Articles Posted in Consumer 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

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Graiser, an Ohio citizen, saw a “Buy One, Get One Free” eyeglasses advertisement at the Beachwood, location of Visionworks, a Texas eye-care corporation operating in more than 30 states. According to Graiser, a Visionworks salesperson quoted Graiser “a price of $409.93 for eyeglasses, with a second eyeglasses ‘free.’” Alternatively, the salesperson told Graiser that he could purchase a single pair of eyeglasses for $245.95. Graiser filed a purported class action in state court, alleging violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. Visionworks removed the case under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), claiming that the amount in controversy recently surpassed CAFA’s jurisdictional threshold of $5,000,000. Graiser successfully moved to remand, arguing that removal was untimely under the 30-day period in 28 U.S.C. 1446(b)(3). The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that section 1446(b)’s 30-day window for removal under CAFA is triggered when the defendant receives a document from the plaintiff from which it can first be ascertained that the case is removable under CAFA. The presence of CAFA jurisdiction provides defendants with a new window for removability, even if the case was originally removable under a different theory of federal jurisdiction. View "Graiser v. Visionworks of America, Inc." on Justia Law

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On September 15, 2011, Elder Living ordered a background screening report on Rocheleau from First Advantage's predecessor, in conjunction with Rocheleau’s application for employment. The search disclosed criminal convictions matched to Rocheleau’s name and birth date. On September 16, First notified Rocheleau that it was reporting information derived from his public record and to direct any questions to its disclosure center. Days later, it sent another notice, advising that information from Rocheleau's report “may adversely affect [his] employment status” and that he was entitled to dispute it. The notice included a summary of rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681. On September 26, First notified Rocheleau that he had not been hired again advising Rocheleau of dispute procedures. Rocheleau contends that Elder shared the report with his then-employer, which terminated his employment. Rocheleau contacted First and complained that he had not authorized the report's release; he did not dispute its accuracy. On November 25, 2013, Rocheleau filed suit under FCRA, claiming that Elder obtained the report without his permission or notifying him that adverse action could result; that neither First nor Elder issued certifications mandated by statute; and that First failed to adhere to required “strict procedures” in releasing his information. The Sixth Circuit affirmed rejection of the claims as time-barred under the two-year limitations period. View "Rocheleau v. Elder Living Constr., LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs received medical care from Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Consultant Anesthesiologists provided anesthesiology services to each at Mount Carmel Hospital. After plaintiffs did not pay their bills, Consultant Anesthesiologists transferred the delinquent accounts to Credit Adjustments, which called plaintiffs’ cell phone numbers, despite never having received their contact information directly from them. Credit Adjustments received the numbers from Consultant Anesthesiologists, which received them from Mount Carmel Hospital. As part of their admission for services to Mount Carmel Hospital, Baisden and Sissoko signed Patient Consent and Authorization forms covering “all medical and surgical care,” and stating “I understand Mount Carmel may use my health information for … billing and payment … I authorize Mt. Carmel to receive or release my health information, [to] agents or third parties as are necessary for these purposes and to companies who provide billing services.” Plaintiffs contend Credit Adjustments violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii), when it placed debt collection calls to their cell phone numbers using an “automatic telephone dialing system” and an “artificial or prerecorded voice.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment, finding that plaintiffs gave their “prior express consent” to receive such calls. View "Baisden v. Credit Adjustments, Inc." on Justia Law