under the Lanham Act and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. View "Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. James Hardie Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to compel arbitration and motion for a mandatory stay in a putative class action alleging that defendant charged excessive prices for its rent-to-own plans for household items. The panel held that the Federal Arbitration Act did not preempt California's rule in McGill v. Citibank, N.A., 393 P.3d 85 (Cal. 2017), in which the California Supreme Court decided that a contractual agreement purporting to waive a party's right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum is unenforceable under California law. The panel also held that the severance clause in the 2015 agreement at issue, triggered by the McGill rule, instructed the panel to sever plaintiff's Karnette Rental-Purchase Act, Unfair Competition Law, and Consumer Legal Remedies Act claims from the scope of arbitration. Finally, the panel dismissed for lack of jurisdiction defendant's appeal of the district court's denial of a discretionary stay and its decision to defer ruling on a motion to strike class action claims. View "Blair v. Rent-A-Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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GL services repayment of Nelson's federally-insured student loans. On its website, GL tells borrowers struggling to make their loan payments: “Our trained experts work on your behalf,” and “You don’t have to pay for student loan services or advice,” because “Our expert representatives have access to your latest student loan information and understand all of your options.” Nelson alleged that when she and other members of the putative class struggled to make payments, GL steered borrowers into repayment plans that were to its advantage and to borrowers’ detriment. She alleged violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, constructive fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The district court dismissed the claims as preempted by a federal Higher Education Act provision: “Loans made, insured, or guaranteed pursuant to a program authorized by ... the Higher Education Act ... shall not be subject to any disclosure requirements of any State Law,” 20 U.S.C. 1098g. The Seventh Circuit vacated. When a loan servicer holds itself out as having experts who work for borrowers, tells borrowers that they need not look elsewhere for advice, and tells them that its experts know what options are in their best interest, those statements, when untrue, are not mere failures to disclose information but are affirmative misrepresentations. A borrower who reasonably relied on them to her detriment is not barred from bringing state‐law consumer protection and tort claims. View "Nelson v. Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that Coca‐Cola violated several provisions of New York State law through misleading naming and marketing of its soft drink "Diet Coke." The court held that when included in a soft drink title, the adjective "diet" (1) refers specifically to caloric content rather than a generic promise of weight‐loss, and (2) carries a primarily relative (in relation to the non‐diet soft drink equivalent), rather than an absolute, meaning. Therefore, the court found that plaintiffs' allegations of false statements or conduct implausible on their face and held that the district court properly dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). View "Geffner v. The Coca-Cola Co." on Justia Law

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Jared Larson appealed a district court judgment foreclosing a mortgage in favor of Heartland State Bank. Larson argued the judgment should have been reversed because Heartland’s notice before foreclosure was legally insufficient. The North Dakota Supreme Court found Larson raised an issue of defective notice during the pendency of the action after Heartland moved to amend its complaint. After reviewing the record, the Supreme Court concluded the defect did not impair Larson’s rights and was not fatal to Heartland’s foreclosure action. Rather than impair Larson’s rights, the Court found the defect benefited him: had he paid the amount due under the notice, the mortgage would have been reinstated under N.D.C.C. 32-19-28 and Heartland would have been required to start the process over to foreclose the mortgage. Because the defect did not impair Larson’s right to reinstate the mortgage, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting Heartland’s motion to amend the complaint and motion for summary judgment. Judgment was affirmed. View "Heartland State Bank v. Larson, et al." on Justia Law

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Darilyn Baker, individually and on behalf of a class of more than 500 persons similarly situated, appealed dismissal of her class action against Autos, Inc. d/b/a Global Autos, Robert Opperude, James Hendershot, RW Enterprises, Inc., and Randy Westby, for claimed violations of the North Dakota Retail Installment Sales Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 51-13, and state usury laws. Baker also appealed an order denying her motion to amend the judgment. Baker argued the retail sellers failed to make required disclosures of certain finance charges and late fees in retail installment contracts and they lost their regulated lender status and were subject to state usury laws. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the retail installment contracts failed to disclose loan fees as finance charges, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s class action complaint alleged that Walgreens violated the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1, by unlawfully collecting a municipal tax imposed by Chicago on purchases of bottled water that were exempt from taxation under the ordinance. The circuit court dismissed the action, citing the voluntary payment doctrine, which provides that money voluntarily paid with full knowledge of the facts cannot be recovered on the ground that the claim for payment was illegal. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that the complaint pleaded that the unlawful collection of the bottled water tax was a deceptive act under the Consumer Fraud Act. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal, first holding that claims under the Consumer Fraud Act are not categorically exempt from the voluntary payment doctrine. The court rejected an argument that the receipt issued by Walgreens constituted a representation that the tax was required by the ordinance. Misrepresentations or mistakes of law cannot form the basis of a claim for fraud. View "McIntosh v. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc." on Justia Law

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Simm, a debt collection agency, sent plaintiffs collection letters, stating: CLIENT: PAYPAL CREDIT ORIGINAL CREDITOR: Comenity Capital Bank; giving the balance and origination date; and stating that, upon the debtor’s request, Simm will provide “the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.” Plaintiffs filed purported class actions (consolidated on appeal) under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), alleging Simm violated 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(2) by failing to disclose the current creditor or owner of the debt and that the letter was false, deceptive, or misleading. The court granted Simm summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The letter identifies a single “creditor,” as well as the commercial name to which the debtors had been exposed, allowing the debtors to easily recognize the nature of the debt. It is true the letter identifies Comenity as the “original” instead of “current” creditor but the FDCPA does not require the use of any specific terminology to identify the creditor. The letter does not identify any creditor other than Comenity, which might have led to consumer confusion. By informing debtors they could request the name of the original creditor if different from the current creditor, the letter alerts debtors the original and current creditor may be the same. View "Nieto v. Simm Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue were claims of fraudulent sales practices by two car dealerships that allegedly induced consumers to enter into agreements for the purchase of cars. The question presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review was whether plaintiffs could avoid being compelled to arbitrate those claims. Plaintiffs challenged the formation and validity of their sales agreements on the bases that the dealerships’ fraudulent practices and misrepresentations induced them to sign the transactional documents and that the agreements were invalid due to violations of statutory consumer fraud requirements. As part of the overall set of documents, plaintiffs signed arbitration agreements. Those agreements contained straightforward and conspicuous language that broadly delegated arbitrability issues. Each trial court determined the arbitration agreements to be enforceable and entered orders compelling plaintiffs to litigate their various claims challenging the overall validity of the sales contracts in the arbitral forum. The Appellate Division reversed those orders. The Supreme Court reversed: “the trial courts’ resolution of these matters was correct and consistent with clear rulings from the United States Supreme Court that bind state and federal courts on how challenges such as plaintiffs’ should proceed. Those rulings do not permit threshold issues about overall contract validity to be resolved by the courts when the arbitration agreement itself is not specifically challenged. Here, plaintiffs attack the sales contracts in their entirety, not the language or clarity of the agreements to arbitrate or the broad delegation clauses contained in those signed arbitration agreements.” View "Goffe v. Foulke Management Corp." on Justia Law

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Casillas allegedly owed a debt to Harvester. Madison sent Casillas a letter demanding payment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires a debt collector to give consumers written notice, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a), including a description of two mechanisms that the debtor can use to verify her debt. A consumer can notify the debt collector “in writing” that she disputes all or part of the debt, which obligates the debt collector to obtain verification and mail a copy to the debtor or a consumer can make a “written request” that the debt collector provide her with the name and address of the original creditor. Madison’s notice neglected to specify that Casillas’s notification or request under those provisions must be in writing. Casillas filed a class action. She did not allege that she planned to dispute the debt or verify that Harvester was actually her creditor. The Act renders a debt collector liable for “fail[ing] to comply with any provision.” She sought to recover a $1000 statutory penalty for herself and a $5000 statutory penalty for unnamed class members, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. A plaintiff cannot satisfy the injury‐in‐fact element of Article III standing simply by alleging that the defendant violated a disclosure provision of a consumer‐protection statute. Absent an allegation that Madison’s violation had caused harm or put Casillas at an appreciable risk of harm, Casillas lacked standing to sue. View "Casillas v. Madison Avenue Associates, Inc" on Justia Law