Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is not exempt from the rules of discovery. Nonetheless, the CFPB tried to bring a wide-ranging civil lawsuit against 18 defendants without ever being deposed. When the district court ordered the CFPB to sit for Rule 30(b)(6) depositions, the CFPB doubled down by engaging in dramatic abuse of the discovery process. The district court imposed sanctions for this misconduct. On appeal, the CFPB maintains that it behaved properly.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that violating the district court’s clear orders and derailing multiple depositions is nowhere near proper conduct. The court explained that the CFPB was determined to avoid 30(b)(6) depositions. To realize its goal, the CFPB employed tactics that the district court repeatedly forbade. As such, the CFPB clearly violated Rule 37(b), and severe sanctions were warranted. The court, therefore, held that the district court’s sanctions order dismissing the CFPB’s claims against the five appellees was not an abuse of discretion. View "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Check & Credit Recovery, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s employee opened, in Plaintiff’s name, a credit card with Chase and ran up tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The employee also illegally accessed Plaintiff’s bank accounts and used them to partially pay off the monthly statements. When she discovered the scheme, Plaintiff reported the fraud to Chase, but Chase refused to characterize the charges as illegitimate. Plaintiff sued Chase under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for not conducting a reasonable investigation into her dispute. The district court granted summary judgment for Chase because it concluded that Chase’s investigation into Plaintiff’s dispute was “reasonable,” as the Act requires.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff hasn’t shown a genuine dispute of fact whether Chase’s conclusion was unreasonable as a matter of law. The court explained that Chase didn’t need to keep investigating. Nor has Plaintiff explained what Chase should have done differently: whom it should have talked to or what documents it should have considered that might have affected its apparent-authority analysis. That omission dooms Plaintiff’s claim because “a plaintiff cannot demonstrate that a reasonable investigation would have resulted in the furnisher concluding that the information was inaccurate or incomplete without identifying some facts the furnisher could have uncovered that establish that the reported information was, in fact, inaccurate or incomplete.” View "Shelly Milgram v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., et al" on Justia Law

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) stopped providing “Rapid Delivery”1 to Amazon Prime (“Prime”) subscribers. Because Prime subscribers were not notified of the suspension and continued to pay full price for their memberships, Plaintiff and others brought a putative class action against Amazon alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”), and unjust enrichment. The district court granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim with prejudice because it found that Amazon did not have a duty to provide unqualified Rapid Delivery to Prime subscribers.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that it is allowed to use its “experience and common sense” to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic even though it was not included as a factual allegation in the First Amended Complaint. The court dispensed with this argument because Amazon’s prioritization of essential goods during the COVID-19 pandemic obviously did not harm the public interest. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs specifically incorporated the terms of their contract with Amazon as part of their unjust enrichment count. So, while Plaintiffs may plead breach of contract and unjust enrichment in the alternative, they have not done so. Instead, Plaintiffs pleaded a contractual relationship as part of their unjust enrichment claim, and that contractual relationship defeats their unjust enrichment claim under Washington law. View "Andrez Marquez, et al v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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This is an appeal from a district court order approving a class-action settlement that purports to provide injunctive relief and up to $8 million in monetary relief to a class of individuals (the “Class”) who purchased one or more “brain performance supplements” manufactured and sold by Defendants Reckitt Benckiser LLC and RB Health (US) LLC (together, “RB”) under the brand name “Neuriva.” Five Plaintiffs (together, the “Named Plaintiffs”) who had previously purchased Neuriva brought a putative class action, alleging that RB used false and misleading statements to give consumers the impression that Neuriva and its “active ingredients” had been clinically tested and proven to improve brain function. The parties promptly agreed to a global settlement (the “Settlement” or “Settlement Agreement”) that sought to resolve the claims of all Plaintiffs and absent Class members. The current appeal involves one unnamed Class member, an attorney and frequent class-action objector, who objected in district court and subsequently appealed the district court’s approval order.   The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that the Named Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue their claims for injunctive relief. The court explained that Plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief must establish that they are likely to suffer an injury that is “actual or imminent,” not “conjectural or hypothetical.” But none of the Named Plaintiffs allege that they plan to purchase any of the Neuriva Products again. The district court, therefore, lacked jurisdiction to award injunctive relief to the Named Plaintiffs or absent Class members, and its approval of the Settlement Agreement was an abuse of discretion. View "David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendants under the Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), claiming that Defendant violated TILA because it did not provide him those disclosures. The question in this case was whether Plaintiff had Article III standing to pursue his claim, which turns on whether Plaintiff's injuries are traceable to Defendant's failure to disclose.The Eleventh Circuit found that Plaintiff's injuries were traceable to Defendant's failure to disclose and thus reversed the district court's finding to the contrary. The court, however, expressed no opinion about the merits of Plaitniff's claim. View "Gary Walters v. Fast AC, LLC, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff enrolled in a Doctor of Education degree program at Grand Canyon University. Plaintiff claims that he did not complete his degree because, despite representing that students can finish the program in 60 credit hours, Grand Canyon makes that goal impossible with the aim of requiring students to take and pay for additional courses. Plaintiff also claims that he was not provided with the faculty support promised by Grand Canyon. According to Plaintiff Grand Canyon’s failure to provide dissertation support is designed to require students to take and pay for additional courses that would allow them to complete the dissertation. Plaintiff filed claims alleging breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment. He also asserted claims under the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(6).   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for violations of the ACFA, intentional misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment. The court reversed in part the dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court explained that though Grand Canyon did not contractually promise Plaintiff that he would earn a doctoral degree within 60 credit hours, he has plausibly alleged that it did agree to provide him with the faculty resources and guidance he needed to complete his dissertation. Insofar as he asserts that Grand Canyon promised and failed to meaningfully provide him with the faculty support necessary to complete his dissertation, he has sufficiently alleged breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Donrich Young v. Grand Canyon University, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that Preferred Collection had disclosed information about his debt to a third party—the mail vendor—in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Following the revised opinion, the full Eleventh Circuit voted to take the case en banc. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the case without prejudice. The court held that Plaintiff did not have standing, thus the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider his claim.   The court explained that Plaintiff is simply no worse off because Preferred Collection delegated the task of populating data into a form letter to a mail vendor; the public is not aware of his debt (at least, not because of Preferred Collection’s disclosure to its vendor). Nor is it clear, or even likely, that even a single person at the mail vendor knew about the debt or had any reason—good, bad, or otherwise— to disclose it to the public if they did. Given the obvious differences between these facts and the traditional tort of public disclosure, the court found that no concrete harm was suffered here. View "Richard Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioners petitioned for review concerning whether it was arbitrary and capricious for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Administration) to issue marketing denial orders to six tobacco companies for their electronic nicotine-delivery systems without considering the companies’ marketing and sales-access-restriction plans designed to minimize youth exposure and access. The Administration refused to consider the marketing and sales-access-restriction plans.   The Eleventh Circuit granted the petitions for review, set aside the orders of the Administration, and remanded to the Administration. The court concluded that it was arbitrary and capricious for the Administration to ignore the relevant marketing and sales-access restriction plans do not mandate a different result on remand. The court acknowledged the evidence in the record cataloged by the dissent of the serious risk to youth, and it may be that the Administration will conclude on remand that the marketing and sales-access restriction plans submitted in the tobacco companies’ applications do not outweigh those risks. The court wrote that it decides only that the Administration must at least consider the relevant evidence before it, which includes the companies’ marketing and sales-access-restriction plans. View "Bidi Vapor LLC v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al" on Justia Law

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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

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Several years ago, law firm Lueder, Larkin & Hunter represented the Pine Grove Homeowners Association in lawsuits seeking to collect delinquent fees from homeowners. One homeowner settled, and eventually Pine Grove voluntarily dismissed the other two suits. The homeowners then sued Lueder, Larkin & Hunter, arguing in state court that the law firm’s actions violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The firm removed the cases to federal court, where they were consolidated before a magistrate judge. After reviewing the complaints, the firm became convinced that the FDCPA claims filed against it were “unsubstantiated and frivolous”—meaning that the homeowners’ attorney had committed sanctionable conduct. The firm served the homeowners’ counsel with draft motions for Rule 11 sanctions.   The law firm appealed the denial of sanctions, and the homeowners appealed the summary judgment decision. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and vacated its denial of the Rule 11 motions. The court explained that it has long held that Rule 11 motions “are not barred if filed after a dismissal order, or after entry of judgment,” though it is apparently necessary to clarify that point in light of later cases. The homeowners claim that a later case, Walker, changed the Eleventh Circuit’s law. The court, looking at the relevant cases together, held that the reconciled rule follows: If a party fulfills the safe harbor requirement by serving a Rule 11 sanctions motion at least 21 days before final judgment, then she may file that motion after the judgment is entered and Lueder, Larkin & Hunter satisfied this rule. View "Wilbur Huggins v. Lueder, Larkin & Hunter, LLC" on Justia Law