Court: Arbitration Clause Unconscionable; Competition Law Claim Proceeds

    SAN DIEGO - An automobile finance company may not force arbitration of California unfair competition law (UCL) claims because the back of the "take-it-or-leave-it" contract contains unconscionable provisions permitting appeal of any injunctive relief award and provides no way to avoid up-front payment of fees for both sides, a state appeals court held April 8 (Shaun Trabert v. Consumer Portfolio Services Inc., No. D06491, Calif. App., 4th Dist., Div. 1).

    Bayer Combination Aspirin Refund Class OKd, But Judge Denies 1 Cy Pres Recipient

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. - A New York federal judge on April 8 certified a $15 million refund class settlement for consumers who purchased Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage and Bayer Women's Low Dose Aspirin + Calcium but denied approval of a cy pres distribution of any unused funds to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation and ordered the plaintiffs to come up with a new recipient in two days (In Re: Bayer Combination Aspirin Products Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, No. 09-md-2023, E.D. N.Y.).

    Judge Again Rejects Standing For 'White Chocolate" Products Man Didn"t Purchase

    SAN FRANCISCO - A man may pursue misrepresentation claims under the California unfair competition law (UCL) for "white chocolate" products he purchased, but four other named products are too dissimilar for standing purposes, a federal judge held April 5 (Scott Miller, et al. v. Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., and DOES 1 through 50, No. 12-04936, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49733).

    Kansas Federal Judge Certifies Class Of California Claims In 'Hot Fuels" Cases

    KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Plaintiffs bringing California unfair competition law (UCL) claims in the "hot fuels" multidistrict litigation adequately allege standing and liability, a Kansas federal judge held April 5 in granting class certification (In Re: Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, Rushing, et al. v. Alon USA Inc., et al., Lerner, et al. v. Costco Wholesale Corp., et al., Wyatt, et al. v. B.P. Am. Corp., et al., Nos. 07-md-1840, 07-2300, 07-2405, 07-2507, D. Kan.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49424).

    Judge Finds Attempt To Collect Visa Debt Was Abusive

    ST. LOUIS - A Missouri federal judge on April 1 awarded summary judgment to a man complaining that the attempted collection of a Target Visa debt violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) and Telephone Consumer Protections Act (TCPA), finding that defendant Client Services Inc. (CSI) failed to show that its communications were accidental (Arric Ploch v. Client Services Inc., No. 4:12CV0518, E.D. Mo., Eastern Div.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46427).

    Snack Food Labeled 'All Natural' Is Likely To Deceive, Judge Concludes

    SAN FRANCISCO - While the lack of a hyphen in the term "all natural" could lead to multiple interpretations, a reasonable consumer would conclude the product contain exclusively "all natural" ingredients, a California federal judge held April 1 in partially granting a motion for dismissal (Markus Wilson and Doug Campen, et al. v. Frito-Lay North America Inc. and Pepsico Inc., No. 12-1586, N.D. Calif.).

    BMW Wins Injunction Against Repair Shop Using Its Trademarks

    LAS VEGAS - A Nevada federal judge on March 29 enjoined a Las Vegas auto repair shop that specializes in BMW repairs from continuing to imply a relationship with the auto company and ordered it to surrender any BMW-branded materials for destruction (BMW of North America LLC, et al. v. Quality Star Benzz LLC, No. 2:12-cv-00889, D. Nev.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46699).

    Judge Dismisses Class In Heartworm Medication Over Injunctive Relief

    ABERDEEN, Miss. - A Mississippi federal judge dismissed a putative class action suit brought by dog owners alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and unfair business practices in the marketing of heartworm medications as more effective than they actually are, saying April 1 that injunctive relief does not predominate over the monetary damages sought (Neal Haley, et al. v. Merial Limited, et al., No. 4:09-CV-00094, N.D. Miss.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46825).

    Federal Judge Rules Viable Claims Asserted Over Student Debt Collection

    PHILADELPHIA - A Pennsylvania federal judge refused to dismiss some putative class action claims stemming from the collection of student debts, saying March 28 that the plaintiff had stated viable claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Pennsylvania's Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA) (Megan Donohue v. Regional Adjustment Bureau Inc., et al., No. 12-1460, E.D. Pa.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45044).

    Bank's Conduct Was Not Fraudulent, Federal Judge Rules

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Claims that Chevy Chase Bank F.S.B. and successor Capital One N.A. made it impossible for a mortgage holder to make timely payments and unfairly reported late payments to credit agencies were dismissed March 28 by a District of Columbia federal judge through summary judgment or as preempted by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (Christopher Ihebereme v. Capital One, et al., No. 10-1106 (ABJ), D. D.C.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44392).

    9th Circuit Panel Rejects Continuous Violation Doctrine In Contract Case

    SAN FRANCISCO - A man has not adequately pleaded an injury or that the continuous violation doctrine saves his California unfair competition law (UCL) claim stemming from his contract with a franchiser, a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held March 28 (Sultan Hameed v. IHOP Franchising LLC, et al., No. 10-2276, No. 9th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 6251).

    Antitrust Claims Dismissed From LIBOR Suit; Commodity Manipulation Claims Survive

    NEW YORK - A federal judge in New York on March 28 dismissed federal antitrust claims brought by over-the-counter, bondholder, exchange-based and Charles Schwab plaintiffs against 16 banks involving alleged manipulation of the London InterBank Offered Rate (LIBOR), an interest rate benchmark (In re: LIBOR-Based Financial Instruments Antitrust Litigation, No. 11 MD 2262, S.D. N.Y.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45909).

    Illinois Judge Finds Causation, Reliance Lacking In Annuity Disclosure Case

    CHICAGO - An elderly widow has not shown that representations in an allegedly untimely disclosure form factored into her purchase of an annuity or decision to keep the policy past the 30-day free cancellation period, a federal judge in Illinois held March 26 in dismissing a California unfair competition law (UCL) claim (Estella Rowe, et al. v. Bankers Life and Casualty Co. and Bankers Life Insurance Co. of Illinois, No. 09-491, N.D. Ill.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42168).

    Calif. Top Court Declines Competition Law Mid-Term Insurance Cancellation Case

    SAN FRANCISCO - According to its docket, the California Supreme Court on March 27 denied a petition challenging a finding that failure to disclose the method of calculating refunds for mid-policy cancellations supports a claim under the unfair competition law (UCL) (Craig Streit, et al. v. Farmers Group Inc., et al., No. S208017, Calif. Sup.).

    Visa, MasterCard, Banks Oppose Motion To Alter Judgment In ATM Fee Antitrust Case

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Visa, MasterCard and several banks on March 22 opposed a motion to alter the judgment of a federal judge in the District of Columbia dismissing actions brought by independent operators of automated teller machines (ATMs) and several ATM users who alleged that Visa and MasterCard violated federal antitrust law by establishing and enforcing a uniform agreement among payment card-issuing banks in the United States to fix prices for ATM services (The National ATM Council, Inc., et al v. Visa Inc., et al., No. 11-1803; Andrew Mackmin v. Visa Inc., et al., No. 11-1831; Mary Stoumbos v. Vis Inc., et al., No. 11-1882, D. D.C.).

    High Court: Class Certification In Antitrust Case Was Improper

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on March 27 ruled 5-4 that a district court may not certify a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3) without resolving whether the class has introduced admissible evidence, including expert testimony, to show that the case is susceptible to awarding damages on a classwide basis (Comcast Corporation, et al. v. Caroline Behrend, et al., No. 11-864, U.S. Sup.).

    DOJ, Michigan Move To Dismiss Antitrust Suit Against Blue Cross Over MFN Clauses

    DETROIT - Following the Michigan Legislature's passage of bills prohibiting the use of "most favored nation" (MFN) clauses, the United States, Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on March 25 filed a joint motion to dismiss allegations that Blue Cross violated federal and state antitrust laws by including such clauses in its contracts with hospitals in Michigan (United States of America and the State of Michigan v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, No. 10-14155, E.D. Mich.).

    Reverse-Payment Settlements Presumptively Anticompetitive, FTC Tells High Court

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Federal Trade Commission told the U.S. Supreme Court in oral arguments on March 25 that the court should treat reverse-payment settlements of patent litigation between the holder of a drug patent and potential generic manufacturers of the drug as presumptively invalid (Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, Inc., et al., No. 12-416, U.S. Sup.).

    Solicitor General Views Invited By Supreme Court In Lanham Act Case

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court on March 25 invited the government to weigh in on a dispute over Lanham Act false advertising claims levied in connection with food labels (POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., No. 12-761, U.S. Sup.).

    Court: Insurer's Low-Ball Offer For Third Party's Harms Not An Effort to Defraud

    SAN DIEGO - An insurer's denial of liability and a low-ball settlement offer to an individual allegedly injured by its insured do not constitute an effort to defraud, a state court held March 18 in affirming dismissal of California unfair competition law (UCL) claims (Emanuel McCray v. Metropolitan Transit System, et al., No. D060802, Calif. App., 4th Dist., Div. 1; 2013 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1943).

    Silver Price-Fixing Allegations Against JPMorgan Are Dismissed

    NEW YORK - A federal judge in New York on March 18 dismissed allegations that JPMorgan violated federal antitrust law by participating in a conspiracy to manipulate market prices for silver futures (In re Commodity Exchange, Inc. Silver Futures and Options Trading Litigation, No. 11 md 02213, S.D. N.Y.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37122).

    California Top Court Rejects Competition Law Injunction Case Against Law Firm

    SAN FRANCISCO - The California Supreme Court on March 20 declined to review a California unfair competition law (UCL) injunction against an immigration law firm and its shareholder that a lower court found regulated fraud and not the practice of law (The People ex rel. Dennis J. Herrera, as city attorney, etc. v. Christopher Stender, et al., No. No. S208570, Calif. Sup.).

    Judge's Transfer Requires Necessity, Not Economy, 9th Circuit Chief Says

    SAN FRANCISCO - A chief federal appeals judge has turned down the offer of a multidistrict litigation judge to preside over remanded cases in litigation over motor fuel temperature sales practices, saying March 19 that U.S. Supreme Court rules do not allow such a transfer absent a showing of necessity from a district court in his circuit (In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litigation, No. 2:07-md-01840-KHVJPO, 9th Cir.; Lerner v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 2:07-cv-01216-GHK-FMO, C.D. Calif.; Rushing v. Alon USA, Inc., No. 4:06-cv-07621-PJH, N.D. Calif.; Wyatt v. B.P. America Corp., No. 3:07-cv-01754-BTM-JMA, S.D. Calif.).

    Federal Judge: California Competition Law Claims Proceed Against Supplement Maker

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Two consumers adequately pleaded that they purchased a vitamin C product based on allegedly misleading representations regarding its potency and benefits, a New York federal judge held March 15 (Patrick Hughes and Nafise Nina Hodjat, et al. v. The Ester C. Co., NBTY Inc., and NatureSmart LLC, No. 12-41, E.D. N.Y.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36652).

    MDL Judge Approves Settlement Between Toshiba, Direct CRT Purchasers

    SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge on March 18 certified a settlement class and granted preliminary approval of a $13.5 million settlement between direct purchasers of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and Toshiba on the direct purchasers' price-fixing claims in antitrust multidistrict litigation (In re: Cathode Ray Tube $(CRT$) Antitrust Litigation $(Indirect Purchaser Actions$), MDL No. 1917, No. 3:07-cv-05944, N.D. Calif.).