Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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After review of the documents and affidavits proffered in support of Plaintiff Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC’s (“PRA”) position, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded they did not contain adequate foundation and were not admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. PRA sued Defendant Lloyd MacDonald for an amount owed on a Citibank credit card account. MacDonald filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that PRA did not have standing to bring this action because it could not prove that the debt had been assigned by Citibank to PRA. MacDonald objected to the evidence PRA submitted to support its position, arguing that the evidence was inadmissible hearsay and lacked adequate foundation. The magistrate court overruled MacDonald’s objections and granted summary judgment in favor of PRA. MacDonald appealed to the district court. The district court affirmed the magistrate court’s decision. The Supreme Court found that even the catch-all exception to the hearsay rule could not be used to admit some of the documents. The decision to grant summary judgment in favor of PRA was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Portfolio Recovery Assoc v. MacDonald" on Justia Law

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The district court erred in affirming the magistrate’s decision that Medical Recovery Services, LLC (MRS) was estopped from requesting attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(5). MRS attempted a garnishment of Penny Siler’s wages, which was returned unsatisfied because Siler, a school bus driver who cared for her disabled husband and made an average of $499.00 a month, did not earn enough to garnish. MRS agreed to accept $10.00 per month for payment on a default judgment entered after Siler failed to pay a medical bill. Siler went to MRS’s counsel’s office and was told the payoff amount was $1,224.88. She paid that amount in cash. Six days later, counsel for MRS filed an application for supplemental attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(5). Following the hearing, the magistrate court issued an order denying MRS’s application for supplemental attorney fees. In its order, the magistrate court, sua sponte, found that MRS was barred by quasi and equitable estoppel from asking for attorney fees because MRS had told Siler the “payoff amount” was $1,224.88, and MRS did not inform Siler it planned to pursue additional postjudgment fees. MRS appealed the magistrate’s decision to the district court. The district court affirmed, finding “the Magistrate Court retains discretion as to whether, or what amount of, attorney fees will be awarded,” and therefore was free to consider any factor it deemed appropriate, including quasi or equitable estoppel, in determining the amount of attorney fees. View "Medical Recovery Svcs v. Siler" on Justia Law

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H. Peter Doble II appealed a district court’s order awarding Interstate Amusements, Inc. (Interstate) attorney fees. Interstate owned and operated a number of movie theaters throughout Magic Valley. As part of its business, Interstate marketed and sold vouchers known as “Cinema Cash:” vouchers purchased in $1.00 increments and could be redeemed for movie tickets and concessions sold at Interstate’s various theater locations. Each voucher was clearly marked with an expiration date after which the voucher was no longer redeemable. Doble attempted to redeem an expired Cinema Cash voucher at one of Interstate’s movie theaters in Twin Falls. Doble filed a Complaint against Interstate in which he alleged that the issuance of Cinema Cash violated Idaho’s Consumer Protection Act (ICPA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Interstate. With regard to fees, the court found that Doble brought his action “frivolously, unreasonably, and without foundation” and awarded Interstate attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-121. The district court then entered an amended judgment stating: “The defendant, Interstate Amusement, Inc., shall recover from the plaintiff costs in the amount of $320.44 and attorney’s fees in the amount of $7,972.50, for a total of $8,292.94.” Finding no reversible error in the district court's fee award, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Doble v. Interstate Amusements, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lorene Lowe had two credit cards issued by Citibank, N.A. Citibank sold both credit card accounts to Pilot Receivables Management, LLC, and in late 2012, it assigned the accounts for collection to Unifund CCR, LLC. On December 2, 2013, Unifund filed this action to collect on Account No. 2085, and on May 23, 2014, it filed an amended complaint to add a claim to collect on Account No. 0415. Lowe filed an answer asserting the affirmative defense of the statute of limitations and four counterclaims. Both parties moved for summary judgment, with the primary issue being the applicable statute of limitations. Unifund contended that the applicable statute of limitations was a five-year statute applicable to an action on a written contract, and Lowe contended that the applicable statute of limitations was a four-year statute applicable to an action on an oral contract. Both parties agreed that the statute of limitations began to run on each account on the date of the last payment. The district court ruled that the five-year statute of limitations applied. Lowe then agreed to withdraw her counterclaims in exchange for an offset of $500 against the amount of any judgment obtained by Unifund. The district court entered a judgment against her in the sum of $35,259.87, which included the principal, prejudgment interest, court costs and attorney fees. Lowe then timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Unifund CCR, LLC v. Lowe" on Justia Law

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This was a dispute between two collections agencies. Medical Recovery Services, LLC (MRS) and Bonneville Billing and Collections, Inc. (BBC) both had outstanding accounts relating to the same debtor, Stacie Christ. In 2008, MRS obtained a judgment against Christ for $1,868. MRS then obtained an order for continuing garnishment of Christ's wages at her place of employment, Western States Equipment Company (WSEC), until the judgment, plus interest, was satisfied. WSEC intended to make the first payment on the continuing garnishment, but a WSEC's payroll department employee inadvertently selected "BBC" instead of "BCS," (for Bonneville County Sheriff), on a computer dropdown menu, and sent the first payment of $331.00 to BBC. WSEC repeated the same mistake on two subsequent occasions and sent checks for $394.83 and $357.38 to BBC instead of the Bonneville County Sheriff. BBC had been assigned two accounts involving Christ as the debtor. The first account was assigned on May 7, 2007, in the amount of $325.50. BBC filed a complaint in connection with this account on May 8, 2008, but did not obtain a judgment. The second account was assigned on April 24, 2008, in the amount of $966.86, and BBC had not yet initiated legal efforts to collect on this account. Due to WSEC's payroll mistake, BBC received three checks from WSEC: $331.00 on July 22, 2008; $394.83 on July 28, 2008; and $357.38 on August 12, 2008. In total, WSEC mistakenly sent BBC $1,083.21, which BBC applied to Christ's outstanding accounts. MRS received a letter from the Bonneville County Sheriff alerting MRS to WSEC's errors. The letter indicated that WSEC had also notified BBC of the error but that BBC refused to return the money. After learning of WSEC's payroll mistake, MRS contacted WSEC and instructed WSEC to discontinue the garnishment. MRS sent BBC a demand letter asking for a return of the $1,083.21. BBC acknowledged receiving the checks and stated that it intended to keep the funds since Christ owed on accounts held by BBC. BBC further indicated that, at the time the checks were received, it believed that the funds resulted from wage assignments that Christ had voluntarily initiated to pay her debts. MRS then sued BBC alleging conversion, unjust enrichment, and requesting a constructive trust over the disputed funds in the amount of $1,083.21. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The magistrate court denied MRS' motion, granted BBC's motion, and awarded BBC attorney fees and costs in the amount of $10,658. On May 3, 2011, MRS appealed to the district court. The district court reversed the magistrate court's judgment and: (1) granted MRS summary judgment on the issues of unjust enrichment and conversion; (2) imposed a constructive trust in favor of MRS over the disputed $1,083.21; (3) vacated the magistrate court's order granting BBC attorney fees and costs; (4) remanded the matter to determine a pre-appeal attorney fee award for MRS; and (5) granted MRS attorney fees on appeal. BBC appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court and reinstated the magistrate court's award of attorney fees. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in finding that BBC was unjustly enriched by MRS, erred in finding that BBC converted MRS' property, and erred in imposing a constructive trust. Accordingly, the district court's memorandum decision and order was reversed. The case was remanded to the district court with instructions to reinstate the magistrate court's award of attorney fees in favor of BBC and to determine an appropriate award in favor of BBC for attorney fees incurred in proceedings before the district court on intermediate appeal. View "MRS v. Bonneville Billing and Collections" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Joseph Pierce filed this action against Steven McMullen and Highland Financial, LLC, seeking damages for various violations of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act and for breach of contract, all based upon an alleged scam in which defendants represented that they could protect Pierce from losing his equity in real property that was facing foreclosure. He alleged that the defendants obtained title to his real property pursuant to a promise to assume the loans secured by the property, to market and sell the property, and to pay him at least $50,000 or more from the sale proceeds, depending upon the sale price. He claimed that he deeded the property to defendants, they failed to make the payments on the loans, and that the property was sold at a foreclosure sale. The complaint also alleged that Highland Financial was the alter ego of McMullen. Only McMullen appeared in the action, but he did not deny the allegations of wrongdoing in the complaint. When McMullen failed to appear at the trial, the district court ordered that he was in default, that Pierce prevailed on his complaint, and that he could present evidence of his damages. Pierce did so, but the district court later dismissed the action on the ground that Mr. Pierce had failed to prove liability. Finding that decision was made in error, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pierce v. McMullen" on Justia Law

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Medical Recovery Services, LLC (MRS), a licensed collection agency, appeals from the district court’s order affirming default judgments entered by the magistrate court. Each Respondent’s account indebtedness was assigned to MRS. MRS filed suit to recover payment from each Respondent and also sought $350 in attorney fees from each, based on a contractual provision. None of the Respondents answered the complaints filed by MRS, so MRS filed for default judgments to be entered in each case. The magistrate court entered default judgments as to all Respondents but granted attorney fees in amounts less than the $350 that MRS was requesting under the contracts. MRS asserted that the magistrate erred in awarding attorney fees in the amount of the principal owed by the Respondents for medical services, as opposed to $350, which was the minimum amount that each Respondent contracted to pay. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Medical Recovery Services v. Strawn" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Tanner Mickelsen appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondent Broadway Ford, Inc. on his complaint that alleged fraud in the inducement. Petitioner asked for a rescission of the contract between the parties based on that alleged fraud or alternatively on mutual mistake. Petitioner leased a truck from Broadway Ford. The truck had over 1400 miles on it, but was sold as new and under factory warranty. The truck had been modified with a six-inch suspension lift and four oversized tires. Though he purchased the truck in Idaho Falls, Petitioner resided in Moses Lake, and took the truck to his local dealership for repairs. In the first year of the lease, Discovery Ford made several repairs to the vehicle under the warranty. But when Petitioner took the truck back to Discovery Ford for "handling problems," the service manager advised Petitioner that these repairs would not be covered by the warranty because of the lift modifications made to the truck's suspension. Broadway Ford told Petitioner that they would try to resolve the issue if Petitioner drove or shipped the truck to Idaho Falls. Petitioner did not take the truck back to Idaho Falls or ship it there. He eventually stopped making lease payments and voluntarily surrendered the truck to the bank who provided the financing. Finding that the district court made no error in granting summary judgment in favor of Broadway Ford, the Court affirmed that court's decision. View "Mickelsen v. Broadway Ford, Inc." on Justia Law

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Security Financial Fund, LLC, ("Security Financial") extended to Byron and Marilynn Thomason ("the Thomasons") a series of loans evidenced by five promissory notes, which were secured by three deeds of trust and two mortgages on real property. As a result of the Thomasons' non-payment on two prornissory notes secured by the mortgages, Security Financial foreclosed on those notes. While the foreclosure was still pending, the Thomasons filed a separate action against Security Financial and others, addressing all the promissory notes executed in favor of Security Financial by the Thomasons. That action sought recovery for breach of contract and fraud, among other theories. Both actions were consolidated. On appeal from the district court's decision to grant Security Financial's Motion for Summary Judgment with regard to the claims that the Thomasons asserted in their fraud case, the Thomasons contended, among other things, that the district court lacked subject matter and personal jurisdiction to foreclose on the secured property and abused its discretion. The Supreme Court concluded that all of the Thomasons' claims were waived or frivolous, and accordingly affirmed the Final Judgment in favor of Security Financial. View "Security Financial Fund v. Thomason" on Justia Law

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In April and June of 2008, Best of the Best Auto Sales, Inc. purchased seven vehicles from Dealers Auto Auction of Idaho and Brasher's Idaho Auto Auction with checks that were returned for insufficient funds. As a result, Dealers and Brasher refused to provide Best of the Best with the titles to the vehicles. Best of the Best then sold the vehicles to Idaho consumers without providing them with titles. Dealers and Brasher filed claims with CNA Surety d/b/a Western Surety Company which acted as a surety for a "$20,000 Vehicle/Vessel Dealer Bond." Best of the Best was the principal. Upon Best of the Best's failure to provide evidence or defenses for Dealers' and Brasher's claims, Western Surety alleged that it lawfully settled those claims in good faith upon the condition that the consumers received their titles, even though they were not based on final judgments. Plaintiff Nick Hestead submitted his claim, which was based on a final judgment. Plaintiff's claim involved fraud and fraudulent representation concerning a separate vehicle that he purchased from Best of the Best that was previously branded a lemon in California. Western Surety responded by asserting that the Dealer Bond was exhausted. Plaintiff contended that the plain meaning of I.C. 49-1610(4) provides that his claim should be given priority because it was submitted thirty days after a final judgment was entered, unlike Dealers' and Brasher's claims. Western Surety asserted that the plain meaning of I.C. 41-1839(3) permits sureties to settle Dealer Bond claims in good faith. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the payments on the surety bond were lawfully made in good faith pursuant to I.C. 49-1610(1) and I.C. 41-1839(3) because Dealers' and Brasher's claims were undisputed and supported by competent evidence. View "Hestead v. CNA Supply dba Western Surety Co." on Justia Law