Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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At issue was the definition of “debt collector” under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93, 24, specifically its application to the statute’s licensing requirement. Plaintiffs individually filed suit against Defendant, alleging unlicensed debt collection, violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, and unjust enrichment. A superior court judge consolidated the cases and certified them as a class action. The judge then concluded (1) Defendant violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93, 24A because it operated as a debt collector without a license; and (2) Defendant met the exemption from liability in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 3 because the division of banks of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation had permitted Defendant to operate without a license. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that Defendant was not a debt collector under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93, 24 because neither of the statute’s two separate definitions of “debt collector” applied to Defendant. View "Dorrian v. LVNV Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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A plaintiff who alleges that he was injured from his use of a generic drug because of a failure to warn of the drug’s side effects cannot bring a common-law general negligence claim against the brand-name manufacturer that created the warning label. The plaintiff, however, may bring a common-law recklessness claim against the brand-name manufacturer if it intentionally failed to update the label on its drug, knowing or having reason to know of an unreasonable risk of death or grave bodily injury associated with its use. Further, a plaintiff who is injured by a generic drug due to a failure to warn cannot bring a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9 against a brand-name manufacturer that did not advertise, offer to sell, or sell that drug because such failure did not occur in the conduct of “trade or commerce” as defined in section 1(b). In the instant case, the trial judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Merck & Co, Inc. asserting negligence for failure to warn and a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 9. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order dismissing Plaintiff’s common-law claim and remanded with instructions that Plaintiff be granted leave to amend his complaint and affirmed the order dismissing Plaintiff’s chapter 93A claim. View "Rafferty v. Merck & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Zurich American Insurance Co. committed unfair claim settlement practices in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D, 3(9)(f) and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that Zurich violated these statutory provisions when it conditioned the payment of its primary insurance policy limit on a release of all claims against its insureds, notwithstanding the availability of excess insurance. The superior court judge concluded that Zurich was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it did not engage in unfair claim settlement practices. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Zurich did not engage in unfair claim settlement practices in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D, 3(9)(f) and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2. View "Caira v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Odin Anderson, his wife, and his daughter (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed personal injury action for injuries Odin suffered after being struck by a bus owned by Partners Healthcare Systems that was being driven by one of its employees. Plaintiffs then filed a separate action against Partner’s insurers and claims representatives. A jury awarded Odin $2,961,000 in damages in the personal injury action and awarded Odin’s wife and daughter $110,000 each. At a subsequent jury-waived trial, a judge found that the insurers and claims representatives violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D by their misconduct. The judge awarded Plaintiffs treble damages using as the “amount of the judgment” to be multiplied the combined amount of the underlying tort judgment and the accrued postjudgment interest on that judgment. The appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that, in a case where the amount of actual damages to be multiplied due to a wilful or knowing violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D are based on the amount of an underlying judgment, that amount does not include postjudgment interest. View "Anderson v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh Pa." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this action against Nationstar Mortgage, LLC and Fremont Investment and Loan (collectively, Defendants) alleging that Defendants violated his rights under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The Appeals Court reversed, concluding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to Plaintiff’s chapter 93A claim. Nationstar appealed, arguing that Plaintiff’s claim was barred because he failed to serve a demand letter. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the Appeals Court, holding that, if a defendant keeps assets in the Commonwealth but does not maintain a place of business in the Commonwealth, the plaintiff need not serve a demand letter. View "Moronta v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Limoliner Inc., which owned and operated a fleet of luxury motor coaches, hired Dattco, Inc. to perform repair work on one of those vehicles. While Dattco recorded most of those requests in writing, Dattco neglected to write down Limoliner’s verbal request to repair one of the vehicle’s important electrical components. When Dattco failed to make any repairs to that component, Limoliner commenced this action, alleging, inter alia, that Dattco violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2(a), as interpreted by 940 Code Mass. Regs. 5.05(2), by failing to record Limoliner’s request in writing. Dattco removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Following a jury-waived trial, a magistrate judge found for Dattco on Limoliner’s regulatory claim under 940 Code Mass. Regs. 5.05, concluding that the provision at issue applies only to consumer transactions and not to transactions where the customer is another business. Limoliner appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified a question regarding the issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that 940 Code Mass. Regs. 5.05 does apply to transactions in which the customer is a business entity. View "Limoliner, Inc. v. Dattco, Inc." on Justia Law

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When Samantha Reckis was seven years old, she developed toxic epidermal necrolysis, a life-threatening skin disorder, after receiving multiple doses of Children’s Motrin, an over-the-counter medication with ibuprofen as its active ingredient. Plaintiffs, Samantha and her parents, sued the manufacturer and marketer of Children’s Motrin and its parent company, alleging that Samantha developed TEN as a result of being exposed to ibuprofen in the Children’s Motrin and that the warning label on the medication’s bottle rendered the product defective because it failed to warn consumers about the serious risk of developing a life-threatening disease from it. A jury found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded Samantha a total of $50 million in compensatory damages and each of Samantha’s parents $6.5 million for loss of consortium. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ claim of failure to warn was not preempted by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; (2) a pharmacologist who offered the causation evidence essential to Plaintiffs’ case was qualified to testify as to specific medical causation, and the testimony was reliable and admissible; and (3) the damages awarded to each of the plaintiffs were not grossly excessive or unsupported by the record. View "Reckis v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, twelve residential and business customers of Defendant Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company who lost power during a major ice storm, filed suit on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, asserting claims of gross negligence and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Plaintiffs moved to certify a class, and the parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ chapter 93A claims. In their motion for partial summary judgment, Plaintiffs sought issue preclusive effect of findings made by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in two previous administrative adjudications related to Defendant’s conduct during the storm. The superior court judge (1) denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification; and (2) primarily denied the motions for summary judgment after applying offensive issue preclusion to factual findings made by the DPU. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the judge did not abuse his discretion in declining to certify a class and in applying issue preclusion to facts found after evidentiary hearings at the DPU. View "Bellermann v. Fitchburg Gas & Elec. Light Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff purchased a new vehicle from Dealer that was subject to Manufacturer’s limited warranty. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Manufacturer and Dealer (together, Defendants), alleging that the vehicle was defective and that Defendants failed to repair or remedy the defects under the warranty. Dealer demanded that Manufacturer reimburse Dealer for the attorney’s fees it incurred in defending against Plaintiff’s claims and indemnification for and liability incurred. Plaintiffs claims against Defendants were disposed of through summary judgment and voluntary dismissal. The judge also found that Dealer was not entitled to indemnificationt. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff’s allegations alleged the fault or negligence of both Manufacturer and Dealer, Manufacturer did not have a duty to defend under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93B, 8(a).View "Ferreira v. Chrysler Group LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs refinanced their home in a mortgage loan transaction with Summit Mortgage. The mortgage was later assigned to Defendant, SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. Facing foreclosure, Plaintiffs filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Plaintiffs filed an adversary proceeding against SunTrust in the pending bankruptcy case, seeking rescission of the loan transaction and damages. SunTrust filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that because Plaintiffs filed their adversary complaint more than four years after the mortgage loan transaction, the defensive rescission-by-way-of-recoupment claim was barred by section 10(f) of the Massachusetts Consumer Credit Cost Disclosure Act (“MCCCDA”). In response, Plaintiffs asserted that the four-year statute of limitations did apply to their action because section 10(i)(3) of the MCCCDA allows for recoupment claims at any time. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts certified a question of law to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which answered by holding that a borrower who grants a mortgage in a consumer credit transaction may not rescind the transaction under the MCCCDA defensively by way of common law recoupment after the expiration of the statute of limitations set forth in section 10(f) of the MCCCDA.View "May v. Suntrust Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law