Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
Heinz v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Carrington on plaintiff's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim. The court agreed with the district court that Carrington's alleged misrepresentations and unfair conduct were not made or carried out in connection with an attempt to collect a debt, and thus plaintiff failed to allege a claim under the Act.In this case, the communications at issue were not made in connection with an attempt to collect on the underlying mortgage debt. Although the boilerplate disclosures section of each letter stated "for the purpose of collecting a debt," these types of boilerplate mini-Miranda disclosures do not automatically trigger the protections of the Act. Rather, the court looked to the substance of the letter, which did not try to induce plaintiff to pay his outstanding debt. View "Heinz v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Schulte v. Conopco, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action against numerous companies for violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) through their marketing of men's and women's antiperspirants. Plaintiff alleges that Conopco, Inc.—doing business as Unilever—discriminates based on gender in pricing two Dove product lines.The court concluded that plaintiff mistakes gender-based marketing for gender discrimination where she ignores the fact that the different scents, packaging, and labels make the products potentially attractive to different customers with different preferences. Because preference-based pricing is not necessarily an unfair practice, the MMPA does not prohibit defendants' pricing here. View "Schulte v. Conopco, Inc." on Justia Law
Klein v. The Affiliated Group, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against two debt collectors, TAG and CMLP, alleging that they violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in attempting to collect debt related to her treatment at North Memorial Health Care.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the debt collectors, concluding that the assignment of a contract is enough to put the assignee into privity with an original party to that contract under Minnesota law. In this case, the record before the district court established that there was a written agreement between North Memorial and CMLP due to TAG's assignment. Therefore, there is no dispute over a material fact and summary judgment on this issue was proper. The court also concluded that the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment under 15 U.S.C. 1692(e) where CMLP was the valid assignee of the contract between North Memorial and TAG; CMLP could legally take action to collect that debt on behalf of North Memorial, and CMLP did not violate section 1692e by saying as much; and even viewing all of this from the perspective of the unsophisticated consumer, no reasonable jury would believe that there was any deception. Finally, the court concluded that the district court properly interpreted section 1692e(5) and 1692f(1) and that, because TAG and CMLP are not hospital organizations and do not operate hospital facilities, the Treasury Department regulations governing North Memorial do not apply. View "Klein v. The Affiliated Group, Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Stewart, Zlimen & Jungers, Ltd.
In these consolidated cases, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) against the same debt-collecting law firm, SZJ. Plaintiffs' claims arose out of SZJ's collection activities related to alleged debts that plaintiffs owed to one of SZJ's clients, LVNV Funding.The court concluded that, because plaintiffs did not plead any additional facts to indicate that SZJ took anything but a good faith legal position in its prayer for relief, the complaints failed to state plausible claims that SZJ made false, deceptive, or misleading representations in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1692e. The court also concluded that, even though SZJ failed to meet its evidentiary burden as set forth in the Amended Standing Order, it was entitled to bring a good faith claim to collect alleged debts and plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim for relief under 15 U.S.C. 1692f(1). View "Smith v. Stewart, Zlimen & Jungers, Ltd." on Justia Law
Reygadas v. DNF Associates, LLC
DNF purchased a debt that plaintiff owed to a retailer, hired a law firm, and brought a collection action in state court. Plaintiff hired her own lawyer and moved to dismiss for insufficient process and service of process. The state court dismissed the claim after DNF did not respond. DNF then hired RGS, a licensed debt collection agency, and RGS sent plaintiff a letter offering to settle.Plaintiff then filed this action alleging, inter alia, that DNF violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and the Arkansas Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (AFDCPA). Plaintiff claimed that RGS contacted her directly without consent of her attorney. The district court denied DNF's motion for summary judgment and granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on the question of DNF's liability. Plaintiff then accepted a $4,000 offer of judgment and final judgment was entered in her favor.Having considered the plain meaning of the statute's text, together with the structure of the FDCPA, the Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in ruling as a matter of law that DNF is a "debt collector" under 15 U.S.C. 1692a(6). The court does not hold that any purchaser of defaulted consumer debt qualifies as a "debt collector" under the "principal purpose" definition. The court also does not hold that any debt buyer that hires an independent debt collector thereby becomes a debt collector under section 1692a(6).The court held that plaintiff cannot recover from DNF based on a theory of vicarious liability for RGS's action because it is undisputed that RGS did not have knowledge plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Furthermore, RGS's acts cannot be imputed to DNF to establish direct liability. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Reygadas v. DNF Associates, LLC" on Justia Law
Adeli v. Silverstar Automotive
Plaintiff filed suit against Silverstar, alleging that it intentionally misrepresented the condition of the used Ferrari it sold him. A jury awarded plaintiff $20,201 in compensatory and incidental damages and $5.8 million in punitive damages on his claims for fraud, breach of express warranty, and deceptive trade practices under Arkansas law. The district court subsequently denied Silverstar's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law but partially granted its motion to alter or amend the judgment, reducing the jury's punitive damages award to $500,000.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to establish justifiable reliance on Silverstar's misrepresentations about the conditions of the car; the district court did not err in denying Silverstar's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's fraud claim where an "as is" clause does not bar an action by the vendee based on claims of fraud or misrepresentation; and the court need not address whether Silverstar should have been granted judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's other claims for breach of warranty and deceptive trade practices, because Arkansas law allows a successful fraud plaintiff to recover compensatory, incidental, and punitive damages. The court also held that the district court did not err in reducing the punitive damages award, because the award was grossly excessive and in violation of the due process clause. View "Adeli v. Silverstar Automotive" on Justia Law
Hale v. Emerson Electric Co.
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order certifying a nationwide class of plaintiffs in a case involving allegedly deceptive advertising practices. The action arose out of allegedly deceptive advertising associated with RIDGID brand vacuums. The district concluded that all class members' claims would be governed by Missouri law and thus determined class resolution was appropriate.The court held that the claims of non-Missouri residents did not relate to “trade or commerce . . . in or from the state of Missouri” and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act could not be applied to them. The court also held that the district court should have conducted separate choice of law analyses for the breach of warranty and unjust enrichment claims. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hale v. Emerson Electric Co." on Justia Law
Golan v. FreeEats.com, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit against numerous parties, alleging violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The Eighth Circuit revisited its prior holding in this case because of an intervening decision from the Supreme Court. The court held that, even under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1549 (2016), plaintiffs suffered a concrete injury when they received the two answering machine messages and thus have Article III standing.The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give the jury plaintiffs' preferred instruction on direct liability regarding Defendant Leininger, who hired Defendant ccAdvertising, which made the calls in violation of the TCPA. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in reducing the award of statutory damages against ccAdvertising, because the larger award would violated the Due Process Clause. View "Golan v. FreeEats.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Alleruzzo v. SuperValu, Inc.
A group of customers filed suit against SuperValu after hackers accessed customer financial information from hundreds of grocery stores operated by defendant. The Eighth Circuit previously affirmed the dismissal of all but one of the suit's named plaintiffs for lack of standing and, on remand, the district court dismissed the remaining plaintiff for failure to state a claim and denied plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend.The court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for leave to amend because plaintiffs' postjudgment motion was untimely. The court also held that the remaining plaintiff's allegations fell short of stating a claim for relief under Illinois law for negligence, consumer protection, implied, contract, and unjust enrichment. View "Alleruzzo v. SuperValu, Inc." on Justia Law
Klein v. Credico Inc.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Credico's motion to dismiss a complaint alleging that the content of a debt collection letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The court held that plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead that Credico violated the Act by using "PROFESSIONAL DEBT COLLECTORS" and the acronym "CCB" because they were organization names other than Credico's true name. Furthermore, Credico did not violate the Act by having a non-licensed signatory on the letter, because there were two other licensed signatories in the letter. Finally, under Minnesota law, Credico was permitted to seek prejudgment interest. View "Klein v. Credico Inc." on Justia Law