In Curiale v. Hyundai Capital America Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division reversed an order denying a motion to compel arbitration by Hyundai’s financing company (“HCA”), based on an arbitration clause in a motor vehicle retail order. The Appellate Division rejected the trial court’s finding that the arbitration clause was ambiguous because it stated that the parties must arbitrate any claims and then explicitly stated that the provision bars “class action arbitration.” The Arbitration clause provided: AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE ANY CLAIMS. READ THE FOLLOWING ARBITRATION PROVISION CAREFULLY, IT LIMITS YOUR RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO MAINTAIN A COURT ACTION. The parties to this agreement agree to arbitrate any claim, dispute, or controversy, including all statutory claims and any state or federal claims, that may arise out of or relating to the sale or lease identified in this agreement. By agreeing to arbitration, the parties understand and agree that they are waiving their rights to maintain other available resolution processes, such as a court action or administrative proceeding, to settle their disputes. … The parties also agree to waive any right (i) to pursue any claims arising under this agreement including statutory, state or federal claims, as a class action arbitration,...
Tagged: New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA” or “NJCFA”)
Appellate Division Creates Split on Learned-Professionals Exception to New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act
In a recent opinion, Shaw v. Shand, the Appellate Division held that home inspectors are not “learned professionals” exempt from liability under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). Instead, the court held that only professionals who have historically been recognized as “learned” based on the requirement of extensive learning or erudition are exempt under the CFA. In Shaw, the plaintiffs hired the defendant, a licensed home inspector, to examine a home for defects. The defendant wrote a report concluding that the property was built with professional workmanship, was made of quality materials, and would only require typical maintenance and upgrades. The plaintiffs purchased the property in reliance on that report. Soon after the plaintiffs made the purchase, however, the property’s front porch collapsed. Plaintiffs then learned that the roof, windows, and sliding glass doors all leaked and required complete replacement and that the driveway would need to be replaced as well. They then discovered that the house had a significant mold problem. At the time the Appellate Division decided Shaw, the plaintiffs had spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing those conditions, and expected to spend tens of thousands more. Defendant’s inspection of plaintiffs’ home was his first as...
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...
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.