Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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The Federal Arbitration Act does not preempt all state arbitration law. A party alleging an arbitration agreement is unconscionable must demonstrate some quantum of both procedural and substantive unconscionability. A party's failure to clearly object to a defect in arbitration proceedings prior to or during arbitration may constitute a waiver of the objection. Lynne Thompson appealed a district court order compelling arbitration, a judgment confirming the arbitration award, and an order denying her motion to vacate the judgment or for a new trial. Thompson sued Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1, seeking to rescind a contract to purchase a vehicle and for damages for unjust enrichment and unlawful sales practices. Lithia moved to dismiss Thompson's complaint and to compel arbitration, arguing there was an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. Thompson responded to the motion, arguing the arbitration agreement was unenforceable and unconscionable and claiming she was entitled to a jury trial on the issue of the enforceability. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in compelling arbitration or confirming the arbitrator's award. View "Thompson v. Lithia ND Acquisition Corp. #1" on Justia Law

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Trinity Health provided Charles Tuttle with $127,001.07 in medical services. Tuttle applied for financial assistance with Trinity, but was denied. Tuttle failed to pay the medical bill after Trinity demanded payment. Trinity subsequently assigned the debt to A.R. Audit Services. A.R. Audit sued Tuttle to collect the medical debt. Tuttle counterclaimed, alleging A.R. Audit failed to provide him thirty days to respond to the debt collection demand. A.R. Audit moved for summary judgment, arguing Tuttle was responsible for the entire debt because he failed to provide to Trinity information necessary to complete the application for financial assistance. Tuttle responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing Trinity should have sued him to collect the debt instead of A.R. Audit. He also claimed Trinity representatives told him he qualified for financial assistance with Trinity and would not owe any money to Trinity. The district court denied Tuttle's motion to dismiss, dismissed his counterclaims, and granted A.R. Audit's summary judgment motion, concluding Tuttle failed to show he was not responsible for the debt. Tuttle appealed. After review, the Supreme Court modified the judgment to reimburse Tuttle for paying A.R. Audit's $80 filing fee, and affirmed the judgment as modified. View "A. R. Audit Services, Inc. v. Tuttle" on Justia Law

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Darilyn Baker appealed a district court order denying her motion for class action certification. In 2007, Baker purchased a car from Autos, Inc., d.b.a. Global Auto. Baker financed the purchase of the car by trading in her old vehicle and by entering into a retail installment sales contract with Global Auto. The total included a "document administration fee" of $195 and a "loan fee" of $200. Baker agreed to repay the loan in thirty monthly payments of $247.08. The retail installment contract also provided that if the payment was late, Baker would be charged $25. Baker was late on making some of her required monthly payments, and the vehicle was repossessed. Before Baker defaulted on her loan, Global Auto assigned Baker's contract to RW Enterprises. After the vehicle was repossessed, Baker filed suit in state district court alleging Global Auto and RW Enterprises' sales and lending practices violated state usury law, among other claims. Baker also sued Robert Opperude and James Hendershot, the principal owners of Global Auto, and Randy Westby, the principal owner of RW Enterprises. In state district court, Baker filed a motion to have the suit certified as a class action for all putative purchasers who, subject to the applicable statute of limitations period, may have suffered an injury as a result of Global Auto and RW Enterprises' business practices. Baker alleged the "loan fee," the "document administration fee," and the late payment charge violated North Dakota usury law and the North Dakota Retail Installment Sales Act. After a hearing on the motion for class certification, the district court entered an order denying the motion. The court did not rule on the merits of the case. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in applying the law to the thirteen sub-factors of the fair and efficient adjudication factor, it reversed the district court's order denying certification and remanded with instructions to reconsider the sub-factors in light of this holding. View "Baker v. Autos, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ford Motor Credit Company appealed a district court order dismissing its action to renew a prior judgment. Ford sued Jeremy Halvorson in Minnesota on a contract matter. A judgment was entered in Minnesota against Halvorson. Halvorson moved from Minnesota to North Dakota, and the Minnesota judgment was registered in North Dakota in 2011. Halvorson did not pay the judgment. In 2013, Ford commenced this action to renew the judgment by personal service of the summons and complaint upon Halvorson. Halvorson did not respond to the summons and complaint, and Ford moved for entry of a default judgment against Halvorson. The district court, on its own motion, denied the motion for default judgment and instead dismissed Ford's complaint with prejudice, concluding that Ford's action was an improper duplicate action on the original debt and that the proper method to renew a judgment was by affidavit under the procedure provided in N.D.C.C. 28-20-21. Ford moved for reconsideration of the order dismissing its action, and the court entered an order affirming dismissal of the action. The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order dismissing Ford's action on the judgment. Because there was no reason apparent on the record to deny the default judgment, the Court remanded the case to the district court with directions to enter a default judgment in favor of Ford in its action to renew the prior judgment. View "Ford Motor Credit Co. v. Halvorson" on Justia Law

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Bobby Bell filed an action in small claims court against Pro Tune Plus for damages to his vehicle. Pro Tune responded to the claim, and filed the correct documents to remove the action to the district court. After Bell attempted to amend his claim in the district court, the district court remanded the case to small claims court because it appeared that the claim affidavit and answer from small claims had not been filed with the district court as required by N.D.C.C. 27-08.1-04. Bell moved under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(a) to correct the record because the clerk had apparently mistakenly failed to file the documents for removal. Bell asked the district court to vacate its order for remand. The district court denied Bell's motion to correct the record, holding Bell did not have a right to remove the action to the district court and, because Pro Tune did not oppose remand, Bell would need to seek dismissal without prejudice from the small claims court in order to return to the district court. Bell then appealed the district court's order remanding the case to small claims court. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding the district court erred by remanding the case to small claims court. "Once the action is properly before the district court, the defendant does not have the option to choose whether or not to remand the case to small claims court. Just as the plaintiff's decision to proceed in small claims court is irrevocable, so is the defendant's decision to remove the action to district court. The district court did not have the authority to decline jurisdiction over an action properly before it." View "Bell v. Pro Tune Plus" on Justia Law

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Steven and Connie Falkenstein appealed a district court judgment dismissing their claims against Jon W. Dill and Credico, Inc. for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The Falkensteins received medical services from Medcenter One but failed to pay the total balance due. The debt was assigned to Credico, Inc. for collection. Dill, an in-house attorney and employee of Credico, Inc., communicated with the Falkensteins regarding the debt. In March 2009, judgment was entered in favor of Credico, Inc. for the amount of the Falkensteins' debt, including interest. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court found no error with the district court's dismissal and affirmed. View "Falkenstein v. Dill" on Justia Law

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Defendant Helen Cupido appealed a trial court's summary judgment entered in favor of Recovery Resources, LLC. Helen and David Cupido married in January 1993. In March 2010, David Cupido incurred medical expenses at St. Alexius Medical Center. The parties divorced in April 2011. Under the divorce judgment, the trial court ordered David Cupido responsible for payment of the debt owed to St. Alexius Medical Center. The divorce judgment also required Helen and David to indemnify one another from any and all collection activities, which may arise regarding debts awarded to a party. Recovery Resources, LLC, a collection company, sued Helen and David for $9,494.61 owed to St. Alexius Medical Center for medical care provided to David while he and Helen were married and living together. David did not answer Recovery Resources' claim and a default judgment was entered against him. Helen answered denying liability and cross-claimed for indemnity against David. Helen then moved for summary judgment arguing she was entitled to judgment, as a matter of law, because the divorce judgment allocated the debt to David. Recovery Resources resisted and moved for summary judgment arguing it was entitled to judgment, as a matter of law, because Helen was liable for the debt. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Recovery Resources. On appeal, Helen contended the trial court erred: (1) by concluding she is jointly and severally liable for the debt David incurred, and (2) by failing to dismiss her from the lawsuit based on the indemnification language in the divorce judgment. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the indemnification language in the divorce judgment between Helen and David Cupido did not affect Recovery Resources' statutory right to recover the debt. Accordingly the trial court did not err in failing to dismiss Helen from the collection action. View "Recovery Resources, LLC v. Cupido" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Sean Weeks appealed a summary judgment that dismissed his claims against Michael Geiermann and Collection Center, Inc. (collectively "Collection Center") for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In 2009, Plaintiff brought this action against the Center for its attempt to collect $3,034.21 in interest on a debt he owed to Medcenter One for clinic and hospital services. Plaintiff obtained medical services from Medcenter's clinic and hospital. According to billing records for the clinic, Plaintiff received services between 2002 and 2008 and was billed $6,752.46, of which his insurance paid $4,698.72. After an insurance adjustment of $1,427.26, Weeks was responsible for $626.48. Weeks paid $453.40, and after another adjustment of $2.03, $171.05 remained unpaid. In July 2009, attorney Geiermann on behalf of Collection Center sent Plaintiff a letter, demanding payment to the hospital for $4,481.22 and to the clinic for $171.05. The letter also demanded $3,003.28 in interest for the hospital and $30.93 in interest for the clinic. The district court granted Collection Center's summary judgment motion and dismissed Plaintiff's action, stating the case was "fairly straightforward." The court held there was no disagreement that Plaintiff had incurred a debt to Medcenter for medical services that remained unpaid which constituted a "legal indebtedness." The court further held that, according to Plaintiff's affidavit, he never received anything in writing from Medcenter indicating any interest would be assessed in the event of nonpayment of this debt after a specified period of time. The court concluded "as a matter of law, that [Collection Center was] rightfully entitled to collect interest from Weeks at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum on the legal indebtedness owed by Weeks to [Collection Center], as the assignee of Medcenter One." Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that a "medical services provider," who does not make disclosures required under N.D.C.C. 13-01-15 to charge the "late payment charge" allowed under N.D.C.C. 13-01-14.1, is still entitled to prejudgment interest under N.D.C.C. 47-14-05 at the legal rate of six percent per annum. View "Weeks v. Geiermann" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Randall Peterson appealed the district court order that denied his motion for reconsideration of a judgment entered against him for credit card debt owed to Plaintiff-Appellee Citibank (South Dakota), N.A. (Citibank). Citibank sued Defendant alleging he failed to pay his bill. Defendant filed what he called a âspecial appearanceâ only to ask that the complaint be dismissed. The district court denied Defendantâs motion to dismiss. Subsequently Defendant filed a letter he had sent to the lawyer disciplinary board to the district court. The district court eventually entered a default judgment in favor of Citibank, and ordered Defendant to pay his bill. On appeal, Defendant argued that the two documents (the âspecial appearanceâ and the letter to the disciplinary board) were âbrush offsâ by the court, and constituted an abuse of discretion by the court in entering the default against him. The Supreme Court noted many of the technical problems with Defendantâs submissions to the lower court. Even in his application for appeal, Defendant addressed no errors at the lower court, and raised no real issues for the Courtâs review. Subsequently, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the lower court.