Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Plaintiff Fat Bullies Farm, LLC (Fat Bullies), and the counterclaim defendants, Donald Gould and Peter Simmons, appealed certain superior court findings and rulings made during the course of litigation with defendants Alan and Donna Perkins and Lori and Bret Devenport, involving the sale of a 3.1 acre horse farm in North Hampton known as Runnymede Farm. When the Devenports purchased the property in 1998, they promised to operate it as a horse farm in perpetuity, and to allow the former owner to maintain an office on site. Simmons told the Devenports that he was interested in purchasing the property. The Devenports told Simmons they would only sell if the buyer agreed to the horse farm and on site office conditions. Simmons spoke with Gould about purchasing the property jointly with the intent to develop and/or resell it. The two created Fat Bullies “for the purpose of acquiring real estate for development or resale.” After amendments to the purchase contract, the Devenports reiterated that they would sell the property only if Fat Bullies committed to operating it as a horse farm. Despite their intentions to develop the property, Simmons and Gould agreed. The parties executed a sales agreement. No payment had been made on the property; word got back to Lori Devenport that Simmons had talked to others in North Hampton about purchasing the farm. The Devenports rescinded the agreement, believing Simmons lied to them about promising to operate Runnymede as a horse farm. Fat Bullies invoked an option, but the Devenports refused to sell. In 2011, the Devenports sold Runnymede to the Perkinses. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Devenports on Fat Bullies’ breach of contract claim, finding that Fat Bullies failed to prove the existence of a contract by a preponderance of the evidence, and a verdict in favor of Fat Bullies, Simmons, and Gould on the Devenports’ fraudulent inducement claim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court with respect to a Consumer Protection Act violation decision; the Court reversed with respect to attorney fees related to that Act decision. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fat Bullies Farm, LLC v. Devenport" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Holloway Automotive Group (Holloway) appealed a circuit court order ruling that the liquidated damages clause contained in the parties’ contract was unenforceable. Holloway was an authorized franchisee of Mercedes-Benz North America. Defendant Steven Giacalone purchased a new vehicle from Holloway. At the time of the purchase, the defendant signed an “AGREEMENT NOT TO EXPORT:” “MBUSA prohibits its authorized dealers from exporting new Mercedes-Benz vehicles outside of the exclusive sales territory of North America and will assess charges against [Holloway] for each new Mercedes-Benz vehicle it sells . . . which is exported from North America within one (1) year.” By signing the agreement, defendant promised “not [to] export the Vehicle outside North America . . . for a period of one (1) year” from the date of the Agreement and, if he did so, to pay Holloway $15,000 as liquidated damages. The vehicle was subsequently exported within the one-year period. Holloway sued claiming breach of contract and misrepresentation and seeking liquidated damages in the amount of $15,000, plus interest, costs, and attorney’s fees. The trial court found that the Agreement was entered into “between the parties to protect [Holloway] from a claim by [MBUSA],” but that MBUSA did not, in fact, charge Holloway any fees despite the vehicle having been exported. The trial court declined to enforce the liquidated damages clause in the agreement. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the $15,000 liquidated damages provision was enforceable because Holloway’s damages resulting from the breach were not “easily ascertainable.” Accordingly, the Court held the trial court’s determination that the liquidated damages provision in the parties’ Agreement was unenforceable was not supported by the record and was erroneous as a matter of law. View "Holloway Automotive Group v. Giacalone" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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Plaintiff Jeffrey Smith appealed a circuit court granting judgment to defendant Milko Pesa d/b/a Auto Milko, on plaintiff’s small claim action seeking damages and other relief on the grounds that he validly revoked acceptance of the used motor vehicle the defendant sold him and that, by selling him the vehicle, the defendant violated RSA chapter 358-F. In February 2014, plaintiff purchased a 2004 Subaru from defendant “as is as seen.” Before purchasing it, he signed and/or initialed four documents, namely a receipt from defendant’s car dealership stating that plaintiff purchased the motor vehicle “as is as seen,” and containing statements in which defendant, as the seller of the motor vehicle, disclaimed “ALL WARRANTIES, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED.” After purchasing the motor vehicle, the plaintiff had it inspected by a Subaru dealership, and the vehicle failed inspection. Thereafter, the parties agreed that the vehicle would be inspected by an independent mechanic. According to plaintiff, the independent mechanic corroborated the opinion of the Subaru dealership that the vehicle was beyond repair. According to defendant, the independent mechanic opined that the vehicle required only the replacement of a missing part. Plaintiff subsequently brought a small claim action against the defendant, seeking damages and rescission of the sale. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court's order, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Pesa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Plaintiff Jeffrey Roy appealed a circuit court order approving a recommendation of the Judicial Referee that judgment be entered in favor of defendant Quality Pro Auto, LLC on plaintiff’s small claim action. Plaintiff bought a used motor vehicle from defendant for $1,895. The bill of sale indicated that the vehicle was sold “As is As seen.” The sale also included a form from the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) titled “NOTICE OF SALE OF UNSAFE MOTOR VEHICLE.” In his small claims suit, plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the defendant had breached the implied warranty of merchantability when it sold the vehicle to him. Agreeing with the trial court that plaintiff waived this implied warranty, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Roy v. Quality Pro Auto, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Defendant was a Michigan-based company that “assists corporations in complying with regulations associated with the conduct of corporate business by supplying annual corporate consent documents” by way of direct mail. Defendant mailed solicitations to potential customers. Its New Hampshire mailing address was “a private mailbox used as a clearinghouse to receive and bundle orders from New Hampshire customers.” According to defendant, as a result of these direct mailings, it made sales in New Hampshire totaling $12,625. A grand jury indicted defendant on 27 felony violations of the Consumer Protection Act, encompassing three sets of nine charges, all stemming from defendant’s allegedly deceptive use of the New Hampshire mailing address in 2013. The State appealed a Superior Court order dismissing the 27 indictments, ruling that the indictments were defective because they alleged that the defendant acted with the mental state of “knowingly,” and not “purposely.” Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s judgment. View "New Hampshire v. Mandatory Poster Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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The respondents, Shared Towers VA, LLC and NH Note Investment, LLC, appealed, and petitioner Joseph Turner, individually and as trustee of the Routes 3 and 25 Nominee Trust, cross-appealed, Superior Court orders after a bench trial on petitioner’s petition for a preliminary injunction enjoining a foreclosure sale and for damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. The parties’ dispute stemmed from a commercial construction loan agreement and promissory note secured by a mortgage, pursuant to which petitioner was loaned $450,000 at 13% interest per annum to build a home. Respondents argued the trial court erred when it: (1) determined that they would be unjustly enriched if the court required the petitioner to pay the amounts he owed under the note from November 2009 until April 2011; (2) applied the petitioner’s $450,000 lump sum payment to principal; (3) excluded evidence of the petitioner’s experience with similar loans; (4) ruled that, because the promissory note failed to contain a "clear statement in writing" of the charges owed, as required by RSA 399-B:2 (2006), respondents could not collect a $22,500 delinquency charge on the petitioner’s lump sum payment of principal; and (5) denied the respondents’ request for attorney’s fees and costs. Petitioner argued that the trial court erroneously concluded that respondents’ actions did not violate the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). After review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded: contrary to the trial court’s decision, petitioner’s obligation to make the payments was not tolled. Because the loan agreement and note remained viable, it was error for the trial court to have afforded the petitioner a remedy under an unjust enrichment theory. The trial court made its decision with regard to the payment of $450,000 in connection with its conclusion that the petitioner was entitled to a remedy under an unjust enrichment theory. Because the Supreme Court could not determine how the trial court would have ruled upon this issue had it not considered relief under that equitable theory, and because, given the nature of the parties’ arguments, resolving this issue requires fact finding that must be done by the trial court in the first instance, it vacated that part of its order and remanded for further proceedings. In light of the trial court’s errors with regard to the attorney’s fees and costs claimed by respondents, the Supreme Court vacated the order denying them, and remanded for consideration of respondents’ request for fees and costs. The Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s rejection of petitioner’s CPA claim. View "Turner v. Shared Towers VA, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Trinity EMS, Inc. appealed a circuit court order dismissing its collection action against defendant Timothy Coombs. Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against defendant in 2003. Defendant made some payments, but as of March 2012, the judgment had not been satisfied. Plaintiff filed a new suit in 2012, for a new judgment, which it could use to attach the defendant’s real estate, because the first judgment was outside of the statute of limitations for an action of debt upon a judgment. In dismissing plaintiff's 2012 suit, the trial court ordered that "all hearings should be scheduled in [the 2003 action’s docket]." Plaintiff moved for reconsideration. The court denied the motion, finding (in relevant part): "There is no Cause of Action for obtaining 'an attachment' which is what Plaintiff is seeking. . . . Plaintiff has a judgment. It was apparently never recorded and is beyond the limitation period set forth in RSA 511." On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in dismissing its 2012 action because its complaint set forth a claim upon which relief could have been granted. The Supreme Court disagreed after review of the pertinent New Hampshire case law: plaintiff stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, the Court reversed the dismissal of the plaintiff's action and remanded for further proceedings. View "Trinity EMS, Inc. v. Coombs " on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mark Case appealed a superior court order that granted summary judgment to defendant St. Mary's Bank and denied his cross-motion for summary judgment on his claims that the bank engaged in trespass and violated state law and the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The matter arose from the bank's foreclosure on property Plaintiff leased from his landlord, Jean Marcelin. Months before the foreclosure sale, pipes burst in an apartment above plaintiff's, causing a flood. The City of Manchester turned off water and electricity to the building. Plaintiff spoke about the problem to Marcelin, who denied that he still owned the property. Plaintiff then spoke about the problem to a Bank representative; the representative asked plaintiff to allow her, a plumber, and an electrician into the building. The plaintiff complied with this request. The City placed a legal notice on the property’s front door, stating that it was unsafe and prohibiting occupancy. Plaintiff had not resided at the property since the flood, though most of his possessions remained at the property. When the Bank allowed him access to the apartment to remove his possessions, plaintiff observed that his apartment door was "wide open" and subsequently alleged that many of his possessions were missing. Finding no error with the superior court order, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision. View "Case v. St. Mary's Bank " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted an interlocutory appeal from the superior court that partially granted and partially denied the summary judgment motion filed by Defendants Lakes Region Water Company and Thomas Mason (collectively LRWC). The question before the Court was whether the superior court erred in concluding that Defendants were not exempt from the Consumer Protection Act to the extent that they allegedly misrepresented that the water they provided was safe for use and consumption. Answering in the affirmative, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of partial summary judgment as to the claims of the plaintiffs Jo Anne Rainville, Carl Beher, Lisa Mullins d/b/a The Olde Village Store, and approximately fifty others, under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) which sought damages for alleged misrepresentations about the quality of water provided. View "Rainville v. Lakes Region Water Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. appealed an award by the Commissioner of the State Banking Department in favor of Respondent Rachel Nicholson based on claims under the Consumer Protection Act. The issue stemmed from Respondent contacting Countrywide in 2005 in order to purchase a house. She spoke with two Countrywide agents who promised that they would "investigate and present her with the best [financing] program." At the hearing before the Commissioner, Respondent testified the agents orally approved her for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan at 6% interest. Thereafter, Respondent spoke with agents on a weekly basis regarding the property purchase and loan. The agents did not raise any problems with the loan application until two days before the scheduled closing date. On that day, despite the fact that there were no changes in Respondent's employment status or credit since the application had been filed, the agents informed her that Countrywide would not be able to grant a fixed interest loan for the amount she needed. They informed her that to purchase the home, she would need to apply for two different loans. On the scheduled closing date, as instructed by the agents, Respondent applied for two new loans at higher rates of interest but for shorter durations. After multiple hearings, the Commissioner ultimately entered an order ruling that Countrywide had committed "an unfair or deceptive practice" under state law, and ordered that Countrywide reimburse Respondent for all monies paid prior to, at and after closing, as well as discharge the first mortgage and void the second. Furthermore, Countrywide was ordered to quitclaim the property to Respondent. Finding that the Commissioner should not have granted a hearing on the merits of Respondent's claims, the Supreme Court vacated the award entered in her favor. View "Appeal of Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. " on Justia Law