Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Consumer Law
CARA JONES, ET AL V. GOOGLE LLC, ET AL
Plaintiffs, a class of children, appearing through their guardians ad litem, filed a lawsuit against Google LLC and others, alleging that Google used persistent identifiers to collect data and track their online behavior surreptitiously and without their consent in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). They pled only state law claims arising under the constitutional, statutory, and common law of California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Tennessee, but also allege Google’s activities violate COPPA. The district court held that the “core allegations” in the third amended complaint were squarely covered, and preempted, by COPPA. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal on preemption grounds. The panel considered the question of whether COPPA preempts state law claims based on underlying conduct that also violates COPPA’s regulations. The Supreme Court has identified three different types of preemption—express, conflict, and field. First, express preemption is a question of statutory construction. The panel concluded that COPPA’s preemption clause does not bar state-law causes of action that are parallel to, or proscribe, the same conduct forbidden by, COPPA. Accordingly, express preemption does not apply to the plaintiff class’s claims. Second, even if express preemption is not applicable, preemptive intent may be inferred through conflict preemption principles. The panel held that although express and conflict preemption are analytically distinct inquiries, they effectively collapse into one when the preemption clause uses the term “inconsistent.” For the same reasons that the panel concluded there was no express preemption, the panel concluded that conflict preemption did not bar Plaintiffs’ claims. View "CARA JONES, ET AL V. GOOGLE LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law
COLIN BRICKMAN V. META PLATFORMS, INC.
The case arose from the district court’s dismissal with prejudice of Plaintiff’s class-action claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), against Meta Platforms, Inc. (Meta), formerly known as Facebook, Inc. Enacted in 1991, the TCPA generally bans calls made to a telephone if the call is generated by an “automatic telephone dialing system” (commonly referred to as an “autodialer”). Plaintiff argued that Meta violated the TCPA by sending unsolicited “Birthday Announcement” text messages to consumers’ cell phones. He alleged that these Birthday Announcements were sent by Meta through an autodialer that used an RSNG to store and dial the telephone numbers of the consumers being texted. The question on appeal was whether a TCPA-defined autodialer must use an RSNG to generate the telephone numbers that are dialed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal with prejudice. The panel held that Meta did not violate the TCPA because it did not use a TCPA-defined autodialer that randomly or sequentially generated the telephone numbers in question. View "COLIN BRICKMAN V. META PLATFORMS, INC." on Justia Law
CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION V. ARMOND ARIA, ET AL
The Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) prohibits providers of “financial advisory services” from engaging in deceptive conduct. 12 U.S.C. Sections 5481(15)(A)(viii), 5536(a)(1)(B). Defendant mailed millions of solicitations to current and prospective college students, advertising a targeted program for assisting those students in applying for scholarships. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed an enforcement action in the district court alleging the solicitations were deceptive. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment to the CFPB. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment ruling. The panel rejected Defendant’s argument that he did not provide financial scholarships are not financial in nature merely because they do not have to be repaid. Second, the record establishes that Defendant’s advice extended beyond the topic of scholarships, covering the entire field of student financial aid. Third, Defendant did, in fact, hold himself out as an expert in finance. The panel held that Defendant provided “financial advisory services,” and the district court did not err in concluding that Defendant was a “covered person” under the CFPA. The panel held that Defendant was incorrect that the district court failed to consider the net impression of the entirety of his solicitation materials. In addition, the district court did not err by concluding that no issue of material fact existed as to the deceptive nature of Defendant’s conduct based upon the net impression created by his entire solicitation packet. Finally, the panel held that Defendant forfeited his challenge to the district court’s calculation of the restitution and civil penalties. View "CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION V. ARMOND ARIA, ET AL" on Justia Law
DAVID BORDEN V. EFINANCIAL, LLC
After Plaintiff provided his phone number to an insurance company on a website, he began receiving marketing texts from eFinancial. Plaintiff sued under the TCPA, claiming that eFinancial uses a “sequential number generator” to pick the order in which to call customers who had provided their phone numbers. He says that this type of number generator qualifies as an “automatic telephone dialing system” (often colloquially called an “autodialer”) under the TCPA. But eFinancial responds that it does not use an autodialer. eFinancial argues that the TCPA defines an autodialer as one that must generate telephone numbers to dial, not just any number to decide which pre-selected phone numbers to call. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that an “automatic telephone dialing system” must generate and dial random or sequential telephone numbers under the TCPA’s plain text. eFinancial thus did not use an autodialer, and its texts to Plaintiff did not implicate the TCPA. View "DAVID BORDEN V. EFINANCIAL, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Consumer Law
IN RE: NAMED PLAINTIFFS, ET AL V. APPLE INC.
Apple entered into a $310 million settlement with a class of individuals based on claims that Apple secretly throttled the system performance of certain model iPhones to mask battery defects. Five class objectors sought to vacate the settlement on various grounds, including 1.) that the district court provided inadequate notice of the settlement to nonnatural persons; 2.) the settlement extinguished the claims of “all former or current U.S. owners” of certain devices who downloaded iOS software before Apple disclosed potential defect, but the settlement limited recovery to the subset of owners who can attest that “they experienced” the alleged defects; and 3.) that the district court cited the wrong legal standard in examining the settlement’s fairness by improperly applying a presumption of reasonableness to the settlement rather than applying a heightened scrutiny.The Ninth Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong legal standard when reviewing the settlement’s fairness. View "IN RE: NAMED PLAINTIFFS, ET AL V. APPLE INC." on Justia Law
PAUL GUZMAN, ET AL V. POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC., ET AL
Polaris sells off-road vehicles that have roll cages, or rollover protective structures (“ROPS”). The labels on the Polaris vehicles stated that the ROPS complied with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Plaintiffs filed a class action against Polaris, claiming that the statements made on these labels were misleading, and that they relied on the statements when purchasing the vehicles.The district court granted summary judgment to Polaris. The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court agreed with the district court that Plaintiff could not bring his equitable UCL claim in federal court because he had an adequate legal remedy in his time-barred CLRA claim. However, the court held that it must still reverse the entry of summary judgment against Plaintiff because no decision was reached on the merits of the claim. Because the district court lacked equitable jurisdiction, which it recognized, it should have denied Polaris’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed Plaintiff's UCL claim without prejudice for lack of equitable jurisdiction. View "PAUL GUZMAN, ET AL V. POLARIS INDUSTRIES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
KATHLEEN SONNER V. PREMIER NUTRITION CORPORATION
In Sonner v. Premier Nutrition Corp. (Sonner I), 971 F.3d 834 (9th Cir. 2020), the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal without leave to amend of Plaintiff's class action complaint. This court held that federal courts sitting in diversity must apply federal equitable principles to claims for equitable restitution brought under California law and that, under such principles, dismissal was appropriate because Plaintiff could not show that she lacked an adequate remedy at law. After Sonner I was issued, Plaintiff filed a virtually identical complaint in California state court. Premier Nutrition responded by returning to the district court and seeking a permanent injunction against the state court action. The district court denied the injunction.The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the permanent injunction regardless of Sonner I’s preclusive effect. The panel did not determine the preclusive effect of Sonner I.The Ninth Circuit held that there was a strong presumption against enjoining a state court proceeding under the relitigation exception. Premier did not point to any clearly erroneous factual findings in the district court’s order, and the panel detected none. Res judicata principles are of high importance, but they can be addressed by the state court, and do not compel resorting to the heavy artillery of a permanent injunction. View "KATHLEEN SONNER V. PREMIER NUTRITION CORPORATION" on Justia Law
NATHAN CHENNETTE, ET AL V. PORCH.COM, INC., ET AL
Defendants are GoSmith, Inc., Porch.com, Inc. (which acquired GoSmith), and three individual corporate officers. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits calls using automatic telephone dialing systems (“ATDS”) to cell phones, see 47 U.S.C. Section 227(b), and telephone solicitations sent to residential telephone subscribers who have registered their phone numbers on the national donot-call registry, see 47 U.S.C. Section 227(c). Both provisions provide private causes of action for damages and injunctive relief. The complaint alleges that Defendants’ use of ATDS to plaintiffs’ cell phones violated (and continues to violate) Section 227(b); and that Defendants’ text messages to Plaintiffs’ cell phones that were (and are) registered on the national do-not-call registry violated (and continue to violate) Section 227(c). The district court assumed that plaintiffs have Article III standing but held they lack statutory standing. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment dismissing the complaint. The panel held that Plaintiffs have statutory standing under Section 227(b) and (c) of the TCPA. Defendants argued that the TCPA protects only individuals from unwanted calls, and that plaintiffs, as home improvement contractors, fall outside of TCPA’s zone of interest. The panel concluded that all of the Plaintiffs have standing to sue under Section 227(b) of the TCPA. The panel, therefore, concluded that these Plaintiffs have standing to sue under Section 227(c). The panel wrote that after discovery, Defendants may seek to argue that they have rebutted the presumption by showing that Plaintiffs’ cell phones are used to such an extent and in such a manner as to be properly regarded as business rather than “residential” lines. View "NATHAN CHENNETTE, ET AL V. PORCH.COM, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
LORI WAKEFIELD V. VISALUS, INC.
Plaintiffs alleged that ViSalus, Inc., sent them automated telephone calls featuring an artificial or prerecorded voice message without prior express consent. The jury returned a verdict against ViSalus, finding that it sent 1,850,440 prerecorded calls in violation of the TCPA. Because the TCPA sets the minimum statutory damages at$500 per call, the total damages award against ViSalus was $925,220,000. Nearly two months later, the FCC granted ViSalus a retroactive waiver of the heightened written consent and disclosure requirements. ViSalus then filed post-trial motions to decertify the class, grant judgment as a matter of law, or grant a new trial on the ground that the FCC’s waiver necessarily meant ViSalus had consent for the calls made. Alternatively, ViSalus filed a post-trial motion challenging the statutory damages award as being unconstitutionally excessive. The district court denied these motions.Affirming in part, the panel held that members of the plaintiff class had Article III standing to sue because the receipt of unsolicited telemarketing phone calls in alleged violation of the TCPA is a concrete injury.The panel held that, when ruling on ViSalus’s motions to decertify the class, grant judgment as a matter of law, or grant a new trial, the district court properly refused to consider the FCC’s retroactive waiver. The panel explained that ViSalus waived a consent defense, and no intervening change in law excused this waiver of an affirmative defense.The panel vacated the district court’s denial of ViSalus’s post-trial motion challenging the constitutionality of the statutory damages award under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. View "LORI WAKEFIELD V. VISALUS, INC." on Justia Law
JANE DOES, ET AL V. REDDIT, INC.
Users of Reddit, a social media platform, posted and circulated sexually explicit images and videos of minors online. The victims, or their parents, sued Reddit pursuant to Section 1595, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. Rhe panel held that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. Section 230(c)(1), shielded defendant Reddit, Inc., from liability. The panel held that Reddit, an “interactive computer services” provider, generally enjoys immunity from liability for user-posted content under Section 230(c)(1). However, pursuant to the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2018 (“FOSTA”), Section 230 immunity does not apply to child sex trafficking claims if the conduct underlying the claim also violates 18 U.S.C. Section 1591, the criminal child sex trafficking statute. The panel held that the plain text of FOSTA, as well as precedent interpreting a similar immunity exception under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, established that the availability of FOSTA’s immunity exception is contingent upon a plaintiff proving that a defendant-website’s own conduct—rather than its users’ conduct—resulted in a violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1591. The panel held that FOSTA’s wider statutory context confirmed its reading. In Section II.C, the panel held that its reading was also supported by the legislative history of FOSTA. View "JANE DOES, ET AL V. REDDIT, INC." on Justia Law