Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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In this case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the appellant, Paulette Barclift, sued Keystone Credit Services, LLC ("Keystone") for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). Barclift claimed that Keystone unlawfully communicated her personal information to a third-party mailing vendor, RevSpring, without her consent. She sought to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. The District Court dismissed her suit on the grounds that she did not allege an injury sufficient to establish standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.Upon appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the lower court that Barclift lacked standing, but modified the District Court's order so that the dismissal would be without prejudice. The court found that Barclift's alleged harm—embarrassment and distress caused by the disclosure of her personal information to a single intermediary (RevSpring)—did not bear a close relationship to a harm traditionally recognized by American courts, such as the public disclosure of private facts. Therefore, the court concluded that Barclift did not suffer a concrete injury and could not establish Article III standing. The court further held that the possibility of future harm was too speculative to establish a concrete injury. The case was dismissed without prejudice, allowing Barclift the opportunity to amend her complaint if she can allege a concrete injury. View "Barclift v. Keystone Credit Services LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of patients initiated a class action lawsuit against various hospitals and vendors who provide medical record production services to the hospitals. The plaintiffs alleged that the hospitals and vendors were involved in an illegal kickback scheme, where the vendors charged patients excessive prices for their medical records and used the profits to offer free and discounted pages to the hospitals for other types of medical records. The plaintiffs alleged violations of New York Public Health Law (PHL) § 18(2)(e) (which restricts the price that can be charged for medical records), New York General Business Law (GBL) § 349 (which prohibits deceptive business practices), and unjust enrichment. However, the New York Court of Appeals had previously ruled in Ortiz v. Ciox Health LLC that PHL § 18(2)(e) does not provide a private right of action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all the plaintiffs' claims. It found that the patients' GBL § 349 and unjust enrichment claims were essentially repackaging their PHL § 18(2)(e) claims, and therefore not cognizable as they attempted to circumvent the Ortiz ruling. The court also held that the plaintiffs failed to allege any actionable wrongs independent of the requirements of PHL § 18(2)(e). The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim, and as such, the district court did not err in granting the defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings, in denying the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment as moot, and in denying the plaintiffs' leave to file a second amended complaint. View "McCracken v. Verisma Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit considered whether consumers can recover statutory damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) without proving actual damages caused by a consumer reporting agency's willful violation of the Act. The case was brought by plaintiffs Omar Santos and Amanda Clements on behalf of a class of individuals, against Experian Information Solutions, Inc. The plaintiffs alleged that Experian willfully violated its obligation under the FCRA to ensure consumer credit reports were prepared with maximum possible accuracy, allowing credit reports to reflect inaccurately updated status dates. The district court denied class certification, holding that the FCRA required proof of actual damages.The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's decision, holding that consumers do not need to prove actual damages to recover statutory damages under the FCRA. The court found that the FCRA allows consumers to recover damages of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 for a willful violation of the Act, regardless of whether they can prove actual damages. The court cited the plain language of the Act, the structure of the statute, and the Act's legislative history in reaching its decision. The court also noted that its interpretation was consistent with the holdings of other circuit courts that have addressed this issue. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this interpretation. View "Santos v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a class action lawsuit, plaintiffs accused Eden Creamery, LLC of underfilling its pints of Halo Top ice cream. After the discovery period, the plaintiffs attempted to amend their complaint to include a new theory of liability (fraud by omission) and a new defendant (Wells Enterprises). The district court denied this motion, stating that plaintiffs failed to show good cause for amending their complaint. The plaintiffs then moved to voluntarily dismiss their claims without prejudice, which the district court also denied, instead dismissing the individual claims with prejudice and the class claims without prejudice.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to amend the complaint, as the plaintiffs failed to show good cause for amending after the deadline to do so had passed. However, the court found that the district court had abused its discretion by denying the plaintiffs' motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice, as the defendants did not demonstrate that they would suffer legal prejudice if the case were dismissed without prejudice. The court held that a defendant must show legal prejudice to prevent a dismissal without prejudice. Uncertainty from unresolved disputes or inconvenience of defending another lawsuit does not constitute legal prejudice. The case was remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice, and the district court was instructed to consider whether any conditions should be imposed on the dismissal, such as an appropriate amount of costs and fees. View "KAMAL V. EDEN CREAMERY, LLC" 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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Plaintiff, a retail customer, brought a putative class action under the Class Action Fairness Act against clothing retailers The Gap, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Old Navy, LLC (“Defendants”). Plaintiff alleged that she purchased numerous products at Old Navy stores and online at discount prices that were deceptively advertised because Defendants did not sell a substantial quantity of these products at the advertised “regular” prices prior to selling them at the advertised “sale” prices. She sought class-wide compensatory damages under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”). The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint with prejudice, Plaintiff appealed, arguing that she plausibly pleaded ascertainable loss under Missouri’s benefit-of-the-bargain rule.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court’s decision to “join a growing number of courts in finding that complaints based solely on a plaintiff’s disappointment over not receiving an advertised discount at the time of purchase have not suffered an ascertainable loss.” Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint also alleged that the actual fair market value of some of the products she purchased “may have even been less than the discounted prices that she paid.” This theory of ascertainable loss does not depend on Defendants’ comparison pricing for the value represented component of the benefit-of-the-bargain rule. Plausible allegations of such immediate injury would satisfy an MMPA plaintiff’s burden to show an ascertainable loss. However, these allegations are based solely on information and belief, which are generally insufficient under Rule 9(b). View "Jill Hennessey v. The Gap, Inc." 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants and denying relief in this class action, holding that the district court did not err.In 2014, over two-thirds of the members of the Try County Telephone Association, Inc., a Wyoming cooperative utility providing telecommunication services on a non-profit basis, voted to sell the Cooperative, including its for-profit subsidiaries, to entities owned by Neil Schlenker. Schlenker converted the Cooperative into a for-profit corporation (TCT). After the sale, Class Representatives filed a class action lawsuit against TCT, Schlenker and his entities, and others, alleging fraud conversion and other claims and requesting that the sale be set aside. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did nor err in granting summary judgment on all claims. View "Campbell v. Davidson" 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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Since 1992, the Energy Star Program has set energy efficiency standards for categories of products and permitted approved products to bear the Energy Star logo. Three models of Whirlpool top-loading clothes washers were approved to display that logo and did so from 2009-2010. Under one method of measurement, those machines did not meet the Program’s energy- and water-efficiency standards; the washers did satisfy the Program’s standards under another measurement technique, which the Program previously endorsed. Program guidance from July 2010 disapproved of that method.Consumers in several states who had purchased those models commenced a putative class action against Whirlpool and retailers that sold those machines, alleging breach of express warranty and violations of state consumer protection statutes based on the allegedly wrongful display of the Energy Star logo. The district court certified a class action against Whirlpool but declined to certify a class against the retailers. At summary judgment, the court rejected all remaining claims.The Third Circuit affirmed, finding no genuine dispute of material fact. The plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the models were unfit for their intended purpose. A reasonable jury could not find that the retailer defendants were unjustly enriched from selling the washers. Without evidence of a false or misleading statement attributable to Whirlpool or the retailers, the state consumer protection claims failed. View "Dzielak v. Whirlpool Corp" on Justia Law