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

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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The case involves a group of plaintiffs who filed a class-action lawsuit against KIND, LLC, a snack food company. The plaintiffs alleged that the phrase "All Natural" on the labels of KIND's products was deceptive and misleading. They sought damages on behalf of themselves and three classes, based on common law fraud, as well as consumer protection and false advertising laws in New York, California, and Florida.The District Court for the Southern District of New York granted KIND's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the plaintiffs had failed to establish how a reasonable consumer would understand the term "All Natural." The court held that this was fatal to the plaintiffs' claims because without showing how a reasonable consumer understood the term, the plaintiffs could not explain how or why they were materially deceived. The court also granted KIND's motion to preclude two of the plaintiffs' expert opinions from the summary judgment record and to decertify the classes.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision. The appellate court held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in precluding the opinions of the plaintiffs' experts. The court also held that because the plaintiffs failed to present admissible evidence of what a reasonable consumer would expect of KIND products labeled "All Natural," the District Court did not err in concluding that there was no triable issue of fact as to whether reasonable consumers would be misled by the "All Natural" labeling. The court further held that the plaintiffs' arguments regarding class decertification were moot because the District Court's grant of summary judgment was affirmed. View "In re: Kind LLC "Healthy and All Natural" Litigation" on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of patients initiated a class action lawsuit against various hospitals and vendors who provide medical record production services to the hospitals. The plaintiffs alleged that the hospitals and vendors were involved in an illegal kickback scheme, where the vendors charged patients excessive prices for their medical records and used the profits to offer free and discounted pages to the hospitals for other types of medical records. The plaintiffs alleged violations of New York Public Health Law (PHL) § 18(2)(e) (which restricts the price that can be charged for medical records), New York General Business Law (GBL) § 349 (which prohibits deceptive business practices), and unjust enrichment. However, the New York Court of Appeals had previously ruled in Ortiz v. Ciox Health LLC that PHL § 18(2)(e) does not provide a private right of action.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all the plaintiffs' claims. It found that the patients' GBL § 349 and unjust enrichment claims were essentially repackaging their PHL § 18(2)(e) claims, and therefore not cognizable as they attempted to circumvent the Ortiz ruling. The court also held that the plaintiffs failed to allege any actionable wrongs independent of the requirements of PHL § 18(2)(e). The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim, and as such, the district court did not err in granting the defendants' motions for judgment on the pleadings, in denying the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment as moot, and in denying the plaintiffs' leave to file a second amended complaint. View "McCracken v. Verisma Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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il”) in Connecticut state court, alleging that Exxon Mobil had engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception to knowingly mislead and deceive Connecticut consumers about the negative climatological effects of the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil was marketing to those consumers. Based on these allegations, Connecticut asserted eight claims against Exxon Mobil, all under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Exxon Mobil removed the case to federal district court, invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, the federal-officer removal statute, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (the “OCSLA”), as well as on other bases no longer pressed in this appeal. The district court rejected each of Exxon Mobil’s theories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and thus remanded the case to state court. Exxon Mobil appealed.   The Second Appellate affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained that there are only three exceptions to the “general rule” that “absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.” The court reasoned that Exxon Mobil cannot establish Grable jurisdiction simply by gesturing toward ways in which “this case” loosely “implicates” the same subject matter as “the federal common law of transboundary pollution.” The court wrote that because no federal issue is necessarily raised by any of Connecticut’s CUTPA claims, the Grable/Gunn exception from the well-pleaded complaint rule is inapplicable here. View "Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff RSD Leasing Inc., a company that leases and, eventually, resells trucks to other commercial entities, appealed from a district court decision, granting in relevant part summary judgment to Defendants Navistar International Corp. and Navistar, Inc., the manufacturer of several allegedly substandard trucks in RSD’s fleet. The sole question on appeal is whether, for purposes of its purchase of those trucks, RSD qualifies as a “consumer” under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and therefore is eligible to invoke the Act’s protections. In the absence of any on-point Vermont caselaw signaling whether the statute extends “consumer” protections to a business that purchases a good intending exclusively to lease that good to a third party and then to resell it at the end of the lease term, the district court relied in substantial part on two brief passages from the Act’s legislative history, holding that RSD was not acting as a “consumer” when it purchased the trucks at issue.   The Second Circuit wrote that it is unable to confidently predict how the Vermont Supreme Court would decide the matter. Therefore, the court certified to the Vermont Supreme Court the following question: Does a business that purchases goods intending first to lease those goods to end users and then to resell them at the termination of the lease term qualify as a ‘consumer’ under the VCPA? View "RSD Leasing, Inc. v. Navistar Int'l Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff leased a Subaru Forester in November 2018. Defendant Trans Union, LLC received certain information about the lease and reported that information on Sessa’s credit report. In particular, Trans Union reported that Plaintiff owed a “balloon payment” at the end of the lease term -- a payment that the terms of the lease did not, in fact, require. Plaintiff sued Trans Union under section 1681e(b) of the FCRA, which requires credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”), like Trans Union, to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information” in a consumer’s credit report. 15 U.S.C. Section 681e(b). The district court granted Trans Union summary judgment, reasoning that Plaintiff's credit report could not be considered “inaccurate” under section 1681e(b) because the question of whether Plaintiff owed a balloon payment amounted to a legal, rather than factual, dispute.The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded. The court concluded that section 1681e(b) does not incorporate a threshold inquiry as to whether an alleged inaccuracy is “legal” or “factual” in nature. The court, therefore, determined that the district court erred by ending its analysis after it found that the accuracy of the reported balloon payment amounted to a legal dispute and was, therefore, not actionable under section 1681e(b). View "Sessa v. Trans Union, LLC" on Justia Law

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Twenty-eight individuals and businesses commenced this citizen suit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”), which creates a private right of action against any entity that has “contributed . . . to the past or present handling, storage, treatment, transportation, or disposal of any solid or hazardous waste which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.” Plaintiffs complained of elevated levels of radiation detected on their land and seek to hold responsible three entities that operated nearby chemical plants during the twentieth century. The district court dismissed their complaints, holding, among other things, that the radioactive materials found on the plaintiffs’ properties fall outside the scope of RCRA because they were recycled industrial byproducts rather than discarded waste. Defendants raised a host of additional arguments in support of dismissal.   The Second Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court explained that as to Defendants Union Carbide Corporation and Occidental Chemical Corporation, the complaint plausibly alleged the elements of a citizen suit under RCRA, or the Plaintiffs have identified extrinsic evidence that may render amendment fruitful. However, as against defendant Bayer CropScience Inc., there are no particularized allegations from which liability can reasonably be inferred. The court reasoned that there is one probative allegation implicating Bayer: Stauffer’s Lewiston plant was located within 2,000 feet of the Robert Street properties and within a mile of four of the Plaintiffs’ other properties. But proximity alone is insufficient to make Bayer’s contribution plausible. View "Talarico Bros. Bldg. Corp., et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al." on Justia Law

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The National Advertising Division (“NAD”), a self-regulatory organization, concluded that Defendant Young Living Essential Oils, LC’s (“Young Living”) claims that its oils are “therapeutic-grade” and impart physical and/or mental health benefits are “unsupported,” and recommended that Young Living stop making these claims. Plaintiff had already spent money on Young Living’s products, including lavender oil advertised to “promote [a] feeling of calm and fight occasional nervous tension” and peppermint oil that allegedly “helps to  maintain energy levels.” Feeling misled by claims that the products would have effects like “promoting feelings of relaxation & tranquility,” Plaintiff sued, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals, asserting claims under common law and various state statutes that she believes protect consumers like her against companies like Young Living. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit, finding that Young Living’s claims that its products would do things like “help to maintain energy levels” was run-of-the-mill puffery that companies use when trying to persuade potential customers to part with their dollars.   The Second Circuit vacated in part and affirmed in part. The court vacated the district court’s ruling insofar as it dismissed the New York General Business Law claims for being based on statements of non-actionable puffery and the unjust enrichment claim for not satisfying the Rule 9(b) requirement. The court affirmed the ruling as to the dismissal of the breach of warranty claims. The court found that Plaintiff’s stated the circumstances constituting fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Rule 9(b) and certainly with enough particularity to give fair notice of her claim and enable the preparation of a defense. View "MacNaughton v. Young Living Essential Oils, LC" on Justia Law

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A putative class of over 12 million merchants brought this antitrust action under the Sherman Act against Visa U.S.A. Inc., MasterCard International Inc., and numerous banks that serve as payment-card issuers for those networks. Plaintiffs alleged that Visa and MasterCard adopted and enforced rules and practices relating to payment cards that had the combined effect of injuring merchants by allowing Visa and MasterCard to charge supracompetitive fees (known as “interchange fees”) on each payment card transaction. After nearly fifteen years of litigation, the parties agreed to a settlement of roughly $ 5.6 billion, which was approved by the district court over numerous objections. In so doing, $900,000 in service awards was granted to lead plaintiffs, and roughly $523 million was granted in attorneys’ fees. Appellants are various objectors who argue that the district court erred when it certified the class, approved the settlement, granted service awards and computed attorneys’ fees.   The Second Circuit affirmed in all respects the district court’s orders to the extent they constituted a final judgment, with the exception that the court directed the district court to reduce the service award to class representatives to the extent that its size was increased by time spent in lobbying efforts that would not increase the recovery of damages. The court made no ruling as to how damages should be allocated between branded oil companies and their branded service station franchisees, the reasonableness of the special master’s ultimate findings, or the legality of releasing an as-of-yet hypothetical future claim. View "In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust" on Justia Law

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Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) authorizes relief from a final judgment, order, or proceeding based on, among other things, “fraud on the court.” Years after an adverse judgment and unsuccessful appeals in Mazzei v. The Money Store, 829 F.3d 260 (2d Cir. 2016) (“Mazzei I”), Plaintiff sought such relief in district court. He did so after a deposition in a separate, unrelated lawsuit cast doubt on the truthfulness of certain representations that Defendants’ counsel made to the court in Mazzei I. Defendants moved under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the fraud on the court claim, which the district court granted. Plaintiff then moved for reconsideration, which was denied. Plaintiff then appealed these orders.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that Plaintiff failed plausibly to plead a fraud on the court claim. The district court correctly reasoned that the conduct of which he complained had not impaired the court’s ability to fully and fairly adjudicate his case because the fraud alleged could have been redressed in Mazzei I. View "Mazzei v. The Money Store" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that private educational loan was discharged in bankruptcy. He sued Experian under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for reporting the loan was due and owing. The district court concluded the loan was not discharged in bankruptcy and later declined to set aside summary judgment when Plaintiff proffered newly discovered evidence.   The Second Circuit held that the kind of legal inaccuracy alleged by Plaintiff is not cognizable as an “inaccuracy” under the FCRA, thus the court affirmed, on an alternative ground, the district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Experian. Accordingly, the court dismissed as moot Plaintiff’s appeal of the denial of his motion for an indicative judgment. The court explained that Plaintiff has failed to allege an inaccuracy within the plain meaning of section 1681e(b) of the FCRA. The unresolved legal question regarding the application of section 523(a)(8)(A)(i) to Plaintiff’s educational loan renders his claim non-cognizable under the FCRA. The court noted that the holding does not mean that credit reporting agencies are never required by the FCRA to accurately report information derived from the readily verifiable and straightforward application of law to facts. However, the inaccuracy that Plaintiff alleged does not meet this statutory test because it evades objective verification. There is no bankruptcy order explicitly discharging this debt. View "Mader v. Experian" on Justia Law