Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Gerboc used the Wish Marketplace website to buy portable speakers for $27. Sellers on Wish can include a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, which appears (crossed-out) on a product’s “detail page.” Gerboc saw “$300” next to the speakers’ purchase price. Gerboc believed the crossed-out price was a promise of a 90% markdown but the speakers allegedly never sold for $300. Gerboc decided that he never received the promised discount and filed suit on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated buyers. Arguing that Wish’s price visuals are deceptive, he alleged breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, and violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (OCSPA). ContextLogic removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Gerboc abandoned his contract claim; the court dismissed his unjust enrichment, fraud, and class OCSPA claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Gerboc did not establish unjust enrichment; he got what he paid for. Nor did he establish the notice element of an OCSPA claim: The consumer must show either that the Ohio Attorney General had already “declared [the seller’s practice] to be deceptive or unconscionable” or that an Ohio court had already “determined [the practice] . . . violate[s] [the OCSPA]” before the seller engaged in it. View "Gerboc v. ContextLogic, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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Jackson, injured in an accident, taken to University Hospital, where she stated that she had health insurance coverage through United. Jackson received treatment from PRI, which uses MDB for billing services. PRI did not submit charges to United but sent Jackson a letter seeking payment of $1,066 and requesting that Jackson’s attorney sign a letter of protection against any settlement to prevent Jackson’s account from being sent to collections. Jackson did not pay. Her account was submitted to CCC, which sent Jackson a collection letter. Jackson’s attorney negotiated a $852 payment to CCC as final settlement of the charges. PRI or MDB later contacted Jackson, stating that she still owed $3.49. Jackson paid that amount. She brought a class action against CCC, PRI, and MDB for violation of Ohio Rev. Code 1751.60(A), which prohibits directly billing patients who have health insurance when the healthcare provider has a contract with the patient’s insurer to accept that insurance. The complaint also alleged breach of contract, breach of third-party beneficiary contract, violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages. The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal of the claims under section 1751.60 against PRI and MDB, but affirmed as to CCC, which is not subject to the section. View "Jackson v. Professional Radiology, Inc." on Justia Law

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McNeil opened a business checking account with Defendant. A “Master Services Agreement,” stated: [W]e have available certain products designed to discover or prevent unauthorized transactions, …. You agree that if your account is eligible for those products and you choose not to avail yourself of them, then we will have no liability for any transaction that occurs on your account that those products were designed to discover or prevent. McNeil was not given a signed copy of the Agreement, nor was he advised of its details. McNeil ordered hologram checks from a third party to avoid fraudulent activity. McNeil later noticed unauthorized checks totaling $3,973.96. The checks did not contain the hologram and their numbers were duplicative of checks that Defendant had properly paid. Defendant refused to reimburse McNeil, stating that “reasonable care was not used in declining to use our ... services, which substantially contributed to the making of the forged item(s).” Government agencies indicated that they would not intervene in a private dispute involving the interpretation of a contract. Plaintiff filed a putative class action, citing Uniform Commercial Code 4-401 and 4-103(a), The district court dismissed, holding that the Agreement did not violate the UCC and shifted liability to Plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Plaintiff stated a plausible claim that the provision unreasonably disclaims all liability under these circumstances; the UCC forbids a bank from disclaiming all of its liability to exercise ordinary care and good faith. View "Majestic Building Maintenance, Inc. v. Huntington Bancshares, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellees brought a collection action against Lyshe and served Lyshe with discovery requests. They did not send a separate electronic copy, but instructed Lyshe to contact them if he wanted an electronic copy. Requests for admission required that Lyshe verify his responses, included a blank notary block, and provided that any matter would be deemed admitted unless Lyshe made a sworn statement in compliance with the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. Lyshe sued, alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by failing to provide electronic discovery without prompting and requiring that the responses to the requests for admission be sworn and notarized. The district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissed the case, reasoning that Lyshe did not plead any injury in connection with the alleged violations of the state rules. Appellees did not violate the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure by offering to send electronic copies of the discovery only upon Lyshe’s request. Regarding alleged errors in the requests for admissions, the court reasoned that Lyshe failed to allege that he was misled or felt compelled to make a sworn verification or that he even responded to the requests. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Lyshe did not suffer any concrete harm. View "Lyshe v. Levy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, municipal corporations operate the local “emergency communications” or “911” programs in their respective counties, alleged that the telephone company, to reduce costs, offer lower prices, and obtain more customers, engaged in a covert practice of omitting fees mandated by Tennessee’s Emergency Communications District Law (Code 7-86-101), and sought compensation under that statute. They also alleged that, while concealing this practice, the telephone company violated the Tennessee False Claims Act. The district court dismissed the first claim, finding that the statute contained no implied private right of action, and rejecting the second claim on summary judgment on the second claim, finding that the statements at issue were not knowingly false. In consolidated appeals, the Sixth Circuit reversed. Plaintiffs provided evidence of a “massive quantity of unexplained unbilled lines,” establishing a disputed question of material fact. The Law does not require the plaintiffs to prove that the defendant acted in some form of bad faith, given that the statute imposes liability for “deliberate ignorance” View "Knox County Emergency Communications District v. BellSouth Telecommunications LLC" on Justia Law

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ECM BioFilms manufactures an additive that it claims accelerates the rate at which plastic biodegrades. In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint, claiming that several of ECM’s biodegradability claims were deceptive. The full Commission ultimately found that three of ECM’s claims were false and misleading under 15 U.S.C. 45. The Commission’s order prohibits ECM from representing that ECM plastic is biodegradable “unless such representation is true, not misleading, and, at the time it is made, respondent possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the representation,” The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, rejecting claims that part of the Commission’s decision was unsupported by substantial evidence and that the Commission violated ECM’s rights under the First Amendment, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Due Process Clause. ECM had adequate notice and the order is not a prohibition on claims of biodegradability. View "ECM BioFilms, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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David Alan Smith’s employer, Tasson, was sold to Great Lakes Wine and Spirits. Former Tasson employees were not guaranteed a position with Great Lakes. Each employee had to apply for a Great Lakes job. Smith applied for the position of delivery driver, the position he had at Tasson. Great Lakes contracted with LexisNexis to carry out criminal history checks for employment applicants. Great Lakes provided Lexis with Smith’s date of birth but not his middle name. Lexis’s check returned a fraud conviction of a man named David Oscar Smith, resulting in six weeks’ delay in Smith’s being hired. Lexis had requested, but not required, the input of a middle name, and did not cross-reference the criminal history report with a credit report that showed Smith’s middle initial. Smith sued under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681e(b). Following a jury trial, the court awarded Smith $75,000 in compensatory damages for six weeks of lost wages, emotional distress, and harm to his reputation, plus $150,000 in punitive damages. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. Although a reasonable jury could conclude that Lexis negligently violated the FCRA by not requiring Smith’s middle name, there was not sufficient evidence of willfulness to support punitive damages. View "Smith v. LexisNexis Screening Sols., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt from Car Source for $8,525.00. Plaintiff paid $1,248, using a grant from the state of Michigan. A salesman entered information from her most recent pay stubs and a recent bank statement into a computer program that incorrectly calculated that Plaintiff’s monthly income as $1,817.38. Plaintiff’s actual income was about $900 per month. It is not clear how the error occurred. Based on the incorrect estimate and her deposit, the APR on Plaintiff’s loan was set at 24.49%. Plaintiff signed an agreement. Days later she was notified that the terms had to be modified and returned to Car Source. Plaintiff claims that Car Source employees began “yelling and swearing” at her; removed her belongings from the Cobalt and “dumped them” at her feet; and stated that if she wanted her car back, she would have to make an additional payment of $1,500. Plaintiff refused to sign a new agreement and was never provided with written notice explaining why her credit arrangement had been or needed to be changed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment that Car Source violated the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. 1691, by changing the terms without providing a written notice with specific reasons. The court reversed the district court’s determination that injunctive relief was not available to Plaintiff under the ECOA and reversed summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s statutory conversion claims. View "Tyson v. Sterling Rental, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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Montgomery bought a Tassimo, a single-cup coffee brewer manufactured by Kraft Foods, expecting it to brew Starbucks coffee. After the purchase she struggled to find Starbucks T-Discs—single-cup coffee pods compatible with the brewer. The Starbucks T-Disc supply eventually disappeared as Kraft’s business relationship with Starbucks soured. Montgomery sued Kraft and Starbucks on behalf of a class for violations of various Michigan laws. After dismissing several claims and denying class certification on the rest, the district court entered judgment in Montgomery’s favor when she accepted defendants’ joint offer of judgment under FRCP 68. Montgomery appealed the dismissal of her breach of express and implied warranty claims, the denial of class certification on her consumer-protection claims, and the attorney’s fees awarded as part of the Rule 68 settlement (about 3% of what she had requested). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Montgomery did not purchase the item directly from defendants, for purposes of express warranty, and did not allege that the coffee maker was unfit for its ordinary purpose. View "Montgomery v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc." on Justia Law

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Consumer class actions against Global, on behalf of individuals who purchased gym memberships, alleged improper fees, unfair sales practices, lack of disclosures, improper bank account deductions, and improper handling of contract cancellations. The cases claimed breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, and violation of state consumer protection laws. Objectors challenged a settlement, claiming it was unfair under FRCP 23(e); that class counsel’s fees were disproportionate to claims paid; that the settlement unnecessarily required a claims process; and that the settlement contained a “clear-sailing” agreement from Global not to oppose any application for $2.39 million for costs and fees or less and a “kicker” clause, providing that if the court awarded less than $2.39 million, that amount would constitute full satisfaction of Global’s obligation for costs and fees. Some further argued that the settlement failed to provide adequate compensation for Kentucky state-law claims and for plaintiffs who had signed an early, more favorable version of the contract. The district court approved the settlement based on a magistrate judge’s 80-page Report and Recommendation, which addressed each objection. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Though some courts disfavor clear sailing agreements and kicker clauses, their inclusion alone does not show that the court abused its discretion in approving the settlement. View "Gascho v. Global Fitness Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law