Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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Johnny Washington and his son were traveling in their 1994 Ford Explorer when their vehicle was struck by a driver (Karah Williams) who had run a stop sign. The Explorer rolled over twice, fatally injuring Johnny. Paulette Washington, individually and as administratrix of Johnny's estate, filed a complaint against Ford Motor Company for negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, and breach of warranties. The jury returned a verdict finding that Ford and Williams, in equal measure, had been the proximate cause of Johnny's death. The jury awarded $4,652,125 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages. Ford appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the judgment was not final because it did not set forth a specific dollar amount owed by Ford. View "Ford Motor Co. v. Washington" on Justia Law

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Appellee initiated this putative class-action lawsuit against DIRECTV, seeking damages for herself individually and on behalf of other former DIRECTV subscribers who paid an early cancellation fee to DIRECTV after they terminated DIRECTV's service. Appellee alleged that DIRECTV's enforcement and collection of its early cancellation fee was deceptive and unconscionable in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Appellee moved to certify the litigation as a class action. DIRECTV moved to compel Appellee to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration provision in the customer agreement that DIRECTV alleged had been mailed with Appellee's first billing statement. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration and granted Appellee's motion for class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly denied DIRECTV's motion to compel Appellee to arbitration on the basis that Appellee cancelled her service so quickly she did not assent to the arbitration agreement by her continued use of service; and (2) there was no merit to DIRECTV's arguments for reversal of the class-certification order. View "DIRECTV, Inc. v. Murray" on Justia Law

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Corey McMillan, individually and on behalf of a purported class, filed a complaint against Live Nation Entertainment and Ticketmaster (collectively Ticketmaster), alleging that Ticketmaster charged fees in excess of the printed ticket price to musical or entertainment events in Arkansas and asserting that the additional charges violated Ark. Code Ann. 5-63-201(a)(1)(B), which makes it unlawful for any person, corporation, firm, or partnership to offer for sale any ticket to any music entertainment event at a greater price than that printed on the ticket or the advertised price of the ticket. The Arkansas Supreme Court accepted certification from the U.S. district court to answer a question of Arkansas law and held that section 5-63-201 by its plain and unambiguous language applies to a person, corporation, firm, or partnership and does not exclude exclusive ticket agents of public facilities who sell music entertainment tickets that include in the price of the ticket additional fees, resulting in the price of the ticket being more than the face value and advertised price of the ticket. View "McMillan v. Live Nation Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law

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Metropolitan National Bank (MNB) loaned Grand Valley Ridge several million dollars for the completion of a subdivision. After Grand Valley failed to make its interest payments, MNB filed a petition for foreclosure. Grand Valley and Thomas Terminella, a member of Grand Valley (collectively, Appellants), filed an amended counterclaim alleging various causes of action. During the trial, the circuit court granted Appellants' motion to take a voluntary nonsuit of their claims of negligence and tortious interference with contract. The circuit court held in favor of MNB. The court subsequently granted MNB's petition for foreclosure and awarded a judgment against Appellants. Thereafter, Appellants filed a complaint alleging their original nonsuited counterclaims and adding additional claims. MNB moved to dismiss Appellants' complaint and filed a motion for sanctions. The circuit court granted both motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, inter alia, (1) because Appellants brought claims clearly barred by the statute of limitations, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in awarding sanctions; and (2) the circuit court properly granted summary judgment for MNB on Grand Valley's nonsuited issues based on the applicable statute of limitations. View "Grand Valley Ridge LLC v. Metropolitan Nat'l Bank" on Justia Law

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The State brought a consumer-protection action against Bennett & DeLoney, a Utah law firm, and the owners and principals thereof to redress and restrain alleged violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). The thrust of the complaint alleged that Bennett & DeLoney violated the ADTPA by attempting to collect penalties on dishonored checks greater than those amounts permitted by Ark. Code Ann. 4-60-103. The circuit court (1) granted partial summary judgment for the State, finding that the collection of amounts in excess of those set forth in section 4-60-103 violated the ADTPA; and (2) found that section 4-60-103 provided an exclusive remedy for recovery on dishonored checks and that the use of remedies set forth in Ark. Code Ann. 4-2-701, relating to a seller's incidental damages, was not permitted. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed, holding that the ADTPA has no application to the practice of law by attorneys, and the circuit court erred in concluding otherwise. View "Bennett & Deloney P.C. v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant Crafton, Tull, Sparks & Associates (CTSA) appealed an order of the circuit court granting summary judgment against CTSA and finding that CTSA's lien was second in priority to Appellee Metropolitan National Bank's lien on certain property. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without prejudice, holding that there was not a final order in this case nor was there an Ark. R. Civ. P. 54(b) certification. The Court concluded (1) it was impossible for the Court to determine if all claims and parties pertaining to the complaint had been settled; (2) the record contained no final disposition as to Metropolitan's claims against two individual defendants; and (3) The status of CTSA's breach-of-contract claims against individual defendants and its monetary-judgment claim against another party was unclear.

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Appellee filed a complaint against Appellant, alleging the nonpayment of goods totaling $713,970. Appellant did not answer the complaint, and the circuit court entered a default judgment awarding the amount alleged in the complaint, plus interest and costs. Appellant subsequently filed a motion to set aside default judgment and dismiss the case, contending that the summons did not bear a valid signature of the clerk as required by Ark. R. Civ. P. 4(b) and that the default judgment must be set aside as void under Ark. R. Civ. P. 55(c). The circuit court refused to set aside the default judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that the summons here was indeed valid.

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The Faigins owned a lot in the Diamante subdivision. Diamante asserted a lien on the Faigins' lot for failure to pay monthly membership dues and thereafter filed a complaint in foreclosure on the lot. The Faigins filed a motion for class certification so that they could be sued as representative parties on behalf of all lot owners in the Diamante subdivisions. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) although the circuit court abused its discretion by basing part of its decision on the question of commonality upon the ability of the proposed class to withstand a Ark. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion, (2) the element of commonality was lacking in this case where there were only seven lot owners who were in foreclosure and the Faigins' defenses to the complaint were not common to the overwhelming majority of the proposed class, and (3) because Ark. R. Civ. P. 23 requires that all elements be present before class certification is appropriate, and at least one element was lacking here, class certification was appropriately denied.

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Gene Shields, an agent for State Farm Insurance Companies, opened an account with Bankcorp Bank. The owner of the account was State Farm. Shields's office manager subsequently diverted funds that were due to be deposited into the account, and Shields allegedly suffered at least $77,925 in losses as a result of over 100 overdrafts on the account. Shields sued Bancorp Bank for negligence in failing to notify him of overdrafts. Bancorp moved to compel arbitration based on the account's arbitration clause. The circuit court denied the motion to compel, and Bancorp appealed. At issue on appeal was whether the parties' 2005 agreement to modify the contract entered into by the parties in 1982 controlled when Shields signed the agreement but State Farm was not a party to the contract. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the 2005 agreement, which contained the arbitration provision, was not binding because the agreement was entered into in contravention of the rights of the account owner, State Farm.

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Appellees executed a credit application and retail installment contract (RIC) for the purchase of an automobile. The application contained an arbitration agreement. The RIC provided an option for Appellees to purchase credit-life insurance coverage with Insurer. Appellees subsequently filed a class action against Insurer seeking the refund of unearned credit-life insurance premiums from the date they paid off their loan until the original maturity date of the loan. Insurer filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the arbitration agreement. The circuit court denied the motion after finding that the dispute was governed by Ark. Code Ann. 16-108-201(b), thereby preventing Insurer from compelling Appellees to arbitrate a dispute under an insurance policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the McCarran-Ferguson Act did not allow the Federal Arbitration Act to preempt section 16-108-201(b), and section 16-108-201(b) prohibited arbitration under these facts; and (2) the principles of equitable estoppel did apply to allow Insurer to compel arbitration.