Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Accettura v. Vacationland, Inc.
Plaintiffs purchased a recreational vehicle (RV) from Vacationland for $26,000.25. When it leaked during a rainstorm, they brought it in for repair. When it leaked again, causing extensive damage, they brought it back. A little more than two weeks after they dropped it off the second time and without a timetable for when the vehicle would be repaired, they told the seller that they no longer wanted the RV and asked for their money back. Plaintiffs sued, citing revocation of acceptance under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act, 15 U.S.C. 2310(d); breach of implied warranty of merchantability under the Magnuson-Moss Act; revocation of acceptance and cancellation of contract under Illinois’s adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code; and return of purchase price under the UCC. Defendant argued that plaintiffs’ failure to give it a reasonable opportunity to cure was fatal to their claims. The circuit court granted the defendant summary judgment. The appellate court affirmed. Plaintiffs sought review of the revocation of acceptance claim under the UCC (810 ILCS 5/2- 608(1)(b)). The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The plain language of subsection 2-608(1)(b) does not require that the buyer give the seller an opportunity to cure a substantial nonconformity before revoking acceptance. View "Accettura v. Vacationland, Inc." on Justia Law
Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. James Hardie Building Products, Inc.
Louisiana-Pacific produces “engineered-wood” building siding—wood treated with zinc borate, a preservative that poisons termites; Hardie sells fiber-cement siding. To demonstrate the superiority of its fiber cement, Hardie initiated an advertising campaign called “No Wood Is Good,” proclaiming that customers ought to realize that all wood siding—however “engineered”—is vulnerable to damage by pests. Its marketing materials included digitally-altered images and video of a woodpecker perched in a hole in Louisiana-Pacific’s siding with nearby text boasting both that “Pests Love It,” and that engineered wood is “[s]ubject to damage caused by woodpeckers, termites, and other pests.” Louisiana-Pacific sued Hardie, alleging false advertising, and moved for a preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Louisiana-Pacific failed to show that it would likely succeed in proving the advertisement unambiguously false under the Lanham Act and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. View "Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. James Hardie Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law
McIntosh v. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
Plaintiff’s class action complaint alleged that Walgreens violated the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1, by unlawfully collecting a municipal tax imposed by Chicago on purchases of bottled water that were exempt from taxation under the ordinance. The circuit court dismissed the action, citing the voluntary payment doctrine, which provides that money voluntarily paid with full knowledge of the facts cannot be recovered on the ground that the claim for payment was illegal. The appellate court reversed, reasoning that the complaint pleaded that the unlawful collection of the bottled water tax was a deceptive act under the Consumer Fraud Act. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal, first holding that claims under the Consumer Fraud Act are not categorically exempt from the voluntary payment doctrine. The court rejected an argument that the receipt issued by Walgreens constituted a representation that the tax was required by the ordinance. Misrepresentations or mistakes of law cannot form the basis of a claim for fraud. View "McIntosh v. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc." on Justia Law
Compass Bank v. Calleja-Ahedo
The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff, rather than his Bank, must suffer the financial consequences of the complete draining of Plaintiff’s bank account by an identity theft through a series of fraudulent transactions.At issue was Tex. Bus. & Com. Code 4.406(c), which limits the liability of a bank when the customer fails to comply with his or her duties to examine the statement of account and notify the bank of any unauthorized payment. Rather than monitor his account as contemplated by the statute, for more than a year Plaintiff failed to look for missing bank statements or inquire about the status of his account. The court of appeals rendered judgment for Plaintiff, holding that the Bank neither sent the statements to Plaintiff nor made them available to him, and therefore, his statutory duties to examine the statements and report unauthorized transactions never arose. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Bank made the statements “available” to Plaintiff for purposes of section 4.406; and (2) under the circumstances, section 4.406 precluded Plaintiff’s attempt to hold the Bank liable for the losses. View "Compass Bank v. Calleja-Ahedo" on Justia Law
Price v. Murdy
In answering a question of law certified to it by the United States District Court of the District of Maryland, the Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. (CJP) 12-601 to 12-613 is a statutory specialty and that actions on it are accorded a twelve-year limitations period.At issue was whether the licensing requirement of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law (MCLL), Md. Code Ann. Com. Law 12-302, was a statutory specialty as contemplated by CJP 5-102(a)(6) requiring filing within twelve years after the cause of action accrues. The Court of Appeals answered the question certified to it in the affirmative, holding that the MCLL’s licensing requirement is an “other specialty” within the meaning of CJP 5-102(a)(6) and that a claim brought on it is entitled to a twelve-year limitations period. View "Price v. Murdy" on Justia Law
Williams v. American Honda Finance Corp.
The First Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of American Honda Finance Corporation (Honda) on Plaintiff’s putative class action alleging that Honda violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws, holding that summary judgment was improper on some of Plaintiff’s claims.Plaintiff claimed that Honda afforded her inadequate loan-deficiency notifications after she fell behind on her automobile-loan payments. Because Plaintiff’s claims hinged entirely on questions of Massachusetts law, the First Circuit certified three questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). After the SJC issued an opinion responding to these questions and the parties filed supplemental briefs, the First Circuit issued this opinion. The Court held (1) Plaintiff’s challenge to the district court’s ruling that Honda sold her car for fair market value was waived; (2) the district court erred in finding that the post-repossession and post-sale notices Honda sent to Plaintiff complied with the requirements of Massachusetts law; and (3) therefore, entry of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 106, 9-614 and 9-616 notice and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2(A) claims was improper. View "Williams v. American Honda Finance Corp." on Justia Law
Littlejohn v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
Littlejohn sought to sue Costco, the California Board of Equalization, and Abbott to recover sales tax on purchases of Abbott’s product Ensure. Littlejohn alleged that Ensure is properly categorized as a food; no sales tax was actually due on his purchases; Costco was under no obligation to pay and should not have paid sales tax on its sales of Ensure. The complaint alleged that during the period in question Ensure was classified as a food product exempt from sales tax, not a nutritional supplement. Littlejohn based his claim on a 1974 California Supreme Court decision, Javor. The trial court concluded that the judicially noticed documents in the record showed the Board had not resolved the question of whether Ensure was nontaxable during the relevant period.. The court held that the documents were entitled to deference, but did not have the same force of law as Board regulations and were not binding. The court of appeal affirmed, reasoning that the case does not involve allegations of unique circumstances showing the Board has concluded consumers are owed refunds for taxes paid on sales of Ensure. A Javor remedy should be limited to the unique circumstances where the plaintiff shows that the state has been unjustly enriched by the overpayment of sales tax, and the Board concurs that the circumstances warrant refunds. View "Littlejohn v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law
Ohio v. American Express Co.
The Amex credit card companies use a two-sided transaction platform to serve cardholders and merchants. Unlike traditional markets, two-sided platforms exhibit “indirect network effects,” because the value of the platform to one group depends on how many members of another group participate. Two-sided platforms must take these effects into account before making a change in price on either side, or they risk creating a feedback loop of declining demand. Visa and MasterCard have structural advantages over Amex. Amex focuses on cardholder spending rather than cardholder lending. To encourage cardholder spending, Amex provides better rewards than the other credit-card companies. Amex continually invests in its cardholder rewards program and must charge merchants higher fees than its rivals. To avoid higher fees, merchants sometimes attempt to dissuade cardholders from using Amex cards (steering). Amex places anti-steering provisions in its contracts with merchants.The Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit in rejecting claims that Amex violated section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which prohibits "unreasonable restraints” of trade. Applying the "rule of reason" three-step burden-shifting framework, the Court concluded the plaintiffs did not establish that Amex’s anti-steering provisions have a substantial anticompetitive effect that harms consumers in the relevant market. Evidence of a price increase on one side of a two-sided transaction platform cannot, by itself, demonstrate an anticompetitive exercise of market power; plaintiffs must prove that Amex’s anti-steering provisions increased the cost of credit-card transactions above a competitive level, reduced the number of credit-card transactions, or otherwise stifled competition. They offered no evidence that the price of credit-card transactions was higher than the price one would expect in a competitive market. Amex’s increased merchant fees reflect increases in the value of its services and the cost of its transactions, not an ability to charge above a competitive price. The Court noted that Visa and MasterCard’s merchant fees have continued to increase, even where Amex is not accepted. The market actually experienced expanding output and improved quality. View "Ohio v. American Express Co." on Justia Law
Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P.
Defendants are the nation’s largest distributors of pre-filled propane exchange tanks, which come in a standard size. Before 2008, Defendants filled the tanks with 17 pounds of propane. In 2008, due to rising prices, Defendants reduced the amount in each tato 15 pounds, maintaining the same price. Plaintiffs, indirect purchasers, who bought tanks from retailers, claimed this effectively raised the price. In 2009, plaintiffs filed a class action alleging conspiracy under the Sherman Act. Plaintiffs settled with both Defendants. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against Defendants, which settled in 2015 by consent orders, for conspiring to artificially inflate tank prices. In 2014, another group of indirect purchasers (Ortiz) brought a class action against Defendants, alleging: “Despite their settlements, Defendants continued to conspire, and ... maintained their illegally agreed-upon fill levels, preserving the unlawfully inflated prices." The Ortiz suit became part of a multidistrict proceeding that included similar allegations by direct purchasers (who bought tanks directly from Defendants for resale). The Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the direct-purchaser suit as time-barred, holding that each sale in a price-fixing conspiracy starts the statutory period running again. The court subsequently held that the indirect purchasers inadequately pled an injury-in-fact and lack standing to pursue an injunction to increase the fill levels of the tanks and may not seek disgorgement of profits. View "Ortiz v. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P." on Justia Law
Williams v. American Honda Finance Corp.
At issue was how to calculate “fair market value” of a repossessed automobile under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 255B, 20 B and the notices that are required with respect to this calculation.Under section 20B, a creditor who repossesses and sells a vehicle is entitled to recover form the debt the deficiency that remains after deducting the “fair market value” of the vehicle from the debtor’s unpaid balance. Plaintiff in this case alleged that the fair market value of her repossessed automobile was the fair market retail value of the automobile, rather than the amount paid at an auction open to licensed dealers. The federal district court granted summary judgment to American Honda Finance Corporation (Honda). The court of appeals certified to the Supreme Judicial Court three questions. The Court answered (1) the ultimate determination of fair market value is left to the courts in contested cases, taking into account both creditor and debtor interests, and the means, methods, and markets used to sell the vehicle; and (2) the resale and postsale notices provided to the debtor must expressly describe the deficiency as the difference between the amount owed on the loan and the fair market value of the vehicle. View "Williams v. American Honda Finance Corp." on Justia Law