Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Class Action
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Plaintiffs in this class action are a class of all West Virginia citizens who refinanced a total of 2,769 mortgages with Defendant Quicken Loans Inc. (now Rocket Mortgage, LLC) from 2004 to 2009, for whom Quicken Loans obtained appraisals from Defendant appraisal management company Title Source, Inc. (now Amrock Inc.) using a request form that included an estimate of value of the subject property. The district court certified the proposed class and granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs on three claims: unconscionable inducement under West Virginia Code Section 46A-2-121(a)(1); breach of contract; and conspiracy.   Previously the Fourth Circuit concluded that Plaintiffs had standing because all of the class members had paid “for independent appraisals that . . . they never received”. Three months later, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, which addressed Article III standing in the context of a class-action case. Having considered the parties' submissions, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court should apply TransUnion to the facts of this case in the first instance. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Phillip Alig v. Rocket Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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Two former students of Tulane University, on behalf of a putative class of current and former students, sued the University for failing to provide a partial refund of tuition and fees after Tulane switched from in-person instruction with access to on-campus services to online, off-campus instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court agreed with Tulane that the student's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the claim is not barred as a claim of educational malpractice because the Students do not challenge the quality of the education received but the product received. Second, the court rejected Tulane’s argument that the breach-of-contract claim is foreclosed by an express agreement between the parties because the agreement at issue plausibly does not govern refunds in this circumstance. And third, the court concluded that Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Tulane breached an express contract promising in-person instruction and on-campus facilities because Plaintiffs fail to point to any explicit language evidencing that promise. But the court held that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged implied-in-fact promises for in-person instruction and on-campus facilities. Moreover, the court found that the Students’ alternative claim for unjust enrichment may proceed at this early stage. Finally, genuine disputes of material fact regarding whether Plaintiffs saw and agreed to the A&DS preclude reliance on the agreement at this stage. Thus, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged a claim of conversion. View "Jones v. Admin of the Tulane Educ" on Justia Law

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Appellants are patients at medical facilities operated by respondent Centrelake Medical Group. In reliance on Centrelake’s allegedly false representations that it employed reasonable safeguards for patients’ personal identifying information (PII), Appellants entered into contracts with Centrelake. Appellants brought an action against Centrelake on behalf of themselves and a putative class of patients affected by a data breach. The complaint contained causes of action for breach of contract, negligence, and violations of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Centrelake demurred, arguing that Appellants had failed to adequately plead any cognizable injury and that their negligence claim was barred by the economic loss rule. Appellants opposed the demurrer. On appeal, Appellants contend the court erred in sustaining the demurrer with respect to each of their claims and abused its discretion in denying their request for leave to amend.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment with respect to the dismissal of Appellants’ negligence claim without leave to amend, but reverse with respect to Appellants’ UCL and contract claims. The court concluded that Appellants adequately alleged UCL standing and contract damages under their benefit-of-the-bargain theory, and the Appellant who purchased monitoring services, did the same under Appellants’ monitoring-costs theory. However, Appellants have not shown the court erred in dismissing their negligence claim under the economic loss rule; nor have they shown the court abused its discretion in denying their request for leave to amend. View "Moore v. Centrelake Medical Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in two putative class actions took out home mortgage loans from Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), one before and the other after the effective date of certain provisions of the DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“DoddFrank”). The loan agreements, which were governed by the laws of New York, required Plaintiffs to deposit money in escrow accounts for property taxes and insurance payments for each mortgaged property. When BOA paid no interest on the escrowed amounts, Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, claiming that they were entitled to interest under New York General Obligations Law Section 5-601, which sets a minimum 2% interest rate on mortgage escrow accounts. BOA moved to dismiss on the ground that GOL Section 5-601 does not apply to mortgage loans made by federally chartered banks because, as applied to such banks, it is preempted by the National Bank Act of 1864 (“NBA”). The district court disagreed and denied the motion.   The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that (1) New York’s interest-on-escrow law is preempted by the NBA under the “ordinary legal principles of pre-emption,” Barnett Bank of Marion Cnty., N.A. v. Nelson, 517 U.S. 25, 37 (1996), and (2) the Dodd-Frank Act does not change this analysis. GOL Section 5-601 thus did not require BOA to pay a minimum rate of interest, and Plaintiffs have alleged no facts supporting a claim that interest is due. View "Cantero v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law

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Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (“HVCU”) appealed from the district court’s ruling denying HVCU’s motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s putative class action claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and claims under New York law and the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling, holding that the record was insufficiently developed for the district court to deny the motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the record is insufficiently developed on the issue of whether the parties entered into an agreement to arbitrate and, as a consequence, the court wrote it cannot determine the matter of arbitrability “as a matter of law.” Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider further evidence or, if necessary, hold a trial.   The court further explained that it was an error for the district court to engage in the inquiry notice analysis based on the copy of the Internet Banking Agreement, which does not depict the content and design of the webpage as seen by users signing up for online banking. The court wrote that on remand, the district court should consider the design and content of the Internet Banking Agreement as it was presented to users in determining whether Plaintiff assented to its terms. And the district court should assess whether the Account Agreements are clearly identified and available to the users based on the court’s precedents. View "Zachman v. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

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A group of public servants who had contacted Navient for help repaying their loans (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a putative class action lawsuit, alleging that Navient had not “lived up to its obligation to help vulnerable borrowers get on the best possible repayment plan and qualify for PSLF.”   Navient moved to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, which the district court granted in part, dismissing all claims except “the claim brought under New York’s General Business Law Section 349”. The district court certified a class for settlement purposes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and approved the settlement as “fair, reasonable, adequate,” and “in the best interest of the Settlement Class as a whole.”   Two objectors now appeal that judgment, arguing that the district court erred in certifying the class, approving the settlement, and approving service awards of $15,000 to the named Plaintiffs. The Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in making any of these determinations. The court explained that here, the amended complaint plausibly alleged that the named Plaintiffs were likely to suffer future harm because they continued to rely on Navient for information about repaying their student loans. At least six of the named Plaintiffs continue to have a relationship with Navient. That is enough to confer standing on the entire class. Further, the court explained individual class members [in fact] retain their right to bring individual lawsuits,” and the settlement does not prevent absent class members from pursuing monetary claims. View "Hyland v. Navient Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff signed a Financial Responsibility Agreement (“FRA”) with Baylor University to secure her enrollment for the Spring 2020 semester. The FRA required Plaintiff to pay Baylor for “educational services,” and she paid her tuition bill in full. During the second half of the semester, Baylor responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by severely limiting on-campus activities and opportunities while conducting classes remotely. It did not, however, refund any tuition or fees. Plaintiff filed a class action against Baylor asserting a breach of contract claim, alternatively sought unjust enrichment.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, and remanded. The court explained that the FRA is a valid contract because it describes the essential terms with a reasonable degree of certainty and definiteness. Plaintiff failed to state a claim for contract invalidity. But the crux of the parties’ dispute remains the interpretation of “educational services”. The court explained that on remand, the district court must consider whether Baylor’s or Plaintiff’s interpretation of “educational services” prevails. If the term is latently ambiguous, then further proceedings may be necessary to explore its meaning. Also on remand, the court must examine the surrounding circumstances pertinent to the making of the FRA. View "King v. Baylor University" on Justia Law

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Google sent an email to users, such as Plaintiff, who had contributed photos to Google maps but had not yet joined the company’s Local Guides Program, inviting them to join the program. Plaintiff joined the Local Guides program and claimed his terabyte of free Google Drive storage. Google advised him the benefit was for two years, and Plaintiff contended that when he read the initial email, he assumed Google was offering a lifetime benefit. In ruling on Google’s summary judgment motion, the district court considered three documents – the photo impact email, the enrollment page, and the Program Rules - and concluded that they did not constitute a unilateral contract offer for one terabyte of free Google Drive storage for life.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment. The court explained that advertisements are not typically understood as offers, but that rule includes an exception for offers of a reward. The operative question under California law is “whether the advertiser, in clear and positive terms, promised to render performance in exchange for something requested by the advertiser, and whether the recipient of the advertisement reasonably might have concluded that by acting in accordance with the request a contract would be formed.”   The court reasoned that the Google documents at issue neither informed users how they might conclude the bargain, nor invited the performance of a specific act, leaving nothing for negotiation. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Google on Plaintiff’s conversion and breach of contract claims. View "ANDREW ROLEY V. GOOGLE LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court certifying this class action against an auto insurance company brought by Plaintiffs, insureds who incurred medical expenses because of car accidents, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the prerequisites of a class action had been satisfied.Instead of paying Plaintiffs for the full amount of billed medical expenses Defendant instead simply reimbursed them for the actual amount they owed their medical providers after all discounts had been applied. Plaintiffs brought this action that this practice constituted breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The court certified a class action, from which Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it certified this case as a class action. View "Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. v. Baggett" on Justia Law

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Eight named plaintiffs, including two minors, brought a nationwide putative class action against e-commerce provider StockX for allegedly failing to protect millions of StockX users’ personal account information obtained through a cyber-attack in May 2019. Since 2015, StockX’s terms of service included an arbitration agreement, a delegation provision, a class action waiver, and instructions for how to opt-out of the arbitration agreement. Since 2017, StockX's website has stated: StockX may change these Terms without notice to you. “YOUR CONTINUED USE OF THE SITE AFTER WE CHANGE THESE TERMS CONSTITUTES YOUR ACCEPTANCE OF THE CHANGES. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO ANY CHANGES, YOU MUST CANCEL YOUR ACCOUNT.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit and an order compelling arbitration. The court rejected arguments that there is an issue of fact as to whether four of the plaintiffs agreed to the current terms of service and that the defenses of infancy and unconscionability render the terms of service and the arbitration agreement (including the delegation provision) invalid and unenforceable. The arbitrator must decide in the first instance whether the defenses of infancy and unconscionability allow plaintiffs to avoid arbitrating the merits of their claims. View "I. C. v. StockX, LLC" on Justia Law