Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that Coca‐Cola violated several provisions of New York State law through misleading naming and marketing of its soft drink "Diet Coke." The court held that when included in a soft drink title, the adjective "diet" (1) refers specifically to caloric content rather than a generic promise of weight‐loss, and (2) carries a primarily relative (in relation to the non‐diet soft drink equivalent), rather than an absolute, meaning. Therefore, the court found that plaintiffs' allegations of false statements or conduct implausible on their face and held that the district court properly dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). View "Geffner v. The Coca-Cola Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Thomson Reuters' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging claims under the Federal Consumer Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff filed suit after a background check performed using Thomson Reuters' subscription-based internet platform, "CLEAR," falsely reported that plaintiff had been previously convicted of theft. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that Thomson Reuters is not a "consumer reporting agency" and was therefore not subject to the FCRA. In this case, Thomson Reuters did not intend for its CLEAR platform to furnish "consumer reports." View "Kidd v. Thomson Reuters Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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A Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) violation "occurs," for the purposes of the FDCPA's one‐year statute of limitations, when an individual is injured by the alleged unlawful conduct. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants on plaintiff's FDCPA claim. The court held that plaintiff's claim was time-barred because plaintiff filed suit one year and one day after Citibank froze his accounts. Furthermore, even if the discovery rule applied to FDCPA claims as a general matter, plaintiff's claim was still time-barred. Finally, plaintiff was not entitled to equitable tolling because he did not diligently pursue his rights. View "Benzemann v. Houslanger & Associates, PLLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against AEO, alleging that unsolicited spam text messages they received were in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. After the parties agreed to settle, third party defendant Experian objected to certification, arguing that plaintiffs lacked standing under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016). Class member Bowes objected to the settlement as unfair. The district court approved both the settlement and certified the settlement class. The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs' receipt of the unsolicited text messages, without any other injury, was sufficient to demonstrate injury-in-fact. The court held that plaintiffs were not required to demonstrate any additional harm because the nuisance and privacy invasion attendant on spam texts were the very harms with which Congress was concerned when enacting the Act. Furthermore, history confirms that causes of action to remedy such injuries were traditionally regarded as providing bases for lawsuits in English or American courts. Therefore, the court dismissed Experian's appeal. The court affirmed with respect to Bowes' appeal, because the district court acted within its discretion in approving the class settlement. View "Melito v. Experian Marketing Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging violations of Vermont and federal law when the terms of their loan agreements provided for interest rates well in excess of caps imposed by Vermont law. Plaintiffs sought an injunction against tribal officers in charge of Plain Green and an award of money damages against other defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss and motion to compel arbitration. The court held that tribal sovereign immunity did not bar this suit because plaintiffs may sue tribal officers under a theory analogous to Ex parte Young for prospective, injunctive relief based on violations of state and substantive federal law occurring off of tribal lands. The court also held that the arbitration clauses of the loan agreements were unenforceable and unconscionable. View "Gingras v. Think Finance, Inc." on Justia Law

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A debt collection letter that informs the consumer of the total, present quantity of his or her debt satisfies 15 U.S.C. 1692g notwithstanding its failure to inform the consumer of the debt's constituent components or the precise rates by which it might later increase. Such a letter does not violate section 1692e for failure to inform the consumer that his or her balance might increase due to interest or fees when the letter contains the "safe harbor" language previously ratified in Avila v. Riexinger & Associates, LLC, 817 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 2016). In this case, after plaintiff received a debt collection letter from CMS, he filed suit against the company under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims, holding that CMS's letter complied with sections 1692g and 1692e. View "Kolbasyuk v. Capital Management Services, LP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action against Direct Energy, alleging breach of contract, deceptive and unfair trade practices, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiff had entered into a consumer electricity contract with Direct Energy which initially guaranteed a fixed electricity rate. Consistent with the terms of the contract, the fixed‐rate plan was converted into a variable rate plan after the first twelve months. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Direct Energy and held that, by the contract's plain terms, Direct Energy promised that the variable rate would be set in its discretion and that it would reflect "business and market conditions," a phrase which encompasses more than just procurement costs. Because plaintiff's claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act were entirely duplicative of his contract claim, they also failed. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's unjust enrichment and Massachusetts unfair trade practices claims. View "Richards v. Direct Energy Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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The FTC filed suit alleging that defendants' debt collection practices violated several provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the FTC. Because Defendant Moses submitted no brief prior to the deadline submission set by the court, the court dismissed the appeal under Local Rule 31.2(d). The court also held that the disgorgement assessed jointly and severally against all defendants, including Briandi and Moses, was in an appropriate amount because it was a reasonable approximation of the total amounts received by the defendant companies from consumers as a result of their unlawful acts. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Federal Check Processing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Consumers who purchased Cheez‐It crackers labeled "whole grain" or "made with whole grain," filed a class action complaint against Kellogg, alleging that the whole grain labels were false and misleading in violation of New York and California consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Second Circuit vacated, holding that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiffs' complaint because, under the proper standards for reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), plaintiffs plausibly alleged that the whole grain labels would lead a reasonable consumer to believe, incorrectly, that the grain in whole grain Cheez‐Its was wholly or predominantly whole grain. In this case, the whole grain claims failed to communicate that the quantity of enriched white flour exceeded the quantity of whole grain. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mantikas v. Kellogg Company" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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When a debt collector misreports a debt obligation to a consumer that she no longer owes, and requests payment on that debt, the consumer plausibly alleges violations of 15 U.S.C. 1692e and 1692f, notwithstanding the fact that the debt collector advised the consumer of her right to dispute the debt as required by section 1692g, and that the consumer did not exercise that right.      The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when defendant used false representations and unfair practices in seeking payment on an already settled debt. The court held that plaintiff alleged plausible FDCPA claims. In this case, the inclusion of section 1692g notice did not prevent plaintiff from plausibly pleading that, on a least sophisticated consumer standard, defendant's debt communication was misleading and unfair. The court explained that the FDCPA was a strict liability statute, and a consumer was not required to plead mens rea to state plausible FDCPA claims. Instead, a debt collector's intent was relevant as an element of the affirmative defense afforded by section 1692k(c). View "Vangorden v. Second Round, LP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law