Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
by
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that pressure tactics used by Quicken Loans and TSI to influence home appraisers to raise appraisal values to obtain higher loan values on their homes constituted a breach of contract and unconscionable inducement under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The district court granted summary judgment to plaintiffs.The Fourth Circuit concluded that class certification is appropriate and that plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on their claims for conspiracy and unconscionable inducement. However, the court concluded that the district court erred in its analysis of the breach-of-contract claim. The court explained that the district court will need to address defendants' contention that there were no damages suffered by those class members whose appraisals would have been the same whether or not the appraisers were aware of the borrowers' estimates of value—which one might expect, for example, if a borrower's estimate of value was accurate. The court agreed with plaintiffs that the covenant of good faith and fair dealing applies to the parties' contract, but concluded that it cannot by itself sustain the district court's decision at this stage. The district court may consider the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing to the extent that it is relevant for evaluating Quicken Loans' performance of the contracts. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part. View "Alig v. Quicken Loans Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint against federal employees in their individual capacities, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), based on sovereign immunity grounds.The court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Lewis v. Clarke, 137 S. Ct. 1285 (2017), does not purport to break from the Court's substantive approach to its real-party-in-interest jurisprudence, and plaintiff supplies the court with no compelling reason to extract any contrary holding. The court explained that the statutory mandate at the center of this case is the requirement that CMS "establish a system" for ensuring that applicants "receive notice of eligibility for an applicable State health subsidy program." The court concluded that, unlike the defendant in Lewis, defendants, as CMS employees, were plainly acting in furtherance of this federal mandate when they signed the contract with GDIT and instructed GDIT to place its automated calls. Therefore, defendants were acting in the course of their official duties and the United States is the real party in interest. View "Cunningham v. Lester" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that PDR Network violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by sending unsolicited advertisements by fax. The district court held that the Hobbs Act did not require it to adopt the FCC's interpretation of the TCPA (the 2006 FCC Rule) because the Hobbs Act does not control when no party "has challenged the validity of the FCC's interpretation of the TCPA." The district court concluded that, under the TCPA, unsolicited fax advertisements are not actionable unless they have a commercial purpose. The district court then determined that PDR Network's fax was not commercial in nature and dismissed the complaint without granting leave to amend.Plaintiff appealed and the Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in conducting a Chevron analysis, and interpreted the 2006 FCC Rule to mean that a fax offering free goods and services qualifies as an "advertisement" under the TCPA, regardless of whether it has an underlying commercial purpose. PDR Network petitioned for certiorari and the Supreme Court granted review. The Supreme Court determined that to the extent to which the 2006 FCC Rule binds the lower courts may depend on the resolution of two preliminary sets of questions that were not aired before the Court of Appeals.On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit resolved the first five of seven issues submitted to the parties by concluding that a remand to the district court for discovery was not necessary; the relevant portions of the 2006 FCC Rule are interpretive rather than legislative; and thus the third, fourth, and fifth issues are moot. In regard to the sixth issue regarding what level of deference (if any) must the district court afford the 2006 FCC Rule, the court declined to decide in the first instance and remanded for the district court to have the first opportunity to perform the applicable analysis. Given the court's remand to the district court to consider what level of deference the court should afford the 2006 FCC Rule and what the proper meaning of "unsolicited advertisement" is in light of that deference, the court found it unnecessary to resolve the issue of whether the district court erred by failing to grant leave to amend. View "Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. v. PDR Network, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying DIRECTV's motion to compel arbitration in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Plaintiff alleged that defendants called her cell phone to advertise DIRECTV products and services even though her telephone number is listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.Because plaintiff signed an acknowledgement expressly agreeing to the arbitration provision of the Wireless Customer Agreement with AT&T, which provision applies to her as an authorized user, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that she did not form an agreement to arbitrate. The court held that plaintiff formed an agreement to arbitrate with DIRECTV where the ordinary meaning of "affiliates" and the contractual context convinced the court that the term includes affiliates acquired after the agreement was signed. Furthermore, in light of the expansive text of the arbitration agreement, the categories of claims it specifically includes, and the parties' instruction to interpret its provisions broadly, the court must conclude that plaintiff's TCPA claims fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mey v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint alleging claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The district court concluded that the entire complaint was time-barred because the more recent violations that plaintiffs alleged were of the "same type" as other violations that occurred outside the one-year limitations period.The court disagreed with the district court's analysis and held that each violation of the FDCPA gives rise to a separate claim governed by its own limitations period. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged at least two potential violations of the FDCPA that are not barred by the one-year limitations period provided by the Act. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Bender v. Elmore & Throop, P.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
by
Plaintiff filed suit against Dish Network, alleging that its sales representative, Satellite Systems Network (SSN), routinely violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by calling numbers on the national Do-Not-Call registry. After the district court certified the class, the case went to trial and Dish ultimately lost.The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly applied the law and prudently exercised its discretion. The court rejected Dish's challenges to class certification and held that the class certified by the district court complied with Article III's requirements; the court rejected Dish's claims of error under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and held that the TCPA supported class-wide resolution of this class; and the court rejected Dish's challenges to the jury findings and held that there was ample evidence for the district court's rationales in the record produced at trial. View "Krakauer v. Dish Network" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs brought a putative class action alleging that between 2009 and 2014 certain lenders participated in "kickback schemes" prohibited by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The district court dismissed the claims because the first of the five class actions was filed after the expiration of the one year statute of limitations.The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that, under the allegations set forth in their complaints, plaintiffs were entitled to relief from the limitations period under the fraudulent concealment tolling doctrine. In this case, plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded that the lenders engaged in affirmative acts of concealment and the court could not conclude as a matter of law that these plaintiffs unreasonably failed to discover or investigate the basis of their claims within the limitations period. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Edmondson v. Eagle National Bank" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff appealed the district court's dismissal of his action against the Department of Education for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Plaintiff's action stemmed from defendants' treatment of an allegedly fraudulent student loan in plaintiff's name. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action based on lack of jurisdiction because Congress had not waived sovereign immunity for suits under the FCRA. The court held that the purported FCRA waiver in this case fell short of being unambiguous and unequivocal. View "Robinson v. US Department of Education" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Propel, alleging violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA). Plaintiff's action stemmed from a tax payment agreement (TPA) he entered into with Propel under Virginia Code section 58.1-3018. Propel then moved to dismiss the TILA and EFTA claims.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Propel's motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiff had standing to bring claims under EFTA because the harm that he alleged was a substantive statutory violation that subjected him to the very risks that EFTA, a consumer protection statute, was designed to protect against. The court also held that the TPA was subject to TILA and EFTA because the TPA was a consumer credit transaction. In this case, the TPA was a credit transaction because it provided for third-party financing of a tax obligation. Furthermore, the TPA was a consumer transaction because, as financing of a real property tax debt, it was a voluntary transaction that plaintiff entered into for personal or household purposes. View "Curtis v. Propel Property Tax Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law
by
These appeal arose from the dismissal of three consumer actions based on Virginia state law claims against Hyundai, regarding misrepresentations the company made regarding EPA estimated fuel economy for the Hyundai Elantra. The Western District of Virginia dismissed with prejudice the claims in all three actions, except one claim in the Gentry action. The Fourth Circuit dismissed the Gentry appeal for lack of jurisdiction because one claim remained pending before the district court. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Adbul-Mumit and Abdurahman actions for failure to satisfy federal pleading standards. The court also affirmed the denial of plaintiffs' post-dismissal request for leave to amend their complaints in those actions. View "Adbul-Mumit v. Alexandria Hyundai, LLC" on Justia Law