Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Salazar v. Walmart, Inc.
After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Walmart, Inc.’s “Great Value White Baking Chips” incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Walmart for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. The trial court sustained Walmart’s demurrers without leave to amend, finding as a matter of law that no reasonable consumer would believe Walmart’s White Baking Chips contain white chocolate. The thrust of Salazar's claims was that he was reasonably misled to believe the White Baking Chips had real white chocolate because of the product’s label and its placement near products with real chocolate. Salazar also alleged that the results of a survey he conducted show that 90 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Chips’ advertising and incorrectly believed they contained white chocolate. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the chips' advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
Salazar v. Target Corp.
After Plaintiff-appellant David Salazar bought Target Corporation’s White Baking Morsels incorrectly thinking they contained white chocolate, he filed this class action against Target for false advertising under various consumer protection statutes. Salazar claimed he was reasonably mislead to believe the White Baking Morsels had real white chocolate because of the product’s label, its price tag, and its placement near products with real chocolate. To support his position, Salazar alleged that the results of a survey he conducted showed that 88 percent of consumers were deceived by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising and incorrectly believe they contained white chocolate. He also alleged that Target falsely advertised on its website that the “‘chocolate type’” of White Baking Morsels was “‘white chocolate,’” and placed the product in the “‘Baking Chocolate & Cocoa’” category. Target demurred to all three claims on the ground that no reasonable consumer would believe the White Baking Morsels contained real white chocolate. Target also argued that Salazar lacked standing to assert claims based on Target’s website because he did not view the website and did not rely on its representations. The court sustained Target’s demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for Target. “California courts . . . have recognized that whether a business practice is deceptive will usually be a question of fact not appropriate for decision on demurrer. ... These are matters of fact, subject to proof that can be tested at trial, even if as judges we might be tempted to debate and speculate further about them.” After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal determined that a reasonable consumer could reasonably believe the morsels had white chocolate. As a result, the Court found Salazar plausibly alleged that “‘a significant portion of the general consuming public or of targeted consumers, acting reasonably in the circumstances, could be misled’” by the White Baking Morsels’ advertising. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Salazar v. Target Corp." on Justia Law
Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A.
Plaintiffs in two putative class actions took out home mortgage loans from Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), one before and the other after the effective date of certain provisions of the DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“DoddFrank”). The loan agreements, which were governed by the laws of New York, required Plaintiffs to deposit money in escrow accounts for property taxes and insurance payments for each mortgaged property. When BOA paid no interest on the escrowed amounts, Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, claiming that they were entitled to interest under New York General Obligations Law Section 5-601, which sets a minimum 2% interest rate on mortgage escrow accounts. BOA moved to dismiss on the ground that GOL Section 5-601 does not apply to mortgage loans made by federally chartered banks because, as applied to such banks, it is preempted by the National Bank Act of 1864 (“NBA”). The district court disagreed and denied the motion. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that (1) New York’s interest-on-escrow law is preempted by the NBA under the “ordinary legal principles of pre-emption,” Barnett Bank of Marion Cnty., N.A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 37 (1996), and (2) the Dodd-Frank Act does not change this analysis. GOL Section 5-601 thus did not require BOA to pay a minimum rate of interest, and Plaintiffs have alleged no facts supporting a claim that interest is due. View "Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law
Hyland v. Navient Corporation
A group of public servants who had contacted Navient for help repaying their loans (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a putative class action lawsuit, alleging that Navient had not “lived up to its obligation to help vulnerable borrowers get on the best possible repayment plan and qualify for PSLF.” Navient moved to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, which the district court granted in part, dismissing all claims except “the claim brought under New York’s General Business Law Section 349”. The district court certified a class for settlement purposes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and approved the settlement as “fair, reasonable, adequate,” and “in the best interest of the Settlement Class as a whole.” Two objectors now appeal that judgment, arguing that the district court erred in certifying the class, approving the settlement, and approving service awards of $15,000 to the named Plaintiffs. The Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in making any of these determinations. The court explained that here, the amended complaint plausibly alleged that the named Plaintiffs were likely to suffer future harm because they continued to rely on Navient for information about repaying their student loans. At least six of the named Plaintiffs continue to have a relationship with Navient. That is enough to confer standing on the entire class. Further, the court explained individual class members [in fact] retain their right to bring individual lawsuits,” and the settlement does not prevent absent class members from pursuing monetary claims. View "Hyland v. Navient Corporation" on Justia Law
Kelly v. RealPage Inc
The consumers had rental applications denied based on inaccurate consumer reports generated by a consumer reporting agency, RealPage, which would not correct the reports unless the consumers obtained proof of the error from its sources. The identity of RealPage’s sources was not included in the disclosures to the consumers, despite their requests for their files. The consumers sued under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681, to disclose on request “[a]ll information in the consumer’s file at the time of the request” and “[t]he sources of th[at] information,” seeking damages and attorneys’ fees for themselves and on behalf of a purported class and subclass.The district court denied their Rule 23(b)(3) motion for class certification, citing the Rule’s predominance and superiority requirements and finding that their proposed class and subclass were not ascertainable. The Third Circuit vacated. The district court based its predominance analysis on a misinterpretation of Section 1681g(a), erroneously concluding that individualized proof would be needed to distinguish requests for “reports” from those for “files.” The court also misapplied ascertainability precedents. The consumers have standing, having made the requisite showing of the omission of information to which they claim entitlement, “adverse effects” that flow from the omission, and the requisite nexus to the protected “concrete interest.” View "Kelly v. RealPage Inc" on Justia Law
Perez v. McCreary, Veselka, Bragg
Plaintiff recieved a debt-collection letter from Defendant, a law firm that specializes in collecting debt on behalf of the Texas government. However, the limitations period for the debt mentioned in the letter had run. Plaintiff filed a claim against the law firm under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Plaintiff also sought, and obtained, class certification. The law firm appealed the district court's certification.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit sua sponte found that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring a claim against a debt-collection law firm under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The court held that Plaintiff failed to establish that the law firm's debt-collection letter inflicted an injury with a “close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized as providing a basis for a lawsuit in American courts." Without this showing, Plaintiff could not establish the first element of standing: that she suffered a concrete harm. View "Perez v. McCreary, Veselka, Bragg" on Justia Law
Susan Drazen v. Godaddy.com, LLC
Plaintiff filed a complaint against GoDaddy.com, LLC (“GoDaddy”) in district court alleging that GoDaddy had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”) when it allegedly called and texted Plaintiff solely to market its services and products through a prohibited automatic telephone dialing system. Her case was consolidated with two other cases. Plaintiff and the plaintiffs in the two other related cases purported to bring a class action on behalf of similarly situated individuals. After negotiating with GoDaddy, the three plaintiffs submitted a proposed class settlement agreement to the District Court. The District Court determined that “even though some of the included class members would not have a viable claim in the Eleventh Circuit, they do have a viable claim in their respective Circuit [because of a circuit split]. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s approval of class certification and settlement. The court held that the class definition does not meet Article III standing requirements. The court explained that it has not received briefing on whether a single cellphone call is sufficient to meet the concrete injury requirement for Article III standing and TransUnion has clarified that courts must look to history to find a common-law analogue for statutory harms. Thus, the court concluded its best course is to vacate the class certification and settlement and remand in order to give the parties an opportunity to redefine the class with the benefit of TransUnion and its common-law analogue analysis. View "Susan Drazen v. Godaddy.com, LLC" on Justia Law
AARON LEIGH-PINK V. RIO PROPERTIES, LLC
Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal of their claims against Rio Properties, LLC (“Rio”), which owns and operates the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. During this time, Plaintiffs claim Defendant knew that its water system was infected with Legionella bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ Disease. After learning of the contamination, Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against Defendant. They sought the return of the resort fee on the theory that they would not have gone to the hotel, and would not have paid the resort fee if Defendant had told them about the presence of the Legionella. In a prior decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims for negligence, “declaratory relief,” violation of Nevada Revised Statutes (“NRS”) Section 205.377(1), and consumer fraud, and reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claim. However, the court reserved judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims for fraudulent concealment and statutory consumer fraud, based on NRS Section 598.0923(2), because a controlling question of state law existed. In response to a certified question, the Nevada State Supreme Court answered “that a plaintiff who receives the true value of the goods or services purchased has not suffered damages under theories of common-law fraudulent concealment or N.R.S. 41.600.” Thus, the Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that applying Nevada state law as declared by the Nevada State Supreme Court, Plaintiffs failed to allege recoverable damages as to their fraudulent concealment and consumer fraud claims. View "AARON LEIGH-PINK V. RIO PROPERTIES, LLC" on Justia Law
Adam v. Barone
Adam saw advertisements for free samples of beauty products, which implied that she need only pay for shipping and handling. Adam ordered two free samples and purchased another item. She was charged $9.94 for shipping and $14.99 for the purchased item. Soon thereafter, Adam was unexpectedly charged $92.94, which resulted in an overdraft of her checking account. A company representative told Adam that “she had agreed" to pay the full amount if she kept the "free samples" and that Adam would need to return the items before refunds could be issued. Adam, not trusting the company, refused to return the items, then called her bank, which temporarily reversed the charge but ultimately reinstated it. Adam contends that her bank was misled by the “false-front scheme” and that the charge would have been reversed but for the defendants’ misrepresentations.Adam filed a putative class-action suit, alleging violations of (or conspiracy to violate or aiding and abetting violation of): multiple California laws; the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. 1693–1693r; the RICO Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968; and consumer laws. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Adam has standing; she was not made whole by the refund offer; she has neither received a refund nor accepted any alternative. Defendants’ conduct could provide but-for causation for Adam’s financial harm and a restitution order would redress that harm. View "Adam v. Barone" on Justia Law
Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al.
Plaintiff and his counsel, Anderson + Wanca (“Wanca”), appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for Wanca to receive a portion of the attorneys’ fees resulting from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”), 47 U.S.C. Section 227. Wanca, while not appointed as class counsel in this case, began the chain of litigation that resulted in the settlement below and so contends that it provided a substantial and independent benefit to the class justifying a portion of the attorneys’ fees. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The court explained that while the court did find that Wanca has shown it provided one substantial and independent benefit to the class, Wanca’s prioritization of its interests over the class’s interests throughout the litigation forecloses the equitable relief Wanca seeks. The court explained that non-class counsel is generally entitled to a portion of a common fund recovered in a class action as attorneys’ fees under Rule 23(h) if non-class counsel confers a substantial and independent benefit to the class that aids in the recovery or improvement of the common fund. Here, the mere fact that Wanca devoted substantial time and effort to litigating this class action does not entitle Wanca to attorneys’ fees. Simply put, most of the 671.95 hours Wanca spent litigating Arkin I and II did not aid in the recovery or improvement of the common fund obtained under the Pressman Settlement in Arkin III. View "Steven Arkin, et al. v. Smith Medical Partners, LLC, et al." on Justia Law