Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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On the panel's initial hearing of the case, Judge Higginson concluded that the restrictions on the President's removal authority under the Consumer Financial Protection Act are valid and constitutional. Judge Higginson found that neither the text of the United States Constitution nor the Supreme Court's previous decisions support appellants' arguments that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutionally structured, and thus he affirmed the district court's judgment.More than two years later, and after conducting a vote among the circuit judges, the Fifth Circuit vacated its previous opinion and elected to hear the case en banc. View "CFPB v. All American Check Cashing, et al" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's award of fees to class counsel in a class action settlement involving consumers who purchased defective toilet tanks against defendants. The court agreed with Porcelana that the district court erred in calculating the lodestar and refusing to decrease it. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by failing to make any factual findings regarding the nature of the class's unsuccessful claims and an unsupported assertion is insufficient to permit the district court to bypass the proper lodestar calculation and only consider the unsuccessful claims under the eighth Johnson factor. Nor is this a case where the record supports such a conclusion in the absence of an explicit finding by the district court. Even assuming the district court had adequately supported its conclusion that unsuccessful claims were intertwined with those that proved successful, the court stated that the district court still failed to properly analyze the award in relation to the results obtained. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Fessler v. Porcelana Corona de Mexico, S.A. de C.V." on Justia Law

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The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, implemented through the FDA, 21 U.S.C. 387a(b), 393(d)(2), prohibits manufacturers from selling any “new tobacco product” without authorization. The FDA’s 2016, “Deeming Rule” classified electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) as a “new tobacco product.” To avoid an overnight shutdown of the e-cigarette industry, the FDA delayed enforcement of the Deeming Rule then required e-cigarette makers to submit premarket tobacco applications (PMTAs). Originally, the FDA required that all PMTAs be filed by 2018. The FDA later extended the PMTA deadline to 2022 but then moved the deadline to 2020. Initially, the FDA’s guidance stated that “in general, FDA does not expect that applicants will need to conduct long-term studies to support an application” but later changed course and required long-term studies of e-cigarettes.Triton had e-cigarette products on the market before the Deeming Rule. Triton (and others) submitted PMTAs for flavored e-cigarettes. In August 2021, the FDA announced that it would deny the PMTAs for 55,000 flavored e-cigarettes, stating it “likely” needed evidence from long-term studies." Less than a week later, Triton submitted a letter stating that it intended to conduct long-term studies of its products. About two weeks later, the FDA issued Triton a marketing denial order. The Fifth Circuit granted a temporary administrative stay and, later, a full stay, “to prevent the FDA from shutting down Triton’s business” pending disposition of Triton’s petition. View "Wages and White Lion Investments, L.L.C. v. United States Food and Drug Administration" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action complaint alleging that 5 Star negligently, willfully, and/or knowingly sent text messages to his cell phone number using an automatic telephone dialing system without prior express consent in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of standing.The Fifth Circuit reversed, concluding that plaintiff has alleged a cognizable injury in fact: nuisance arising out of an unsolicited text advertisement. The court concluded that the TCPA cannot be read to regulate unsolicited telemarketing only when it affects the home. The court also concluded that plaintiff's injury has a close relationship to common law public nuisance and, moreover, plaintiff alleges a special harm not suffered by the public at large. The court rejected the Eleventh Circuit's holding in Salcedo v. Hanna, 936 F.3d 1162, 1168 n.6 (11th Cir. 2019), and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cranor v. 5 Star Nutrition, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that a private settlement does not constitute a "successful action to enforce . . . liability" under the fee-shifting provision of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The court affirmed the district court's denial of attorney's fees in this case, concluding that the district court did not commit reversible error in refusing plaintiff's fee application under the FDCPA. The court explained that a "successful action to enforce the foregoing liability" means a lawsuit that generates a favorable end result compelling accountability and legal compliance with a formal command or decree under the FDCPA. In this case, plaintiff settled before his lawsuit reached any end result, let alone a favorable one. Furthermore, by settling, Portfolio Recovery avoided a formal legal command or decree from plaintiff's lawsuit. The court stated that plaintiff's alternative interpretation requires rewriting the FDCPA's fee-shifting provision.The court also concluded that, at most, plaintiff's FDCPA suit was the catalyst that spurred Portfolio Recovery to settle. Therefore, the catalyst theory does not make plaintiff's action a successful one under 15 U.S.C. 1692k(a)(3) and thus plaintiff is not entitled to fees. View "Tejero v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Lexington Law and its vendor, Progrexion, for purportedly perpetrating a fraud in which the firm failed to disclose that it was sending letters to the companies in its clients' names and on their behalves. After a jury agreed that defendants violated Texas law in committing fraud and fraud by non-disclosure, the district court set aside the verdict and issued judgment in favor of defendants as a matter of law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs have not shown that defendants committed fraud. In this case, the district court concluded that defendants did not make any false representations (material or otherwise) when signing and sending the dispute letters because Lexington Law had the legal right to sign its clients' names on the correspondence it sent on their behalf to data furnishers who reported inaccurate information about the clients' credit. Furthermore, Progrexion cannot be liable for fraud since it, like Lexington Law, did not make any material misrepresentations. The court also concluded that plaintiffs' fraud by non-disclosure claim must be dismissed because they did not justifiably rely on any failure of defendants to disclose material facts, and plaintiffs have not shown that defendants had a duty to disclose that they were the ones actually sending the dispute letters. Additionally, plaintiffs have not shown that Progrexion disclosed any facts—material or otherwise—and so cannot be liable for fraud by nondisclosure. The court explained that the fact that Lexington Law had the legal right to send dispute letters on their clients behalves and in their names suggests that the firm did not make any false representations, and thus the firm did not create any false impressions requiring disclosure. Finally, plaintiffs waived their conspiracy claim by failing to move for judgment as a matter of law on the claim before and after the case was submitted to the jury or for a new trial. View "The CBE Group, Inc. v. Lexington Law Firm" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the Commission's final rule prohibiting the manufacture and sale of any children's toy or child care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of any one of five phthalates.The Fifth Circuit held that EMCC has standing to bring its challenge to the Final Rule and the court has jurisdiction to review the Final Rule. The court also held that the Commission procedurally erred by not providing an adequate opportunity to comment on the rule and by failing to consider the costs of a portion of the rule. Having reviewed the record and the Final Rule, the court can discern the Commission's path for each of the six decisions at issue and held that its explanations are not "so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise." Because there is a serious possibility that CSPC will be able to remedy its failures, the court concluded that remand, rather than vacatur, was appropriate in this case. View "Texas Association of Manufacturers v. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim under the Fair Debt Practices Act. Plaintiff filed suit after a debt collector spoke with plaintiff's sister over the phone, alleging that the debt collector violated the Act's prohibition on communicating with third parties about a consumer's debt. However, the court concluded that the conversation between plaintiff's sister and the debt collector was not a "communication" as defined by the statute. In this case, even taking the pleaded facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the conversation between the debt collector's representative and plaintiff's sister did not convey any information regarding a debt, either directly or indirectly. Rather, the representative mentioned "an important personal business matter," which does not even suggest the existence of a debt, much less provide information about it. View "Fontana v. HOVG LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Equifax and Experian under the Fair Credit Reporting Act after the consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) deleted a favorable credit item from his credit report and refused to restore it. The court held that plaintiff's 15 U.S.C. 1681e(b) claim fails where this provision does not hold a CRA strictly liable for all inaccuracies, Rather, the adequacy of a CRA's procedures is judged according to what a reasonably prudent person would do under the circumstances. In this case, the omission of a single credit item does not render a report inaccurate or misleading, and plaintiff has not alleged that the CRAs violated their stated disclosure policies or maintained an undisclosed policy of deleting certain favorable items.The court also held that plaintiff's section 1681i(a) claim fails because plaintiff disputed the completeness of his credit report, not of an item in that report. Therefore, plaintiff did not trigger the CRA's section 1681i(a) obligation to investigate. Finally, plaintiff's section 1681i(a)(5)(B)(ii) claim fails because Equifax had no duty to notify plaintiff where Equifax had not removed the credit item, and amending the pleading would be futile. View "Hammer v. Equifax Information Services, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim against SCW. In this case, SCW identified itself as a "debt collector" representing Louisiana and Road Home in connection with the hurricane relief grant plaintiff received, and sought an overpayment per a Road Home Program Agreement. Plaintiff alleged on behalf of herself and a proposed class that SCW violated the FDCPA for its purported use of misrepresentation, false or deceptive means, and unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt that cannot be legally taken.The court held that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff's obligation to pay the Road Home Program did not fall under the FDCPA. The court applied the St. Pierre inquiry and held that plaintiff's obligation of repayment for excess grant money arises from a "transaction," which encompasses consensual agreements and negotiations like the one at issue; plaintiff voluntarily elected to avail herself of disaster relief money in exchange for consent to Road Home's covenants and subrogation agreements; and what plaintiff received in exchange for compliance with Road Home's terms was for the private benefit of a "personal, family, or household" service or good. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Calogero v. Shows, Cali & Walsh, LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law