Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Lender’s assignee (Assignee), while operating as an unlicensed debt collector, obtained a judgment against a credit card debtor (Debtor) in district court. Debtor’s contract with Lender included an arbitration provision. Debtor then filed a class action suit collaterally attacking the judgment based on violations of Maryland consumer protection laws. Assignee filed a motion to arbitrate the class action suit pursuant to an arbitration clause between Lender and Debtor. Assignee moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court granted the motion to compel, thus rejecting Debtor’s argument that Assignee waived its right to arbitrate when it brought its collection action against Debtor. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because Assignee’s collection action was related to Debtor’s claims, Assignee waived its contractual right to arbitrate Debtor’s claims when it chose to litigate the collection action. View "Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

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Brown, Brown & Brown, P.C. (BB&B), a Virginia law firm, entered into more than fifty agreements over a nine-month period with Maryland homeowners facing foreclosure. Under the agreements, in return for an advance payment of money, BB&B promised to attempt to renegotiate the mortgage loan so that the homeowner could avoid foreclosure. Ultimately, BB&B did not obtain loan modifications for any of the homeowners. The Commissioner of Financial Regulation (Commissioner) concluded that BB&B had violated the Maryland Credit Services Businesses Act (MCSBA) and directed BB&B to pay treble damages to the Maryland homeowners with whom they had agreements. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the MCSBA did not apply to BB&B because the agreements at issue were for legal services rather than credit services. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) BB&B’s activities fell within the definition of “credit services business” under the MCSBA; and (2) BB&B did not qualify for the attorney exemption in the MCSBA. View "Comm'r of Fin. Regulation v. Brown, Brown & Brown, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Commissioner of Financial Regulation of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation brought an administrative enforcement action against CashCall, Inc., a California corporation that marketed high-interest loans to consumers through television and internet advertisements, and John Paul Reddam (together, Petitioners), the corporation’s president and owner, alleging that Petitioners violated the Maryland Credit Services Business Act (MCSBA). The Commissioner concluded that CashCall was subject to the MCSBA, ordered Petitioners to cease and desist from engaging in the credit services business, and ordered that Petitioners pay a civil penalty. The circuit court reversed, concluding that CashCall was not a “credit services” business under the MCSBA. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the MCSBA’s definition of a “credit services business” requires there to be a direct payment from a consumer to an entity whose primary business is to assist consumers in obtaining loans that would be usurious under Maryland law. View "CashCall, Inc. v. Comm'r of Fin. Regulation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The Consumer Protection Division of Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General (CPD) concluded that Petitioner and his companies engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The CPD issued sanctions, imposed civil penalties, and assessed costs. Thereafter, the Maryland State Board of Plumbing (the Board) opened a complaint against Petitioner alleging that Petitioner had violated the Maryland Plumbing act (MPA). The Board’s case largely consisted of the CPD’s findings and conclusions. The Board, by application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel, adopted the findings of fact made by the CPD and concluded that Petitioner violated the MPA. The Board revoked Petitioner’s master plumber license and imposed a civil penalty. The circuit court ruled that the Board properly invoked collateral estoppel in adopting the CPD’s findings of fact. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of offensive non-mutual collateral estoppel is permissible in this State and can be invoked to grant preclusive effect to an administrative order; and (2) Petitioner’s double jeopardy protections were not violated when the Board and the CPD both fined him for the same conduct. View "Garrity v. State Bd. of Plumbing" on Justia Law

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Respondent had his vehicle serviced at Russel Collision and was billed for the repairs. Jeremy Martin, Russel Collision’s manager, later signed a “Notice of Sale of Motor Vehicle to Satisfy a Lien” for Respondent’s vehicle. The notice listed the “cost of process” at $1,000, which was the amount to which Russel Collision and Allstate Lien agreed they were entitled to keep Respondent’s car and sell it unless Respondent paid the costs related to the future sale of the car. Respondent’s vehicle was eventually sold at auction. Respondent filed suit against Russel Collision, Martin, and Allstate Lien, alleging that Md. Code Ann. Com. Law ("CL") 16-202(c), which provided Russel Collision a lien for Respondent’s vehicle, does not permit lien recovery costs of $1,000 as fees prior to the sale of the car. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Respondent. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that, under CL 16-202(c), a motor vehicle lien does not encompass “cost of process” fees and that such fees should not be included in the amount the customer must pay to redeem the vehicle. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a garagemen’s lien does not encompass lien enforcement costs or expenses or cost of process fees prior to sale should the owner attempt to redeem the vehicle before sale. View "Allstate Lien & Recovery Corp. v. Stansbury" on Justia Law

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Petitioners purchased and financed an automobile from Respondent. Petitioners averred that Respondent failed properly to disclose the vehicle’s history. At issue in this case was the extent to which multiple documents executed on the same day during the course of the purchase and financing could be read together as constituting the entire agreement between the parties. The issue arose in the context of whether Petitioners’ claims against Respondent were subject to a mandatory arbitration provision in the Buyer’s Order, which set forth the purchase price. A Retail Installment Sales Contract (RISC), which contained the financing terms of the purchase, did not include an agreement to arbitrate. The circuit court granted Respondent’s motion to compel arbitration, thus disagreeing with Petitioners that the language of the Buyer’s Order was superseded by the RISC. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, for the purposes of the instant case, the Buyer’s Order may be construed together with the RISC as evincing the entire agreement between the parties. View "Ford v. Antwerpen Motorcars Ltd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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Respondents, three married couples, obtained home equity lines of credit from Petitioners, a bank and its loan officer. Approximately four years later, Petitioners filed a putative class action alleging that these transactions were part of an elaborate “buy-first-sell-later” mortgage fraud arrangement carried out by Petitioners and other defendants. Petitioners alleged numerous causes of action, including fraud, conspiracy, and violations of Maryland consumer protection statutes. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Petitioners, concluding that the statute of limitations barred several of Respondents’ claims and that no Petitioner violated the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law as a matter of law. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Court of Special Appeals (1) erred in concluding that Respondents stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law; and (2) erred in concluding that it was a question of fact to be decided by the jury as to whether Respondents’ claims against Petitioners were barred by the relevant statute of limitations. View "Windesheim v. Larocca" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, debt buyers, filed separate small claims actions to recover money damages against Defendants. Plaintiffs demanded judgment on affidavit, and Defendants filed notices of intention to defend. After a trial on the merits, the district courts entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. Defendants’ appeals were heard de novo in the circuit court, which entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. At issue on these appeals was whether the Rules of Evidence apply in debt buyer small claim proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) in pursuing a judgment on affidavit involving a small or large claim, a debt buyer must product certain documents, as contemplated by Md. Rule 306(d), sufficient to pass muster under the business records exception to the hearsay rule; (2) once a small claim action is contested and proceeds to a trial on the merits, the parties are not constrained by the Rules of Evidence, as contemplated by Md. Rule 3-701; and (3) the judges that conducted trials de novo in these cases did not err or abuse their discretion in entering judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Bartlett v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Petitioner had health care insurance as a member of the United Healthcare Select HMO (the HMO) when he visited a healthcare provider (GCM) for an x-ray of his knee. After Petitioner paid a bill he received from GCM for the x-ray exam he filed a complaint alleging that the bills GCM sent Petitioner were an illegal attempt to "balance bill" an HMO member in violation of State law and that the bills constituted an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of the Consumer Protection Act (the Act). The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the state HMO law prohibiting balance billing by health care providers as part of the legal foundation for the establishment of HMOs does not include a right of action by an HMO member against a healthcare provider for violation of that prohibition; but (2) an HMO member may bring an action under the Act against a healthcare provider who improperly bills the member in violation of the state HMO law in a way that also violates the prohibition against unfair or deceptive trade practices in the Act.View "Scull v. Groover, Christie, & Merritt, P.C." on Justia Law

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Appellant financed the purchase of a car over time pursuant to a loan contract. The car dealer assigned the contract to Appellee, a financial services company. Because Appellant stopped making payments before the loan was paid off, Appellee repossessed and sold the car. Appellant sued Appellee, alleging that the repossession and sale of the car did not comply with the Credit Grantor Closed End Credit Law (CLEC). The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding (1) Appellant’s statutory claims were untimely under the Maryland Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s one-year statute of limitations, and (2) Appellant’s complaint did not state a cause of action for breach of contract because the requirements of CLEC were not incorporated into the contract as to Appellee. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) an action alleging a violation of CLEC must be brought no later than six months after the loan is satisfied pursuant to the CLEC’s statute of limitations, and therefore, Appellant’s claims under CLEC on limitations grounds were improperly dismissed; and (2) Appellant may assert a contract claim against Appellee because the loan contract adequately incorporated CLEC as part of the contractual obligations, and Appellee voluntarily accepted that provision in taking the assignment. View "Patton v. Wells Fargo Fin. Md., Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Consumer Law