Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Villanueva and the class (Plaintiffs) alleged that Fidelity, an underwritten title company that handled Plaintiffs’ escrow accounts, engaged in unlawful conduct under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) (Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200) in charging overnight mail delivery fees, courier fees, and document preparation or “draw deed” fees that were not listed in its schedule of rates filed with the Department of Insurance in violation of Insurance Code 12401–12410.10, 12414.27. Fidelity argued that the lawsuit was barred by the statutory immunity in section 12414.26 for matters related to rate-making. The trial court rejected Fidelity’s immunity claim and granted Plaintiffs injunctive relief under the UCL, but denied their restitution claims. The court of appeal reversed. Fidelity’s immunity defense is not subject to the forfeiture doctrine because it implicates the court’s subject matter jurisdiction; this claim is subject to the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Insurance Commissioner because it challenges Fidelity’s activity related to rate-making. The court directed the trial court to enter a new order awarding costs to Fidelity. View "Villanueva v. Fidelity National Title Co." on Justia Law

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Bayer AG, maker and marketer of One A Day brand vitamins, was sued in California Superior Court for alleged violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law and express warranty law. Plaintiff William Brady’s theory was that Bayer’s packaging of its “Vitacraves Adult Multivitamin” line of gummies was misleading. Brady argued that despite the One A Day brand name, these particular vitamins require a daily dosage of two gummies to get the recommended daily values. Thus buyers end up receiving only half the daily vitamin coverage they think they are getting. The initial complaint was filed as a class action in March 2016, followed by an amended complaint in April, followed by a demurrer in May. The trial court, relying on the unpublished Howard v. Bayer Corp., E. D. Ark. July 22, 2011 (2011 U. S. Dist. LEXIS 161583) involving the supposedly misleading packaging of Bayer’s One A Day gummies, sustained Bayer’s demurrer without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal concluded Bayer failed to appreciate the degree to which their trade name One a Day has inspired reliance in consumers, and held an action alleging they violated California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law and express warranty law should have survived demurrer. View "Brady v. Bayer Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Alfredo Fuentes entered into a written agreement with defendant TMCSF, Inc., doing business as Riverside Harley-Davidson (Riverside), to buy a motorcycle. At the same time, he entered into a written agreement with Eaglemark Savings Bank (Eaglemark) to finance the purchase. The loan agreement included an arbitration clause; the purchase agreement did not. Fuentes then filed suit against Riverside, alleging that Riverside made various misrepresentations and violated various statutes in connection with the sale of the motorcycle. Riverside petitioned to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the petition. The Court of Appeal held Riverside was not entitled to compel arbitration because it was not a party to the arbitration clause, it was not acting in the capacity of an agent of a party to the arbitration clause, and it was not a third party beneficiary of the arbitration clause. Moreover, Fuentes was not equitably estopped to deny Riverside’s claimed right to compel arbitration. View "Fuentes v. TMCSF, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against electronic retailer Newegg.com, alleging claims of false advertising under the (UCL), false advertising law (FAL), and Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). Plaintiff contended that Newegg.com used fictitious former price information in its advertisements that mislead customers to believe they were receiving merchandise at a discounted price. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment sustaining Newegg's demurrer without leave to amend, holding that plaintiff had standing to pursue his claims. In this case, plaintiff satisfied the UCL and FAL's standing requirements by alleging that Newegg advertised that its products were being offered at a discount from their former or original price; these representations were false or misleading; plaintiff saw and relied on the former price representations when purchasing the products; and he would not have purchased the products but for the false former price representations. Because the court concluded that plaintiff adequately alleged an economic injury for purposes of UCL standing, he likewise had standing to pursue his CLRA claim. View "Hansen v. Newegg.com Americas, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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This is the third appeal that comes to us in this case, which arises out of Patrick and Mary Lafferty’s purchase of a defective motor home from Geweke Auto & RV Group (Geweke) with an installment loan funded by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. In Lafferty v. Wells Fargo Bank, 213 Cal.App.4th 545 (2013: "Lafferty I"), the Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part the action brought by the Laffertys against Wells Fargo. Lafferty I awarded costs on appeal to the Laffertys. On remand, the Laffertys moved for costs and attorney fees. The trial court granted costs in part but denied the Laffertys’ request for attorney fees as premature because some causes of action remained to be tried. The Laffertys appealed. In "Lafferty II," the Court of Appeal held the award of costs on appeal did not include an award of attorney fees. Lafferty II also held the Laffertys’ request for attorney fees was prematurely filed. After issuance of the remittitur in Lafferty II, the parties stipulated to a judgment that contained two key components: (1) their agreement the Laffertys had paid $68,000 to Wells Fargo under the loan for the motor home; and (2) Wells Fargo repaid $68,000 to the Laffertys. After entry of the stipulated judgment, the trial court awarded the Laffertys $40,596.93 in prejudgment interest and $8,384.33 in costs. The trial court denied the Laffertys’ motion for $1,980,070 in post-trial attorney fees, $464,220 in post-appeal attorney fees, and $16,816.15 in non-statutory costs. Wells Fargo appealed the award of prejudgment interest and costs, and the Laffertys cross-appealed the denial of their requests for attorney fees and nonstatutory costs. The Court of Appeal concluded resolution of this appeal and cross-appeal turned on the meaning of title 16, section 433.2 of the Code of Federal Regulations, or the "Holder Rule." The Court found the Laffertys were limited under the plain meaning of the Holder Rule to recovering no more than the $68,000 they paid under terms of the loan with Wells Fargo. Consequently, the trial court properly denied the Laffertys’ request for attorney fees and nonstatutory costs in excess of their recovery of the amount they actually paid under the loan to Wells Fargo. In holding the Laffertys were limited in their recovery against Wells Fargo, the Court of Appeal rejected the Laffertys’ claims the Holder Rule violated the First Amendment, due process, or equal protection guarantees of the federal Constitution. However, the Court concluded the trial court did not err in awarding costs of suit and prejudgment interest to the Laffertys. View "Lafferty v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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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

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Nationwide, its principal and sole shareholder, and Loan Payment (collectively, petitioners) operate a debt payment service that claims to reduce the amount of interest owed by accelerating debt repayment via an extra annual payment. The California Department of Business Oversight and the District Attorneys of four counties (the People) challenged petitioners’ business practices, seeking civil penalties under Business and Professions Code sections 17200 and 17500, and Financial Code section 12105(d), plus injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, the voiding of petitioners’ allegedly unlawful contracts, costs and attorney fees. Petitioners demanded a jury trial, which the People successfully moved to strike. The California Supreme Court transferred the matter back to the court of appeals, with directions to issue an order to show cause why petitioners do not have a right to a jury trial. The court of appeal then partially granted the petitioners’ request, concluding the “gist” of the statutory causes of action asserted against them are legal, giving rise to a right to jury trial. The court held that that right to jury trial extends only to the issue of liability; the amount of statutory penalties, and whether any equitable relief is appropriate, is properly determined by the trial court. View "Nationwide Biweekly Administration, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioners were companies or wholly-owned subsidiaries involved in the manufacture, distribution or sale of pharmaceuticals or generic prescription drugs, including the prescription drug Niaspan. In October 2016, the Orange County District Attorney, representing "the People of the State of California" in association with private counsel, filed a complaint for violations of the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL), alleging that petitioners either entered into agreements or otherwise engaged in conduct that prevented other generic manufacturers from launching their own Niaspan equivalent, causing purchasers and others in California to overpay for the drug. In this writ proceeding, petitioners asked the Court of Appeal to resolve a single issue: whether section 17204 of the UCL "permit[s] a county district attorney to bring a claim that seeks relief for alleged injuries to residents of California counties whom he or she does not represent, based on conduct occurring outside the county he or she serves . . . ." Petitioners argued district attorneys have no authority to prosecute civil actions absent specific legislative authorization, and neither the Government Code, nor Business and Professions Code section 17204, authorized the district attorney of a single county to seek statewide penalties for alleged UCL violations. The Court granted the petition: "[t]hough section 17204 confers standing on district attorneys to sue in the name of the people of the State of California, it cannot constitutionally or reasonably be interpreted to grant the District Attorney power to seek and recover restitution and civil penalty relief for violations occurring outside the jurisdiction of the county in which he was elected. A contrary conclusion would permit the District Attorney to usurp the Attorney General's statewide authority and impermissibly bind his sister district attorneys, precluding them from pursuing their own relief. Thus, in the absence of written consent by the Attorney General and other county district attorneys, the District Attorney must confine such monetary recovery to violations occurring within the county he serves." View "Abbott Laboratories v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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D.C. Randall, Jr., the dismissal of his operative second amended complaint against Ditech Financial, LLC (Ditech) after the trial court sustained Ditech's demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend. Randall contended the court erred in its ruling as to his causes of action for violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and for violation of the state unfair competition law (UCL) because these causes of action stated or can be amended to state viable claims. The Court of Appeal concluded the complaint stated a claim under section 1692f(1) of the FDCPA and could be amended to state a claim under section 1692f(6). Consequently, the complaint could also be amended to state a claim under the UCL. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded the matter with directions to conduct further proceedings. View "Randall v. Ditech Financial, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lujan had a Chase credit card account, governed by an agreement with a provision stating “federal law and the law of Delaware” govern the agreement and a provision for attorney’s fees. When Lujan’s account had an unpaid balance in 2007, Chase assigned its claim to interim assignees. In 2011, PCC filed suit, alleging a debt of $8,831.90. PCC Vice President Shields verified the complaint. Lujan cross-complained against PCC, Shields, and interim assignees seeking damages under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S. C. 1692, and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices. The court granted Lujan summary judgment as to PCC, applying Delaware’s three-year statute of limitations. On the cross-complaint, the court granted the other defendants summary judgment, finding that none met the statutory definition of a debt collector. The judgment is silent om statutory damages, leaving Lujan with only “attorney fees and costs" as provided by statute. The court awarded Lujan $140,550.51 in fees against PCC but denied the other defendants fees because the cross-complaint was not an action “on a contract” under Civil Code 1717. The appeals court affirmed Lujan’s summary judgment against PCC, Lujan’s award of attorney’s fees, and the interim assignees’ summary judgment and denial of fees. The court reversed summary judgment in favor of Shields and PCC’s attorney. View "Professional Collection Consultants v. Lujan" on Justia Law