Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
David Williams, et al v. Reckitt Benckiser LLC, et al
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
Gary Walters v. Fast AC, LLC, et al
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
Donrich Young v. Grand Canyon University, Inc., et al.
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
Richard Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc.
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
Bidi Vapor LLC v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al
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
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
Wilbur Huggins v. Lueder, Larkin & Hunter, LLC
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
Lamirand, et al v. Fay Servicing, LLC
Charles and Tracy Lamirand took out a mortgage loan to buy a home in Florida but did not keep up with the payments. After they defaulted, the loan servicer sued to foreclose on the home. While the foreclosure suit was pending, Fay Servicing took over the loan. A disagreement arose, leading the Lamirands to sue Fay Servicing. The parties soon settled both lawsuits and agreed that the Lamirands owed $85,790.99 on the loan, to be paid in one year. But four months later, Fay Servicing sent the Lamirands a mortgage statement notifying them that their loan had “been accelerated” because they were “late on [their] monthly payments.” On Fay Servicing’s fast-tracked timetable, the Lamirands owed $92,789.55 to be paid in a month. If they did not pay, Fay Servicing’s statement warned, they risked more fees and even “the loss of [their] home to a foreclosure sale.” The statement then detailed many ways the Lamirands might pay. The statements distressed the Lamirands, who thought they needed to pay only $85,790.99 and make that payment by the date set in the settlement agreement. They eventually sued, alleging that by sending the statements Fay Servicing had violated the FDCPA and Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act. To the district court, the periodic statements were unrelated to debt collection, even though they urged the Lamirands to make their past-due loan payments, because Fay Servicing was required to send monthly updates under the Truth in Lending Act. The court thus held that the Lamirands had not stated an FDCPA claim, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Florida law claims, and dismissed the complaint. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found a periodic statement mandated by the Truth in Lending Act could also be a debt-collection communication covered by the FDCPA. Because the complaint here plausibly alleged the periodic statements sent to the plaintiffs aimed to collect their debt, the district court’s dismissal of their complaint was reversed. View "Lamirand, et al v. Fay Servicing, LLC" 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
Howard Michael Caplan v. All American Auto Collision, Inc., et al
Plaintiff retained an attorney of the Advocacy Law Firm to sue Defendants for alleged ADA violations following Plaintiff’s visit to Defendants’ place of business. The attorney has filed hundreds of lawsuits under the ADA on behalf of Plaintiff and others. As the prevailing party, Plaintiff moved for attorney’s fees.. While the district court found that Plaintiff was entitled to attorney’s fees, the district court determined that the requested amount was grossly disproportionate given the case’s circumstances. The district court therefore reduced the requested fees. Plaintiff argued that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the amount he requested for attorney’s fees. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the award, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the attorney billed an excessive number of hours given the complexity of the case. The court noted that the attorney has been involved in hundreds of ADA lawsuits, including 140 during the case. Additionally, the district court found that the pleadings and motions filed here were “boilerplate” and much like filings in the attorney’s other ADA cases. Further, the record reflects that the attorney was unduly litigious and engaged in unnecessary motion practice. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the attorney unnecessarily prolonged the litigation which, in turn, unnecessarily increased the amount of attorney’s fees. View "Howard Michael Caplan v. All American Auto Collision, Inc., et al" on Justia Law