Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law

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In 2004, the Woods obtained a $76,000 home-equity loan secured by their homestead. Nearly eight years later, the Woods notified the note holder, HSBC, and loan servicer, Ocwen that the loan did not comply with the Texas Constitution because the closing fees exceeded 3% of the loan amount. Neither of the lenders attempted to cure the alleged defects. In 2012, the Woods sued, seeking to quiet title and asserting claims for constitutional violations, breach of contract, fraud, and a declaratory judgment that the lien securing the home-equity loan is void, that all principal and interest paid must be forfeited, and that the Woods have no further obligation to pay. The trial court granted the lenders summary judgment and the court of appeals affirmed, citing the statute of limitations. The Texas Supreme Court reversed in part.“No . . . lien on the homestead shall ever be valid unless it secures a debt described by this section[.]” TEX. CONST. art. XVI, § 50(c). This language is clear, unequivocal, and binding. Liens securing constitutionally noncompliant home-equity loans are invalid until cured and thus not subject to any statute of limitations. The Woods do not, however, have a cognizable claim for forfeiture. View "Wood v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

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After Plaintiff purchased a used yacht, the yacht’s starboard engine failed beyond repair. Plaintiff sued Defendant-manufacturer, alleging several causes of action, including breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. The jury found Defendant liable only on the implied warranty claim. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because Plaintiff was a subsequent purchaser of the used yacht and because Defendant disclaimed any implied warranty at the time of the first sale. The court of appeals reversed, holding that someone who knowingly buys used goods may still rely on an implied warranty from the manufacturer to the original buyer since the warranty passes with the goods. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant could not rely on its purported express disclaimer of implied warranties issued at the first sale because it did not properly raise that defense in the trial court; (2) an implied warranty of merchantability, unless properly disclaimed, passes to subsequent buyers; and (3) therefore, Plaintiff was entitled to recover on his implied-warranty claim. View "MAN Engines & Components, Inc. v. Shows" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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A commercial tenant (Tenant) remained in possession of property for over ten years after Tenant lost its lease when the property was sold through foreclosure. The new owner (Owner) continually insisted that Tenant vacate the premises, and Tenant ultimately conceded that it had become a tenant at sufferance. Owner filed suit against Tenant, alleging claims for breach of the terminated lease, for trespass and other torts, and for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA). The trial court entered summary judgment for Tenant on all claims. The court of appeals reversed and remanded in part. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) a tenant at sufferance cannot be liable for breach of a previously terminated lease agreement; (2) a tenant at sufferance is trespassing and can be liable in tort, including tortious interference with prospective business relations; (3) Tenant in this case could not be liable under the DTPA; and (4) Owner in this case could not recover attorney’s fees under the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act. View "Coinmach Corp. v. Aspenwood Apartment Corp." on Justia Law

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A commercial tenant remained in possession of premises for six years after it lost its lease when the property was sold through foreclosure. The tenant ultimately conceded that the foreclosure terminated the lease and the tenant became a tenant at sufferance. The property owner sued the tenant for breach of the terminated lease, trespass and other torts, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA). The trial court granted summary judgment for the tenant on all claims. The court of appeals reversed and remanded in part. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a tenant at sufferance cannot be liable for breach of the previously-terminated lease agreement; (2) a tenant at sufferance is a trespasser and can be liable in tort, including, in this case, tortious interference with prospective business relations; (3) the tenant here was not liable under the DTPA because the property owner was not a consumer; and (4) the owner in this case could not recover under the attorney's fees under the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act. Remanded. View "Coinmach Corp. v. Aspenwood Apartment Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff hired Defendant to repair foundation problems on her home. The foundation repair contract specified that Defendant would perform the foundation repair in a good and workmanlike manner and adjust the foundation for the life of the home due to settling. In 2006, Plaintiff sued Defendant for, inter alia, breach of an express warranty, breach of the common-law warranty of good and workmanlike repairs, and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) claims. The trial court entered judgment for Plaintiff on her breach of implied warranty of good and workmanlike repairs and DTPA claims. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that Plaintiff take nothing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) parties cannot disclaim but can supersede the implied warranty for good and workmanlike repair of tangible goods or property if the parties' agreement specifically describes the manner, performance, or quality of the services; (2) the express warranty in this case sufficiently described the manner, performance, or quality of the services so as to supersede the implied warranty; and (3) Plaintiff's remaining DTPA claims were time barred. View "Gonzales v. Sw. Olshan Found. Repair Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from litigation between a homeowner, its insurer, and the company hired to restore the home after a series of storms caused damage to the home. A jury found in the restoration company's favor and the trial court rendered judgment against the homeowner and its insurer, jointly and severally. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court affirmed the court of appeals' judgment with respect to the homeowner's state Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), Tex. Bus. & Com Code 17.50, claim because the homeowner was not a prevailing party and he was not a entitled to an order restoring all amounts paid under the contracts without deducting the value received under those agreements. The court also affirmed the restoration company's charge error complaint. The court reversed the court of appeals' judgment as to the insurer where the insurer received direct consideration for its promise to pay for the dehumidification and the court of appeals erred in concluding otherwise. The court remanded for that court to consider the insurer's remaining arguments, which included challenges to the factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury findings. View "Dr. Erwin Cruz v. Andrews Restoration, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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This case arose when Norma Sandoval and her sister, Nora Martinez, jointly filed suit against SCI alleging fraud, deceptive trade practices, and other tort claims arising from their respective interment rights and services contracts for family burial plots at Mont Meta Memorial Park. Martinez's contract allowed the court to appoint an arbitrator, while Sandoval's contract required the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to appoint the arbitrator if the parties could not reach a mutual agreement. The trial judge severed the cases and then appointed an arbitrator for Martinez's case. Over the objection of SCI, the trial court also appointed the same arbitrator to arbitrate Sandoval's case. At issue on appeal was whether SCI allowed a lapse or mechanical breakdown in the contractual process for selection of an arbitrator, thereby validating the trial court's intervention to appoint the arbitrator. The court held that the trial court abused its discretion by appointing an arbitrator instead of following the agreed-upon method of selection outlined in the contract. As a matter of law, the two-month delay in the selection of an arbitrator in this case, by itself, did not establish a lapse or failure of the parties to avail themselves of the contractual selection method. Accordingly, without hearing oral argument, the court conditionally granted SCI's petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its prior order appointing David Calvillo as arbitrator. View "In re Service Corp. Int'l and SCI Texas Funeral Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant, an African-American resident of Texas, sued appellees alleging that their credit-scoring systems employed several undisclosed factors which resulted in disparate impacts for minorities and violated the federal Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. 3601, 3619. At issue, in a certified question, was whether Texas law permitted an insurance company to price insurance by using a credit-score factor that had a racially disparate impact that, were it not for the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. 1012(b), would violate the FHA, absent a legally sufficient nondiscriminatory reason, or would using such a credit-score factor violate Texas Insurance Code ("Code") sections 544.002(a), 559.051, 559.052, or some other provision of Texas law. The court answered the certified question by holding that Texas law did not prohibit an insurer from using race-neutral factors in credit-scoring to price insurance, even if doing so created a racially disparate impact.