Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
BRANDON BRISKIN V. SHOPIFY, INC., ET AL
Plaintiff is a resident of California. While present in California, Plaintiff used his iPhone’s Safari browser to navigate to the website of California-based retailer IABMFG to purchase fitness apparel. Although Plaintiff claims he did not know it at the time, IABMFG’s website used software and code from Shopify, Inc. to process customer orders and payments. Shopify, Inc. is a Canadian corporation with its headquarters in Ottawa, Canada. Plaintiff filed a putative class action lawsuit in California alleging that Shopify violated various California privacy and unfair competition laws because it deliberately concealed its involvement in consumer transactions. The district court agreed, dismissing the second amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff timely appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. For specific jurisdiction to exist over Shopify, Plaintiff’s claim must arise out of or relate to Shopify’s forum-related activities. The panel held that there was no causal relationship between Shopify’s broader business contacts in California and Plaintiff’s claims because these contacts did not cause Plaintiff’s harm. Nor did Plaintiff’s claims “relate to” Shopify’s broader business activities in California outside of its extraction and retention of plaintiff’s data. Because there was an insufficient relationship between plaintiff's claims and Shopify’s broader business contacts in California, the activities relevant to the specific jurisdiction analysis were those that caused Plaintiff’s injuries: Shopify’s collection, retention, and use of consumer data obtained from persons who made online purchases while in California. The panel held that Shopify, which provides nationwide web-based payment processing services to online merchants, did not expressly aim its conduct toward California. View "BRANDON BRISKIN V. SHOPIFY, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Omar Santos, et al v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.
Plaintiffs s filed a class action complaint and sought to represent a class of individuals whose Healthcare Revenue tradelines had been wrongly “re-aged” by Experian. They alleged that Experian “willfully” violated its obligation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to “follow reasonable procedures” to ensure consumer credit reports were prepared with “maximum possible accuracy” when it allowed credit reports to reflect allegedly inaccurate status dates. The district court denied Experian’s summary judgment motion. After the close of discovery, Plaintiffs moved to certify a class of all consumers “whose Experian credit reports had an account or accounts reported by [Healthcare Revenue] with an inaccurately displayed Date of Status and were viewed by one or more third parties.” The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and denied class certification. Plaintiffs petitioned for permission to appeal the district court’s class certification order under Rule 23(f). The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that the denial of Plaintiffs' motion for class certification was an abuse of discretion because the district court’s analysis of Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement was based on its contrary interpretation of the second option in section 1681n(a)(1)(A). The court wrote that a consumer alleging a willful violation of the Act doesn’t need to prove actual damages to recover “damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000.” While the parties raise other issues that may ultimately affect whether the class should be certified, the district court’s order denying class certification only relied on its interpretation of section 1681n(a)(1)(A) and didn’t address these other arguments. View "Omar Santos, et al v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Nabozny v. Optio Solutions LLC
Nabozny received a letter at her Wisconsin home, offering to settle an unpaid credit-card debt. The letter summarized basic information about her debt: the creditor, the outstanding balance, the account number, and her name and address. The letter was from Optio under its operating name of Qualia, but it was printed and mailed by RevSpring, a third-party printing and mail vendor. Nabozny did not give Optio consent to share the information about her debt with RevSpring.Nabozny filed a purported class action, alleging that Optio’s communication with RevSpring violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, which provides that “a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer” without the consumer’s consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Nabozny’s suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Nabozny lacks standing to sue because she “suffered no concrete injury.” The court noted recent decisions in other circuits that sharing a debtor’s data with a third-party mail vendor to populate and send a form collection letter “causes no harm that our legal tradition recognizes as sufficient to support a suit in federal court under Article III of the Constitution.” View "Nabozny v. Optio Solutions LLC" on Justia Law
Huber v. Simons Agency Inc
Huber visited Crozer doctors on four separate occasions, incurring debts to Crozer of $178, $78, $83.50, and $178. Crozer's debt collection agency, SAI, sent a form collection letter, with an “Account Summary” that provided two figures: the specific debt SAI sought to collect, entitled “Amount,” and a second figure, entitled “Various Other Acc[oun]ts Total Balance.” The fourth such letter to Huber informed Huber that she owed an “Amount” of $178, while her “Various Other Accounts Total Balance” was $517.50. Huber testified that she was confused as to how much she owed in total: Was it $695.50 or $517.50. She consulted a financial advisor.Huber filed this putative class action, asserting a “false, deceptive, or misleading” means of collecting a debt and failure to disclose the “amount of the debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692. The district court held, on summary judgment, that there was no actionable failure to disclose but found the letters “misleading and deceptive,” and certified the class.The Third Circuit affirmed. Huber has standing, but not under the “informational injury doctrine.” Huber did not identify omitted information to which she has entitlement but the financial harm she suffered in reliance on the letter bears a “close relationship” to the harm associated with the tort of fraudulent misrepresentation. The court remanded for determination of whether any of the class members suffered any consequences beyond confusion. View "Huber v. Simons Agency Inc" on Justia Law
Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC
Debt collector Rent Recovery Solutions (“RRS”) called Plaintiff to collect an alleged $900 debt to her former landlord. In June, without sending the relevant documents to Plaintiff, RRS reported her debt to TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, failing to tell TransUnion that the debt was disputed. Plaintiff commenced this action against RRS, alleging that it violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Plaintiff requested an award of $18,810 in attorneys’ fees for work by two attorneys and a paralegal. RRS challenged the fees requested by both attorneys, who submitted sworn declarations and detailed billing records. The district court, applying the lodestar method of calculating an attorney fee award, found that the attorneys’ claimed hourly rates were reasonable, but the hours expended on the case were excessive. The court reduced the claimed attorney hours by fifty percent, exclusive of paralegal work, and awarded Plaintiff $9,480 in attorneys’ fees. Plaintiff’s attorneys accused the district court of departing from the lodestar calculation by imposing a “cap” that violates FDCPA policies and deprives counsel of full compensation for bringing consumer enforcement actions under this complex federal statute. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court followed the lodestar method, reducing the award based on its determination of the number of attorney hours reasonably expended on litigation. There is a “strong presumption” that the lodestar method represents a reasonable fee. The court wrote that the district court did not abuse its substantial discretion in finding that fifty hours was unreasonable for such a claim. View "Adrianna Beckler v. Rent Recovery Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
il”) in Connecticut state court, alleging that Exxon Mobil had engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception to knowingly mislead and deceive Connecticut consumers about the negative climatological effects of the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil was marketing to those consumers. Based on these allegations, Connecticut asserted eight claims against Exxon Mobil, all under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Exxon Mobil removed the case to federal district court, invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, the federal-officer removal statute, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (the “OCSLA”), as well as on other bases no longer pressed in this appeal. The district court rejected each of Exxon Mobil’s theories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and thus remanded the case to state court. Exxon Mobil appealed. The Second Appellate affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained that there are only three exceptions to the “general rule” that “absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.” The court reasoned that Exxon Mobil cannot establish Grable jurisdiction simply by gesturing toward ways in which “this case” loosely “implicates” the same subject matter as “the federal common law of transboundary pollution.” The court wrote that because no federal issue is necessarily raised by any of Connecticut’s CUTPA claims, the Grable/Gunn exception from the well-pleaded complaint rule is inapplicable here. View "Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
Plaintiff asserted that ZoomInfo did not obtain her permission or compensate her when it used her name and likeness in its online directory to promote its product, in violation of California’s Right of Publicity statute and her common-law privacy and intellectual property rights. ZoomInfo moved to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute. In the district court, ZoomInfo moved to dismiss the complaint and to cut off the claims at the pleading stage. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and rejected ZoomInfo’s special motion to strike the complaint under California anti-SLAPP statute. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine to review the denial of ZoomInfo’s anti-SLAPP motion. The panel also held that, at this stage, Martinez has plausibly pleaded that she suffered sufficient injury to establish constitutional standing to sue. The panel wrote that although the district court did not address the exemptions, Plaintiff’s case fell within the public interest exemption to the anti-SLAPP law. Plaintiff met the three conditions for the public interest exemption: Plaintiff requests all relief on behalf of the alleged class of which she is a member and does not seek any additional relief for herself; Plaintiff’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the public interest of the right to control one’s name and likeness; and private enforcement is necessary and disproportionately burdensome. View "KIM MARTINEZ V. ZOOMINFO TECHNOLOGIES, INC." on Justia Law
Nelson v. P.S.C., Inc.
Plaintiffs Matthew and Melanie Nelson (collectively Nelsons) married in 2020. The following year, defendant Puget Sound Collections Inc. (PSC), a debt collection agency, garnished Matthew’s wages in an attempt to satisfy a 2014 default judgment against him and his former wife, stemming from her medical expenses. The Nelsons argued RCW 26.16.200 required any eligible debt be reduced to judgment within the three years before and the three years after the marriage. In their view, the marital bankruptcy statute barred PSC from garnishing Matthew’s wages because the 2014 judgment was entered too soon and not “within three years” of their 2020 marriage. In contrast, PSC argued “within three years of the marriage” simply meant “not later in time than three years after the marriage.” Under this interpretation, PSC lawfully garnished Matthew’s wages because it reduced the debt to judgment not later than three years after the Nelsons’ marriage. The federal appellate court certified questions of Washington law in this case about the so-called marital bankruptcy statute, RCW 26.16.200. The Washington Supreme Court found that while the Nelsons’ interpretation might hold “some logical appeal, and their situation is certainly sympathetic, only PSC’s interpretation of RCW 26.16.200 effectuates the purpose of the statute to provide limited debt collection relief to diligent creditors.” The Court answered the first and second certified questions based on the statute’s plain language and held that “within” in this context means “not later in time than” three years of the marriage. “This interpretation permits wage garnishment where, as here, the creditor had reduced the debt to judgment more than three years before the marriage.” As to the additional certified question, which asked whether Washington law placed any limitation on the amount of wages subject to garnishment, the Nelsons correctly conceded this issue. The Supreme Court held that where other statutory requirements are met, RCW 26.16.200 permitted a creditor to garnish the entirety of the debtor spouse’s wages. View "Nelson v. P.S.C., Inc." on Justia Law
DiCroce v. McNeil Nutritionals, LLC
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's putative class action against McNeil Nutritionals, LLC and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. challenging certain statements on the packaging of Lactaid products, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the complaint.Plaintiff brought this action claiming that Lactaid's labels violated federal labeling requirements, leading Plaintiff to have been mislead into purchasing Lactaid products, which she claimed were more expensive than other lactase supplements. The district court granted Defendants' second motion to dismiss. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's claims were impliedly preempted by the statutory enforcement authority of the Food and Drug Administration. View "DiCroce v. McNeil Nutritionals, LLC" on Justia Law
Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC
Plaintiff, a chiropractic office, filed suit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act after it received an unsolicited fax offering a free eBook with information about prescription drugs. The district court dismissed its complaint, holding that the plaintiff had not alleged that the fax, which tendered a product for free rather than for sale, was sufficiently commercial to bring it within the statutory prohibition on “unsolicited advertisements.” On appeal, Defendant-PDR Network defends both steps in the district court’s reasoning, arguing that a fax must be “commercial” to qualify as an “advertisement” under the TCPA and that Carlton & Harris has not alleged the requisite commercial character. Carlton & Harris disputes both portions of the court’s reasoning, contending that a prohibited “advertisement” may be entirely non-commercial and that, in any event, it has adequately alleged that the fax it received was commercial in nature. Further, Plaintiff asserts that PDR Network profits when its fax persuades a medical practitioner to accept the proffered eBook. The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that Plaintiff had adequately alleged that the fax offer had the necessary commercial character to make it an “unsolicited advertisement” under the Act. The court explained that for present purposes, we accept as true Plaintiff’s commission allegation and find it adequate, at this preliminary stage, to state a claim that the fax offer of a free eBook is a commercial “advertisement” subject to the TCPA. View "Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC" on Justia Law