In a precedential decision interpreting the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), the Third Circuit determined that an automobile insurance carrier may be liable under the CFA for deceptively inducing one of its customers into releasing claims against another party represented by the carrier. In Alpizar-Fallas v. Favero, Defendant’s car struck Plaintiff’s vehicle, causing serious injury and damages. Both parties were insured by Defendant’s insurance company, Progressive. A Progressive claims adjuster arrived at Plaintiff’s home and presented her with a document that he claimed required her signature. The adjuster represented that by signing the document Plaintiff would expedite the claim process. Plaintiff signed the document relying on the adjuster’s statements. The document, however, was a “comprehensive general release of any and all claims” against defendant driver, also insured by Progressive. Plaintiff was not advised by the adjuster to seek counsel. Plaintiff subsequently brought a putative class action against Progressive for violation of the CFA. On Progressive’s motion, the district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims, reasoning that the CFA did not apply to “an insurance company’s refusal to pay benefits” but only to the “sale or marketing” of the policies. On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed, holding that the district court mischaracterized...
Tagged: New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA” or “NJCFA”)
Third Circuit Affirms the Dismissal of a Putative Class Action against TD Bank for Failure to Meet Pleading Requirements
Last month, the Third Circuit upheld the dismissal of a putative class action against TD Bank, finding that plaintiffs’ conclusory allegations lacked sufficient evidence and failed to satisfy Rule 9(b)’s heightened pleading standard for claims that sound in fraud. In MZL Capital Holdings, Inc. et al. v. TD Bank, N.A. et al., two account holders with TD Bank filed a proposed class action accusing the Bank of obscuring its exchange rates and improperly charging an embedded fee for converting foreign currency, thereby defrauding its customers in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Shortly thereafter, plaintiffs amended their complaint to add claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of numerous other state consumer-protection laws. TD Bank moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ claims for failure to state a claim, and the District Court granted TD Bank’s motion, dismissing all of plaintiffs’ claims. On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, concluding that plaintiffs’ claims were inadequately pled. At the outset, the Court re-affirmed the basic principle that claims brought under the Consumer Fraud Act sound in fraud and therefore must comply with Rule 9(b)’s particularity requirement. The Third...
Class Certification of TCCWNA Claims Dealt a Serious Blow by NJ Supreme Court in Dugan v. TGI Fridays and Bozzi v. Restaurant Partners, LLC
On October 4, 2017, the Supreme Court of New Jersey dealt a subtle but serious blow to “no injury” TCCWNA class actions. In consolidated appeals, Dugan v. TGI Fridays and Bozzi v. Restaurant Partners, LLC, the plaintiffs had argued that the defendant restaurant operators violated the plaintiffs’ clearly established rights by failing to list prices for beverages on their menus, that the restaurants were required to plainly mark the prices, and that when the restaurants’ employees presented menus to customers (class members), they “offered” contracts that violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) and the Truth-in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”). However, the Court concluded that class certification was not appropriate because individual, rather than common, issues would predominate in proving TCCWNA’s “aggrieved consumer” and “clearly established legal right” requirements. The fundamental take-away from the Supreme Court’s analysis of TCCWNA’s “aggrieved consumer” requirement is that simply demonstrating that a consumer contract offends TCCWNA does not establish liability under the Act, because “[b]y its very terms, TCCWNA . . . does not apply when a defendant fails to provide the consumer with a required writing.” Rather, “at a minimum, a claimant must prove that he or she was...
In Suit Alleging Misleading Employment Rates, Third Circuit Rejects Class Certification Premised Upon Invalid Damages Theory
The Third Circuit recently affirmed a decision from the District Court of New Jersey denying class certification in an action alleging that Widener University School of Law defrauded its students by publishing and marketing misleading statistics about graduates’ employment rates. In its precedential opinion adjudicating plaintiffs’ interlocutory appeal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f), the Third Circuit concluded that although the District Court misconstrued plaintiffs’ damages theory, the error was harmless because the Court would have nonetheless concluded that plaintiffs failed to satisfy the predominance requirement. This opinion, authored by Circuit Judge Chagares, is an example of defendants defeating class certification when plaintiffs cannot proffer a valid method of proving class-wide damages, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court in Comcast v. Behrend several years ago.
Notwithstanding a recent trend of seemingly anti-arbitration decisions in the state courts, a New Jersey District Court recently dismissed a consumer fraud complaint that it found to be duplicative of a prior arbitration award. In 2009, the plaintiff purchased a vehicle, and then leased an additional car from the same dealer in 2010. Despite signing agreements to arbitrate with the dealer, the plaintiff filed a complaint in state court against the dealer, Metro Honda, which was dismissed on the ground that the arbitration agreements were enforceable and required her to arbitrate her dispute. Plaintiff filed a demand for arbitration, citing a variety of consumer fraud statutes. An arbitration award was entered denying all of the plaintiff’s claims, and she neither appealed nor moved to vacate or modify the award.
Doomed CFA and TCCWNA Claims for Proposed Health Club Class Action Lead District Court to Question CAFA Jurisdiction
The District of New Jersey’s recent decision in Truglio v. Planet Fitness, Inc. provides valuable lessons on pleading claims under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”), and Health Club Services Act (“HCSA”). Not only does the district court’s opinion reinforce the requirement of an ascertainable loss to sustain a CFA claim, but it also confirms that omissions are not actionable under the TCCWNA. Moreover, the district court’s conclusion that the plaintiff in this putative class action did not plead an ascertainable loss directly called into question the subject matter jurisdiction of the court: is there $5 million in controversy under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) if the plaintiff has not alleged an ascertainable loss? Read below for more on this case, and stay tuned for additional developments after supplemental briefing on the CAFA issue.
Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to New Jersey’s Requirement of Express Waiver Language for Enforcement of Arbitration Provision in Consumer Contracts
The Supreme Court of the United States declined to review the New Jersey Supreme Court decision in U.S. Legal Services Group v. Atalese, holding that an arbitration provision in a consumer contract was not enforceable because the contract’s language waiving the consumer’s right to sue was not clear and unambiguous. The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision, which affects the enforceability of arbitration provisions interpreted under New Jersey law, directs that such provisions must clearly notify the parties of their waiver of the right to bring a lawsuit.
In Myska, et al. v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. et al., New Jersey’s Appellate Division recently upheld a pre-discovery striking of a complaint’s class allegations and dismissal of its Consumer Fraud Act claims because the complaint, the underlying policies, and other documents referenced by the complaint showed that class treatment was not warranted and that the plaintiffs could not prevail on their Consumer Fraud Act claims.
Third Circuit Confirms Prospective Application of New Jersey Supreme Court’s Shelton Decision, Dooming Underlying Class Action
In a recent precedential decision, the Third Circuit, in Bohus, et al. v. Restaurant.com, held that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Shelton decision — responding to a question of law certified by the Third Circuit as to the proper interpretation of the Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”) — may be applied prospectively, thus defeating the class claims and leaving only two individual claims for a $100 penalty.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds the UTPCPA’s “Ascertainable Loss” Requirement Cannot Be Manufactured by Voluntarily Hiring Counsel and Incurring Litigation Costs
In Grimes v. Enterprise Leasing Co. of Phila., LLC, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the retention of counsel to institute suit alone does not constitute “ascertainable loss” under the state’s consumer protection statute. The plaintiff in Grimes had rented a car from an Enterprise branch in Philadelphia and apparently declined to purchase Collision Damage Waiver or Loss Damage Waiver coverage.