Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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The First Circuit reversed the ruling of the district court suppressing blood alcohol content evidence from a warrantless blood draw because no exigent circumstances were present, holding that the district court misapplied the law to the facts in this case.After a car accident that killed three people, a police officer ordered a warrantless blood of Defendant's blood without Defendant's consent and without exigent circumstances. The government charged Defendant with three counts of manslaughter and other intoxicated-driving crimes. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence from the warrantless blood draw, which the district court granted. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the government met its burden to show it was reasonable for the police officer to think exigent circumstances existed when he took the blood draw. View "United States v. Manubolu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting and sentencing Defendant for first-degree robbery, holding that Defendant's assignments of error did not merit relief.Defendant and his girlfriend were indicted for robbing a gambling parlor. Before trial, the girlfriend agreed to testify against Defendant. After Defendant made a series of jailhouse phone calls to his girlfriend, she withdrew her plea agreement and declared she would not testify against Defendant. The circuit court granted the State's motion to admit the girlfriend's recorded statement into evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in granting the State's motion to admit the girlfriend's out-of-court statement under the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing doctrine; (2) the circuit court properly found that Defendant had engaged in wrongdoing that would support the admission of the girlfriend's out-of-court statement; (3) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (4) the court's answer to a jury question was not in error. View "State v. Jako" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action against numerous companies for violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA) through their marketing of men's and women's antiperspirants. Plaintiff alleges that Conopco, Inc.—doing business as Unilever—discriminates based on gender in pricing two Dove product lines.The court concluded that plaintiff mistakes gender-based marketing for gender discrimination where she ignores the fact that the different scents, packaging, and labels make the products potentially attractive to different customers with different preferences. Because preference-based pricing is not necessarily an unfair practice, the MMPA does not prohibit defendants' pricing here. View "Schulte v. Conopco, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Cheryl Thurston and Luis Licea (collectively Thurston) were California residents who purchased items from defendant Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC (Fairfield), a Georgia limited liability company, through the company's website. Thurston alleged Fairfield’s website was not fully accessible by the blind and the visually impaired, in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The trial court granted Fairfield’s motion to quash service of summons, ruling that California could not obtain personal jurisdiction over Fairfield, because Fairfield did not have sufficient minimum contacts with California. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the evidence showed that Fairfield made some eight to ten percent of its sales to Californians. "Hence, its website is the equivalent of a physical store in California. Moreover, this case arises out of the operation of that website." The trial court therefore could properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Fairfield. View "Thurston v. Fairfield Collectibles of Georgia, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences for second degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony, holding that there was no abuse in the trial proceedings.Specifically, the Court held (1) any error in the admission of statements Defendant made during two interviews was harmless, and the district court did not err when it overruled Defendant's motion to suppress a letter to his sister; (2) the district court did not err when it overruled Defendant's motion to suppress evidence from the search of his cell phone; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it prohibited Defendant from presenting evidence regarding the victim’s mental health and use of alcohol and prescription drugs; (4) the district court did not err when it denied Defendant the right to cross-examine a witness on issues the court determined to lack probative value; and (5) the district court did not err when it allowed evidence that results of certain DNA tests were uninterpretable. View "State v. Said" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint alleging that Defendants knew that Mount Ida College was on the brink of insolvency but concealed this information, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were properly dismissed.Mount Ida, a higher education institution in Massachusetts, permanently closed after providing its students six weeks' notice that it was closing. Plaintiffs, current and prospective students, brought a putative class action against Mount Ida, its board of trustees, and five Mount Ida administrators (collectively, Defendants), alleging seven Massachusetts state law claims. The district court dismissed the complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' breach of fiduciary duty claim failed; (2) the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs' violation of privacy claim; (3) no claims were stated for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, or fraud in the inducement; (4) Plaintiffs' allegations did not plausibly allege a breach of implied contract; and (5) the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim. View "Squeri v. Mount Ida College" on Justia Law

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Jeremiah Smith filed a class action complaint against LoanMe, Inc., alleging that LoanMe violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act. Smith alleged that LoanMe violated Penal Code section 632.7 by recording a phone call with Smith without his consent while he was using a cordless telephone, and he claimed that a “beep tone” at the beginning of the call did not constitute sufficient notice that LoanMe was recording the call. In a bifurcated trial about the beep tone issue, the trial court concluded that: (1) the beep tone provided sufficient notice to Smith that the call was being recorded; and (2) Smith implicitly consented to being recorded by remaining on the call. The Court of Appeal concluded section 632.7 prohibited only third party eavesdroppers from intentionally recording telephonic communications involving at least one cellular or cordless telephone. Conversely, section 632.7 did not prohibit the participants in a phone call from intentionally recording it. Consequently, Smith failed to state a claim against LoanMe under section 632.7. The Court therefore affirmed dismissal of Smith’s lawsuit. View "Smith v. LoanMe, Inc." on Justia Law

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In the underlying actions, the People asserted claims under Business and Professions Code section 17501 against real parties in interest and alleged that real parties sold products online by means of misleading, deceptive or untrue statements regarding the former prices of those products. The trial court sustained real parties' demurrer without leave to amend on the ground that the statute was void for vagueness as applied to real parties.The Court of Appeal granted the petition for writ of mandate seeking relief from the ruling regarding the section 17501 claims, and held that real parties failed to demonstrate any constitutional defect on demurrer. Regarding real parties' challenge to section 17501 as an unconstitutional regulation of free speech, as a preliminary matter, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the statute targets only false, misleading or deceptive commercial speech; the plain language of the statute restricts protected commercial speech and thus, the statute was subject to the test for constitutional validity set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Public Serv. Comm'n (1980) 447 U.S. 557, 566; and, because the undeveloped record was inadequate to apply the test, real parties' "free speech" challenge necessarily failed on demurrer. The court also rejected real parties' contention that section 17501 was void for vagueness, and rejected the facial and as-applied challenges. View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacating the district court’s order dismissing with prejudice Petitioners’ charges of one count of prostitution under Haw. Rev. Stat. 712-1200(1)(b) based on State v. Modica, 567 P.2d 420 (1977), holding that the ICA erred in determining that Petitioners’ due process and equal protection rights had not been violated.In their motions to dismiss, Petitioners argued that sections 712-1200(1)(a) and (1)(b) prohibited the same conduct but that subsection (1)(b) barred a harsher penalty and that, pursuant to Modica, where two crimes prohibit the same conduct, to convict them of the crime carrying the harsher penalty would violate their due process and equal protection rights. The district court agreed and dismissed the charges. The ICA disagreed, concluding that subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) prohibited different conduct, and therefore, the district court erred in finding a Modica violation. The Supreme Court disagreed with the ICA and remanded these cases for further proceedings, holding that, based on the plain language of sections 712-1200(1)(a) and (1)(b), as they existed at the time Petitioners were charged, Petitioners’ charges violated the Modica rule. View "State v. Sasai" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for operating a noncommercial vehicle with alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (DUI per se) but reversed the district court’s order imposing the cost of legal counsel on Defendant. The court held (1) Defendant’s right to due process was not violated by a jury instruction that instructed the jurors, when choosing between two competing interpretations of circumstances evidence, to choose whichever interpretation was the “most reasonable”; but (2) the district court erred in imposing costs of legal counsel on Defendant given Defendant’s limited fixed income and disability status. View "State v. Iverson" on Justia Law