Tagged: Consumer Fraud

New Appellate Division Decision Highlights Limited Scope of Review of Arbitration Awards

In a recent to-be-published opinion, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that parties may not agree to expand the scope of judicial review of an arbitral award in an arbitration agreement governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which does not permit courts to vacate or modify awards for errors of fact or law. The case, Strickland v. Foulke Management Corp., arose out of the plaintiffs’ purchase of a used car from the defendant. The parties executed an arbitration agreement, which provided that it was governed by the FAA except as provided elsewhere in the agreement. The agreement also stated that the arbitrator should render a decision only in conformity with New Jersey law and that a court may reverse the award based on “mere errors of New Jersey law.” The defendant repossessed the vehicle after the plaintiffs missed several monthly payments. The plaintiffs filed an arbitration demand asserting violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and other state and federal statutes, as well as common law fraud. Following an arbitration hearing, the arbitrator entered an award dismissing all of the plaintiffs’ claims, finding that the claims were barred by contractual limitations periods contained in the arbitration agreement and other purchase documents and also that they lacked merit. The plaintiffs sought to vacate the...

New Jersey Appellate Division Continues to Hold Sky-High Bar for Arbitration Clauses

In determining the enforceability of arbitration agreements, the New Jersey Appellate Division recently considered the interplay of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Kindred Nursing Ctrs. v. Clark and the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Grp., L.P. In Defina v. Go Ahead and Jump 1, the Appellate Division held that Kindred Nursing did not abrogate the holding in Atalese. In Defina, the plaintiff, a minor, broke his ankle while playing trampoline dodgeball at Defendant’s facility. Plaintiff’s father had signed a document entitled “Participation Agreement, Release, and Assumption of Risk,” which contained the following arbitration provision: If there are any disputes regarding this agreement, I on behalf of myself and/or my child(ren) hereby waive any right I and/or my child(ren) may have to a trial and agree that such dispute shall be brought within one year of the date of this Agreement and will be determined by binding arbitration before one arbitrator to be administered by JAMS pursuant to its Comprehensive Arbitration Rules and Procedures. . . . Plaintiffs sued, and the trial court granted Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed, holding that “the arbitration clause at issue in this matter did not clearly and unambiguously inform plaintiff that he was giving up his right...

Eleventh Circuit Rules FTC’s Data Security Cease and Desist Order Against LabMD Is Unenforceable

In its June 6, 2018 decision, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) Final Order against LabMD lacked adequate specificity and therefore was unenforceable. The Eleventh Circuit had previously issued a stay of enforcement of the FTC’s Final Order – as reported by this blog on November 16, 2016  – which had concluded that LabMD’s data security practices were “unreasonable” and constituted an “unfair” business practice in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”), 15 U.S.C. §45(a) and (n). The FTC initiated an enforcement action against LabMD in August 2013, alleging that LabMD, which operated as a clinical laboratory testing center, failed to implement reasonable data security measures to protect patients’ sensitive personal information. LabMD’s alleged data security failures allowed an employee to install and maintain file-sharing software on a work-related computer for a period of at least three years, which allowed exposure of patient information on a peer-to-peer network accessible daily by millions of users. In July 2016, and on appeal following a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, the FTC concluded that LabMD’s failures had caused, and were also likely to cause, substantial consumer injury, including identity theft and medical-identity theft, which constituted an unfair act or practice in violation of Section 5 of the...

New Jersey Appellate Division Holds Rescission of Contract Also Rescinds Agreement to Arbitrate Contractual Disputes

In a recent published opinion, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that an arbitration provision will not survive rescission of the contract in which it is contained unless the parties expressly agree otherwise, and that the issue is properly decided by the trial court and not the arbitrator. This opinion marks one more step in New Jersey’s evolving landscape regarding questions of arbitrability. In Goffe v. Foulke Management Corp., the panel considered two actions consolidated on appeal. Both actions involved consumers who attempted to purchase cars from two separate dealerships. Both consumers signed some of the initial paperwork (which contained an arbitration provision), accepted possession of the vehicle, but returned the vehicles after a few days for different reasons. When their respective security deposits for the vehicles were withheld, they each brought suit claiming wrongful conduct on the part of the dealerships. The defendant dealerships successfully moved to dismiss, asserting that plaintiffs were contractually required to arbitrate their pleaded claims. Plaintiffs appealed. After determining that issues of fact as to whether valid sales contracts had been formed and were enforceable should have prevented dismissal of the actions, the Appellate Division addressed whether the arbitration provisions in the contracts were rescinded when the sales contracts were rescinded. Specifically, the Appellate Division considered “whether an arbitration provision...

New Jersey Poised to Mandate Across-the-Board Information and Data Security Preparedness

The New Jersey Assembly is considering legislation that will require individuals and businesses that own or license personal information about a New Jersey resident to create and maintain a comprehensive information security program (“ISP”). The bill, A-5206, was introduced by Assemblywoman and Deputy Majority Leader Annette Quijano (D-Union) on November 30, 2017, and referred to the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee. If passed, New Jersey would join other states including Massachusetts (see 201 CMR 17.01 to 17.05) and Rhode Island (R.I. Gen. L. § 11-49.3-2), and sector-specific regulatory schemes including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (16 CFR 314), New York Department of Financial Services Cybersecurity Regulation (23 NYCRR 500), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Security Rule (45 CFR 164), that require a written information security program. The bill as currently drafted includes a minimum of 28 data security policies and practices that must be included in any company’s ISP. These include: Designating one or more employees to be in charge of the ISP; Ongoing employee training regarding risks to the security, confidentiality, and integrity of any records containing personal information, and imposing disciplinary measures for violation of ISP rules; Obligating a company to conduct due diligence when engaging third-party service providers with access to the company’s records containing personal...

New Jersey Appellate Division Holds Consumer Fraud Act Plaintiffs Can Recoup Attorneys’ Fees for Successfully Defending Against Counterclaims

In an issue of first impression, the New Jersey Appellate Division held in Garmeaux v. DNV Concepts, Inc. t/a The Bright Acre that a prevailing plaintiff in a Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) case is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees expended to defend an “inextricably intertwined” counterclaim. The to-be-published opinion also reaffirmed that New Jersey does not impose a strict proportionality requirement on attorney fee awards.

Data Breach Victims Grounded: Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Putative Class Action Based on Economic-Loss Doctrine and Absence of Explicit Contractual Obligations

The Third Circuit’s recent decision affirming the district court’s dismissal of a proposed class action in its entirety highlights the difficulties faced by Plaintiffs pursuing data-security class actions in situations where the claims are not based upon explicit contractual language. This is an important decision for defense counsel to keep in mind in considering options to get rid of a class action before it takes off.

NJ Businesses Should Reassess Arbitration Waiver Provisions in Consumer Contracts

Companies that do business in New Jersey should carefully review arbitration provisions in their contracts after a unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court that marks a departure from recent federal opinions. In Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, the Court held that “[t]he absence of any language” in an arbitration provision that a consumer is waiving his or her “statutory right to seek relief in a court of law renders the provision unenforceable.”

Ford Can’t Halt All Claims in Alleged Defective Fuel Tank Putative Class Action

In an opinion authored by Judge Debevoise, a federal district court in New Jersey denied Ford Motor Company’s attempt to toss out a putative class action regarding an alleged defect in the fuel tanks of various Ford trucks and vans. In Coba v. Ford Motor Co., Judge Debevoise held that the plaintiffs’ claims of breach of express warranty and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were adequately pleaded based on allegations that Ford knowingly replaced defective fuel tanks with other defective tanks. But Judge Debevoise dismissed, with leave to replead, the plaintiffs’ claims of common law fraud and violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act because there were no allegations that Ford knew the plaintiffs’ tanks were defective when they were sold.

Plaintiffs in Moldy Washing Machine Litigation May Proceed as a Class

A recent Seventh Circuit decision, authored by Judge Richard Posner, could have an impact on future class action litigations. In Butler, et al. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.,—a lawsuit involving product defects that allegedly cause mold buildup in washing machines sold by Sears between 2001 and 2004—the Seventh Circuit sought to clarify “predominance,” a concept that, in the context of class action litigation, has been shrouded by ambiguity. In its opinion, the Seventh Circuit explained that “[p]redominance is a question of efficiency.” Put simply, predominance asks whether it is “more efficient . . . to decide some issues on a class basis or all issues in separate trials?”