Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Sometime after loan servicing duties on Robin and Kathleen Jacobsens’ loan was transferred to Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, Bayview initiated foreclosure proceedings. The Jacobsens filed this action to enjoin the sale of their house at a trustee’s sale. The district court canceled the trustee’s sale, and the Jacobsens amended their complaint to add Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims against Bayview. The trial court awarded money damages to the Jacobsens under the FDCPA and the MCPA. After the trial, the court imposed an additional amount in damages, finding that Bayview was in violation of the FDCPA, the MCPA, and the district court’s order in the case prohibiting debt collection by bay view during the pendency of the action. Thereafter, the district court concluded that Bayview committed a second violation of the order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that Bayview violated the FDCPA and the MCPA; (2) the district court properly determined damages incurred by the Jacobsens as a result of Bayview’s actions and supported those conclusions with substantial evidence; and (3) the Jacobsens were entitled to attorney fees and costs on appeal. View "Jacobson v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Facing more than $40,000 in unsecured debt that she owed to Discover Bank and other banks, Susan Ossello enrolled in a debt reduction program and signed a contract with Global Client Solutions. Ossello subsequently stopped making payments on her credit card debt, and Discover Bank brought a collection action against her. Ossello filed a third-party complaint against Global, alleging that Global used deceptive and fraudulent representations to solicit her participation in an illegal debt settlement plan. Global filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The district court concluded that the arbitration clause in Global’s contract was unconscionable and not unenforceable and therefore denied Global’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) reserving to itself the determination of arbitrability, and (2) declaring that the arbitration provision was unconscionable and therefore not enforceable against Ossello. View "Discover Bank v. Ossello" on Justia Law

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Continental Partners bought a lot with two building pads from Yellowstone Development that was part of the Yellowstone Club subdivision. The purchase and sale agreement included an assurance that the houses Continental intended to build on the lot would have ski-in and gravity ski-out access built by the Yellowstone Club. During construction, Continental sold the homes to separate buyers, including the managing member of WLW Realty Partners, LLC. Before construction on the ski-out access on the two homes had begun, the Yellowstone Club filed for bankruptcy protection. The subsequent owners of Yellowstone Club informed the new owners that ski-out access to the homes would not be constructed. WLW Realty filed this action against Continental, alleging, inter alia, negligent misrepresentation and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for WLW Realty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by (1) imposing liability on Continental for negligent misrepresentation, as WLW Realty failed to satisfy the first and second elements of the tort; and (2) finding that Continental had violated the MCPA, as Continental did not engage in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. View "WLW Realty Partners, LLC v. Continental Partners VIII, LLC" on Justia Law

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Forquest Ventures was formed to operate a placer mining enterprise in Helena, Montana. Ken Hagman relied on purported assay reports of the site allegedly performed by Advanced Analytical before incorporating Forquest. Following incorporation, Forquest sold or issued stock to investors, including Investors. Because there was little precious metal content at the site, Forquest realized no profits and Investors received no return on their investments. Emilio and Candice Garza, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated Forquest investors, sued. The Garzas then filed an amended complaint adding the other Investors as named plaintiffs. Forquest filed a third-party complaint against Advanced Analytical. The district court granted summary judgment to Investors on their Montana Securities Act (Act) claims and granted Advanced Analytical’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly determined that Investors timely asserted their claims under the Act; (2) did not err in determining that the non-Garza Investors’ claims relate back to the original complaint’s filing date; (3) correctly determined that there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding Forquest’s failure to use reasonable care in the sale of securities to Investors; but (4) erred in dismissing Advanced Analytical for lack of personal jurisdiction. View "Garza v. Forquest Ventures, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jim Hein hired John Sott and his companies (collectively, Sott) to construct a log home for him and then, later, an addition to the home. Hein eventually filed a complaint against Sott alleging negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The district court dismissed Hein’s claims related to the construction of the home as time-barred and then dismissed Hein’s remaining claims on the ground that Hein had not provided expert evidence that Sott’s work was either defective or caused Hein damage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly determined that Hein’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims arising from water damage to his home were barred by the statute of repose; (2) did not err in determining that Hein’s CPA claims for damages arising two years before Hein filed his complaint were barred by the statute of limitations but erred in determining that Hein’s CPA claims based on alleged deceptive acts or practices in the performance of repairs occurring less than two years before Hein filed his complaint were barred by the statute of limitations; and (3) erred in determining that Hein was required to produce expert evidence for his CPA claim arising from Sott’s billing for work on the addition. View "Hein v. Sott" on Justia Law

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During Plaintiff’s marriage dissolution proceedings, Nancy Smith served as guardian ad litem for Plaintiff’s children. After Plaintiff stopped paying bills to Smith, Smith assigned the unpaid bills to Collection Professionals, Inc. (CPI). CPI filed a complaint to collect the debt. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed this action alleging, among other claims, that Collection Professionals, Inc. (CPI) violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by attempting to collect a false debt. CPI counterclaimed for the amount owed for Smith’s services. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of CPI and Smith. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly awarded summary judgment to CPI on Plaintiff’s FDCPA claim because the FDCPA did not apply under the circumstances of this case; (2) correctly awarded summary judgment to Smith; and (3) correctly awarded CPI $7,408 in damages plus interest. View "Amour v. Collection Prof’ls, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Karrie Lynn Serrania went to Discovery Dental Group, PLLC (DDG) for a toothache, DDG referred her account to LPH, Inc., a debt collection agency. Serrania later sued LPH and DDC, alleging, among other claims, that LPH violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). LPH and DDG counterclaimed for breach of contract. The district court (1) sanctioned Serrania’s attorney for failing to attend a pretrial conference, (2) entered summary judgment against Serrania on the contract and FDCPA claims, and (3) sanctioned Serrania and her attorney for their conduct in the course of litigation. After the district court entered judgment, Serrania underwent bankruptcy, and her dental debts and the district court’s orders were discharged. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part, holding (1) some of Serrania’s arguments on appeal are moot, but her appeal of the district court’s summary judgment order on her FDPCA claim is live, and her attorney has an interest in overturning the sanctions entered against him; (2) the district court correctly entered judgment to LPH on the FDCPA claim; and (3) the district court erred in ordering Serrania and her attorney jointly to pay $24,797 to DDG and $41,113 to LPH as sanctions. View "Serrania v. LPH, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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Abraham and Betty Jean Morrow filed a request for a modification of their home loan, serviced by Bank of America, through the federal Home Affordable Modification Program. Bank of America denied the modification and scheduled a trustee’s sale of the property. The Morrows subsequently filed a complaint against Bank of America based on the bank’s alleged breach of an oral contract for modification of their loan. The district court granted summary judgment to Bank of America, concluding (1) the Morrows’ claims for breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) were barred by the Statute of Frauds; and (2) the Morrows could not succeed on their claims of negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing because Bank of America owed no duty to the Morrows. The Supreme Court reversed as to the negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and violations of MCPA claims, holding that Bank of America owed a duty to the Morrows, genuine issues of material fact existed as to some claims, and the Statute of Frauds did not preclude the remainder of the Morrows’ claims. View "Morrow v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law

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The Leonards entered into contracts with Centennial for the sale of a log home kit and construction of a custom log home. The Leonards later released Centennial from any claims for damages for defective construction or warranty arising out of the home's construction. Greg and Elvira Johnston held a thirty-six percent interest in the property at the time the release was signed. Eventually, all interest in the property was transferred to the Elvira Johnston Trust. A few years later, because of a number of construction defects affecting the structural integrity of the house, the Johnstons decided to demolish the house. The Johnstons sued Centennnial for negligent construction, breach of statutory and implied warranties, and other causes of action. The district court granted summary judgment for Centennial, finding that the Johnstons' claims were time-barred and were waived by the Leonards' release. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court's ruling that the Johnstons' claims were time-barred and directed that the decision on remand apply only to the interest owned by the Johnstons at the time the release was executed; and (2) affirmed the district court's conclusion that the release was binding on the Leonards' sixty-four percent interest, later transferred to the Trust. View "Johnston v. Centennial Log Homes & Furnishings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased a vehicle and an extended service contract for the vehicle from Defendant. Plaintiff signed several transactional documents, including a buyer's guide, a retail installment contract, and a retail purchase agreement, all of which contained statements providing that Defendant would not pay for costs for any repairs and that Defendant expressly disclaimed all express and implied warranties. The vehicle subsequently required repairs, which Defendant refused to pay for. Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking damages for Defendant's alleged failure to honor implied warranties of the vehicle. The justice court held that Defendant disclaimed implied warranties for the vehicle. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed on alternate grounds, holding (1) Defendant failed effectively to disclaim implied warranties on the vehicle; but (2) Plaintiff's breach of warranty claim failed for lack of evidence necessary to satisfy the elements of breach and causation. View "Payne v. Berry's Auto, Inc." on Justia Law