Justia Commercial Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Hinrichs v. DOW Chemical Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's dismissal of Chris Hinrichs and Autovation Limited's (collectively, Hinrichs) common law misrepresentation claims against the DOW Chemical Company and reversing the circuit court's dismissal of Hinrichs' statutory claim under Wis. Stat. 100.18, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that, with regard to Hinrichs' common law claims, neither the "fraud in the inducement" exception nor the "other property exception" to the economic loss doctrine applied to allow Hinrichs' common law claims to go forward. With regard to Hinrichs' statutory claims the Court held (1) the economic loss doctrine does not serve as a bar to claims made under section 100.18; (2) because one person can be "the public" for purposes of section 100.18(1), the court of appeals did not err in determining that dismissal for failure to meet "the public" factor of the section 100.18 claim was in error; and (3) the heightened pleading standard for claims of fraud does not apply to claims made under section 100.18 and that Hinrichs' complaint stated a claim under the general pleading standard. View "Hinrichs v. DOW Chemical Co." on Justia Law
In re: Avandia Marketing, Sales and Products Liability Litigation
Health benefit plans sued GSK, the manufacturer of the prescription drug Avandia, under state consumer-protection laws and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. ch. 96 (RICO), based on GSK’s marketing of Avandia as having benefits to justify its price, which was higher than the price of other drugs used to treat type-2 diabetes. The district court granted GSK summary judgment, finding that the state-law consumer-protection claims were preempted by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. ch. 9; the Plans had failed to identify a sufficient “enterprise” for purposes of RICO; and the Plans’ arguments related to GSK’s alleged attempts to market Avandia as providing cardiovascular “benefits” were “belated.” The Third Circuit reversed, applying the Supreme Court’s 2019 "Merck" decision. The state-law consumer-protection claims are not preempted by the FDCA. The Plans should have been given the opportunity to seek discovery before summary judgment on the RICO claims. Further, from the inception of this litigation, the Plans’ claims have centered on GSK’s marketing of Avandia as providing cardiovascular benefits as compared to other forms of treatment, so the district court’s refusal to consider the Plans’ “benefits” arguments was in error because those arguments were timely raised. View "In re: Avandia Marketing, Sales and Products Liability Litigation" on Justia 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