Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
by
The case revolves around a data privacy dispute involving Pebbles Martin and LCMC Health Holdings and Louisiana Children’s Medical Center (collectively, “LCMC”). Martin filed a class action suit alleging that LCMC violated Louisiana law by embedding tracking pixels onto its website that shared her private health information with third-party websites. The question before the court was not to determine the merits of Martin’s claims, but instead to determine which forum—state or federal—is proper to hear this dispute. LCMC argued that the suit should proceed in federal court because it acted under the direction of a federal officer when it allegedly violated Louisiana law. Martin, however, argued that the suit should remain in state court because LCMC fails to show a basis for federal jurisdiction.LCMC had removed the case to federal court, invoking the federal officer removal statute as the basis for jurisdiction. Martin moved to remand to state court, and the district court granted Martin’s motion, holding that LCMC did not act under the direction of a federal officer when it disclosed private health information to third-party websites. LCMC appealed the remand order.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that LCMC did not act under the direction of a federal officer when it embedded tracking pixels onto its website. The court noted that a hospital does not act under the direction of the federal government when it maintains an online patient portal that utilizes tracking pixels. Therefore, the federal officer removal statute does not provide jurisdiction for this case to be heard in federal court. The court affirmed the district court’s order remanding this case to state court. View "Martin v. LCMC Health Holdings" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Earl John and Christine Dwyer, who sued Ameriprise Financial, Inc. for negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation. In 1985, Ameriprise fraudulently and negligently induced the Dwyers to purchase a universal whole life insurance policy by misrepresenting that their quarterly premium payments would remain the same for the life of the policy. The Dwyers surrendered life insurance policies they had purchased from other companies to facilitate this purchase. In reality, if the Dwyers’ premium payment had remained the same, the policy would have lapsed for insufficient funds in 2020.The trial court found Ameriprise guilty of violating Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (CPL) and awarded the Dwyers compensatory damages. However, the court declined to award treble damages under the CPL, reasoning that they would be duplicative of the punitive damages awarded by the jury on the common-law claims. The Superior Court affirmed this decision.The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania disagreed with the lower courts' decisions. The court held that treble damages under the CPL are a separate remedy available to the Dwyers and must be considered by the trial court without regard to a punitive damages award on related common-law claims. The court concluded that nullifying the availability of a statutory award because of a common-law award is not a permissible exercise of discretion. Therefore, the court reversed the order of the Superior Court and remanded the case for reconsideration of damages under the CPL. View "Dwyer v. Ameriprise Financial" on Justia Law

by
Two consumers, Tanethia Holden and Mark Mayer, entered into separate purchase agreements for timeshares with Holiday Inn Club Vacations Inc. Both stopped making monthly payments and considered their agreements to be canceled. However, Holiday disagreed and reported their debts to Experian, a consumer reporting agency. After unsuccessful attempts to resolve their disputes with Holiday, both Holden and Mayer filed individual actions under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), alleging that Holiday inaccurately reported that they owed debts and failed to reasonably investigate their disputes.The District Courts granted summary judgment for Holiday in both cases, finding the alleged inaccuracies were legal disputes and therefore not actionable under the FCRA. The courts reasoned that a plaintiff asserting a claim against a furnisher for failure to conduct a reasonable investigation cannot prevail on the claim without demonstrating that had the furnisher conducted a reasonable investigation, the result would have been different; i.e., that the furnisher would have discovered that the information it reported was inaccurate or incomplete.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower courts' decisions, but for a different reason. The court held that whether the alleged inaccuracy is factual or legal is beside the point. Instead, what matters is whether the alleged inaccuracy was objectively and readily verifiable. In this case, it was not. Thus, Mayer and Holden had no actionable FCRA claims. The court declined to impose a bright-line rule that only purely factual or transcription errors are actionable under the FCRA. Instead, it held that in determining whether a claimed inaccuracy is potentially actionable under the FCRA, a court must determine whether the information in dispute is 'objectively and readily verifiable.' View "Tanethia Holden v. Holiday Inn Club Vacations Incorporated" on Justia Law

by
A group of business associations, including the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas against the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB). The plaintiffs challenged a new Final Rule issued by the CFPB regarding credit card late fees and sought a preliminary injunction against the rule. The plaintiffs requested expedited briefing and review due to the imminent effect of the rule and the substantial compliance it required.The district court, instead of ruling on the motion for a preliminary injunction, considered whether venue was appropriate in the Northern District of Texas and invited the CFPB to file a motion to transfer the case. The CFPB complied, and the district court granted its motion, transferring the case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs then petitioned for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by transferring the case while their appeal was pending and, alternatively, lacked jurisdiction to transfer the case.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs, stating that the district court acted without jurisdiction. The court explained that once a party properly appeals something a district court has done, in this case, the effective denial of a preliminary injunction, the district court has no jurisdiction to do anything that alters the case’s status. The court clarified that its decision was not about the correctness of the district court’s transfer order but rather about whether the court had jurisdiction to enter it. The court concluded that the district court did not have jurisdiction to transfer the case.The court granted the petition for mandamus, vacated the district court’s transfer order, and ordered the district court to reopen the case. The court also instructed the district court to notify the District of Columbia that its transfer was without jurisdiction and should be disregarded. View "In re: Chamber of Commerce" on Justia Law

by
The case involves the Arkansas Voter Integrity Initiative, Inc., and Conrad Reynolds (appellants) who filed a complaint against John Thurston, the Arkansas Secretary of State, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners, and Election Systems and Software, LLC (appellees). The appellants claimed that the voting machines approved by the state did not comply with the Arkansas Code and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) because voters could not independently verify their selections on the ballot before casting their votes. They argued that the machines printed ballots with both bar codes and the voter's selections in English, but the vote tabulator only scanned the bar codes. Since most voters cannot read bar codes, the appellants claimed that voters were unable to verify their votes as required by state and federal law. They also alleged that the appellees committed an illegal exaction by using public funds for the purchase and maintenance of these machines and that Election Systems and Software, LLC violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and committed fraud by claiming that its machines complied with state and federal law.The Pulaski County Circuit Court dismissed the appellants' complaint. The court found that the voting machines complied with the Arkansas Code and HAVA. The court also denied the appellants' motion for recusal and their motion for a new trial. The appellants appealed these decisions.The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the voting process complied with the Arkansas Code and HAVA. The court also found that the appellants failed to demonstrate evidence of bias or prejudice sufficient to warrant the recusal of the circuit court judge. Finally, the court found that the appellants were not deprived of their right to a jury trial and that the circuit court did not err by denying their motion for a new trial. View "ARKANSAS VOTER INTEGRITY INITIATIVE, INC., AND CONRAD REYNOLDS v. JOHN THURSTON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE; THE ARKANSAS STATE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS, IN ITS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; AND ELECTION SYSTEMS AND SOFTWARE, LLC" on Justia Law

by
FedEx Ground Package Systems, Inc. (FXG) filed a lawsuit against Route Consultant, Inc., alleging that the latter company had made nine false or misleading statements about FXG's business practices. FXG contended that these statements were intended to foster discontent between FXG and its contractors, thereby damaging FXG and benefiting Route Consultant. The suit was brought under both the Lanham Act's false advertising provision and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act's statutory disparagement provision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit confirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the case. The court found that FXG had failed to plausibly allege that Route Consultant made a single false or misleading statement. The court emphasized that only statements of fact--not opinions, puffery, or rhetorical hyperbole--are actionable under the false advertising provision of the Lanham Act. Moreover, a plaintiff must plead and prove the literal falsity of the defendant's statement or demonstrate that the statement is misleading. FXG's complaint did not meet these standards.The court also held that FXG's claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act failed for the same reasons as its Lanham Act claim. Thus, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of FXG's lawsuit against Route Consultant. View "FedEx Ground Package Systems, Inc. v. Route Consultant, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this case, the plaintiff, Joseph Gazal, donated over $1 million to purchase a car and a home for a destitute family. He was inspired to make this donation after hearing a homily delivered by defendant Carlos Echeverry, a deacon at his church. Gazal brought a lawsuit against Echeverry and his wife, Jessica Echeverry, as well as SOFESA, Inc., a nonprofit founded and led by Jessica Echeverry. Gazal claimed he was deceived into believing the car and house would be purchased for and titled to the destitute family, when in fact they were bought and titled to SOFESA.The defendants filed a special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, asserting that the homily and following conversations were protected speech. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the complaint did not rest on protected speech, but rather on private conduct and speech not directed at a wide public audience. Additionally, the court found that the causes of action arose from further communications that took place weeks after the homily.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight affirmed the trial court's decision. The court held that while the homily could be considered protected speech, the plaintiff's claims did not arise from the homily but rather from the alleged misconduct that occurred after its delivery. The court also found that the private discussions following the homily did not qualify for anti-SLAPP protection as they did not contribute to a public conversation on the issue of homelessness. Furthermore, the court denied a motion for sanctions filed by the plaintiff. View "Gazal v. Echeverry" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit examined a dispute between the plaintiffs, John and Dawn Harrell, and the defendant, Douglas DeLuca. The Harrells sued DeLuca, a general contractor from whom they purchased a home, for fraudulent inducement, constructive fraud, breach of contract, and violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of DeLuca regarding the Harrells’ fraud claims based on one category of misrepresentations. The case otherwise proceeded to a bench trial where the court found DeLuca liable for breaching the contract, but not for the remaining claims. The Harrells appealed, arguing that summary judgment was inappropriate and that the district court should have made explicit findings related to their constructive fraud and breach-of-contract claims.The Court of Appeals upheld parts of the lower court's decision but also vacated parts of it. It agreed with the Harrells that the summary judgment was inappropriate, vacated it, and remanded the case for additional proceedings. It also agreed that the district court should have made explicit findings related to one of each of their constructive fraud and breach-of-contract claims. However, it affirmed the resolutions of the remaining claims which were not challenged by the Harrells on appeal. The court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Harrell v. Deluca" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a group of plaintiffs who claimed that the defendant, Bank of America, fraudulently denied them mortgage modifications under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and then foreclosed on their homes. The plaintiffs filed their complaint in May 2018 and their amended complaint in March 2019, alleging claims based on common law fraud, fraudulent concealment, intentional misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, conversion, unjust enrichment, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and, in the alternative, negligence.However, the Supreme Court of North Carolina found that the plaintiffs' claims were time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The court held that the statutes of limitations for all of plaintiffs’ claims, except for their unfair and deceptive trade practices claim, started to run at the latest by the date that each plaintiff lost his or her home. Each plaintiff lost his or her home sometime between April 2011 and January 2014. Thus, the latest point in time any plaintiff could have filed a complaint was January 2017, or in the case of an unfair and deceptive trade practices claim, January 2018. Plaintiffs did not file their original complaint until May 2018. Therefore, their claims are time-barred.The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitations for their fraud claims beyond the dates of their foreclosures. The court found that the plaintiffs were on notice of the defendant's alleged fraud by the time they lost their homes, and they should have investigated further. The court therefore reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaint. View "Taylor v. Bank of America, N.A" on Justia Law

by
This case concerns a lawsuit filed by Mark A. Patterson against attorney Howard Howe in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Patterson had been sued by Howe in Indiana state court over an unpaid educational debt. Along with the complaint and summons, Howe served Patterson with four requests for admission under Indiana law, but failed to warn Patterson about the consequences of not responding within thirty days. Patterson answered the complaint but did not respond to the requests for admission. Concurrently, Patterson filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Howe's practice of serving requests for admission without warning him of the consequences violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).The district court granted summary judgment to Patterson, awarding him statutory damages of $1,000 and more than $58,000 in attorney fees and costs. Howe appealed both the merits judgment and the award of fees and costs.The Court of Appeals vacated both judgments and ordered the dismissal of the case. The court held that Patterson lacked standing to bring his claim because he was not concretely harmed by Howe’s alleged statutory violation. Patterson's argument that he would have denied the requests for admission if he had been warned was insufficient to establish a concrete injury. Additionally, his claim that he lost negotiating leverage and was forced to settle for the full amount he allegedly owed was speculative and occurred after he filed his complaint, which meant it could not provide the basis for standing in this case. View "Patterson v. Howe" on Justia Law