Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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In a dispute involving the foreclosure of a home, the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the decisions of the lower court in favor of the purchasers of the foreclosed property and the mortgagee. The original homeowners, the Littlefields, defaulted on their mortgage payments and the property was subsequently foreclosed on by Planet Home Lending, LLC ("Planet"), and then sold to Terry Daniel Smith and Staci Herring Smith. The Littlefields refused to vacate the property, leading the Smiths to initiate an ejectment action against them. The Littlefields responded with counterclaims against the Smiths and Planet, arguing that the foreclosure was void because Planet had failed to comply with the mortgage's notice requirements. The Supreme Court of Alabama rejected the Littlefields' arguments, holding that any alleged noncompliance with the notice requirements would have rendered the foreclosure voidable, not void. The court concluded that because the Littlefields did not challenge the foreclosure before the property was sold to the Smiths, who were considered bona fide purchasers, the foreclosure could not be set aside. The court also noted that the Littlefields failed to challenge other rulings related to their counterclaims against Planet and their forfeiture of redemption rights, leading to these aspects of the lower court's judgment being affirmed as well. View "Littlefield v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Maria Del Rosario Hernandez, filed a lawsuit against MicroBilt Corporation alleging the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act after the lender denied her loan application based on inaccurate information provided by a MicroBilt product. MicroBilt moved to compel arbitration based on the terms and conditions that Hernandez agreed to while applying for the loan, which included an arbitration provision. However, Hernandez had already submitted her claims to the American Arbitration Association (AAA) for arbitration.The AAA notified MicroBilt that its agreement with Hernandez was a consumer agreement, which meant the AAA's Consumer Arbitration Rules applied. Applying these rules, the AAA notified MicroBilt that its arbitration provision included a material or substantial deviation from the Consumer Rules and/or Protocol. Specifically, the provision’s limitation on damages conflicted with the Consumer Due Process Protocol, which requires that an arbitrator should be empowered to grant whatever relief would be available in court under law or in equity. After MicroBilt did not waive the damages limitation, the AAA declined to administer the arbitration under Rule 1(d).MicroBilt asked Hernandez to submit her claims to a different arbitrator, but she refused, requesting a hearing before the District Court. She argued that she must now pursue her claims in court because the AAA dismissed the case under Rule 1(d). The District Court reinstated Hernandez’s complaint and granted MicroBilt leave to move to compel arbitration under 9 U.S.C. § 4. However, the District Court denied MicroBilt’s motion to compel, leading to this appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that Hernandez had fully complied with MicroBilt’s arbitration provision, which allowed her to pursue her claims in court. The court held that it lacked the authority to compel arbitration. The court rejected MicroBilt's arguments that the AAA administrator improperly resolved an arbitrability issue that should have been resolved by an arbitrator, that the provision’s Exclusive Resolution clause conflicted with Hernandez’s return to court, and that the AAA’s application of the Consumer Due Process Protocol was unreasonable. The court concluded that it lacked the authority to review the AAA’s decision or to sever the damages limitation from the arbitration provision. View "Hernandez v. MicroBilt Corp" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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