Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In this certiorari proceeding arising out of a lawsuit brought by condominium owners whose unit was nonjudicially foreclosed by their association of apartment owners the Supreme Court held that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) erred in affirming the circuit court's dismissal of the unfair or deceptive acts of practices (UDAP) claim, holding that the Plaintiffs' UDAP claim should not have been dismissed.Plaintiffs filed a complaint against their association (Association), by and through its board of directors (Board), asserting wrongful foreclosure and UDAP claims based on the Board's nonjudicial foreclosure and public sale of their condominium apartment due to unpaid assessment fees. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The ICA held that the circuit court (1) erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' wrongful foreclosure claim, and (2) correctly dismissed the UDAP claim as time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed as to the UDAP claim and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the ICA correctly reinstated the wrongful foreclosure claim because the Board lacked a power of sale; and (2) based on the applicable notice pleading standard, viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, it cannot be said that Plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of their claim that would entitle them to relief. View "Malabe v. Ass'n of Apartment Owners of Executive Centre" on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging that a residential loan servicer engaged in systematic misrepresentations and delays over several years of post default loan modification negotiations with mortgagors the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court insofar as it struck Plaintiff's negligence claim but reversed the judgment insofar as the court struck Plaintiffs' claim alleging a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 24-110a et seq., holding the alleged facts could support a claim under CUTPA but would not support a claim of negligence.Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant committed unfair or deceptive acts in the conduct of trade or commerce by failing to exercise reasonable diligence in reviewing and processing Plaintiffs' loan modification applications, causing undue delay, and misrepresenting many aspects of the loan modification. Defendant moved to strike both the CUTPA and negligence counts. The trial court granted the motion to strike. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs alleged a CUTPA violation sufficient to survive a motion to strike; and (2) Defendant did not owe a common-law duty of care to Plaintiffs, and therefore, the trial court properly struck Plaintiffs' common-law negligence count. View "Cenatiempo v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are homeowners in centrally-planned neighborhoods in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee. The developers established and controlled owners’ associations for the neighborhoods but have transferred that control to third-party entities not controlled by either the developers or homeowners. While under the developers’ control, the associations each entered into agreements granting Crystal the right to provide telecommunications services to the neighborhoods for 25 years, with an option for Crystal to unilaterally renew for an additional 25 years. The Agreements make Crystal the exclusive agent for homeowners in procuring services from outside providers. Homeowners must pay the associations a monthly assessment fee, which the associations use to pay Crystal, regardless of whether the homeowner uses Crystal's service, and must pay Crystal $1,500 for the cost of constructing telecommunications infrastructure. Crystal uses service easements within the neighborhoods. Crystal had no prior experience in telecommunications-services and contracts with another provider, DirecTV, and charges homeowners a premium above the rate negotiated with DirecTV. Crystal does not provide services outside of the neighborhoods. The plaintiffs claimed that the Agreements constituted self-dealing, unjust enrichment, unconscionability, unlawful tying, and unlawful exclusivity. The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal, in part, finding plaintiffs’ allegations plausible on their face with respect to the tying claim, but affirmed dismissal of the exclusivity claim. View "Cates v. Crystal Clear Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff refinanced his residential home mortgage, taking out a loan secured by his home. The mortgage listed Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) as the mortgagee of record. MERS subsequently transferred the mortgage. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. as Trustee for RMAC Pass-Through Trust, eventually obtained the mortgage. After Wells Fargo sold Serra’s property at foreclosure, Serra brought suit in Massachusetts state court asserting, among other claims, claims for wrongful foreclosure and unfair or deceptive business practices based on his theory that MERS lacked the authority to transfer his mortgage. Serra’s suit was removed on the basis of diversity, and summary judgment as to all claims was entered against Serra. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under Massachusetts law, MERS may validly possess and transfer a legal interest in a mortgage; (2) subsequent mortgage assignees cannot incur liability for the allegedly predatory practices of their predecessor-in-interest; and (3) Plaintiff’s argument that his right to rescission was improperly cut short by the sale of his property was without merit. View "Serra v. Quantum Servicing Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff successfully bid at a combined foreclosure sale of real estate and secured party auction of personal property owned by Debtors. Bank held mortgage and security interests in the real and personal property. Auctioneer conducted the auction. After purchasing the property, Plaintiff discovered he would not receive much of the personal property he believed to be in the sale. Plaintiff and the current owner of the property (Plaintiffs) brought this action against Debtors, Bank, and Auctioneer (collectively, Defendants), claiming that Defendants' failure to inform Plaintiffs there were conflicting claims as to the ownership of the property constituted negligence and a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), among other causes of action. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs on four of their counts. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the trial court (1) improperly concluded that Defendants had a common-law duty to Plaintiffs to properly identify the personal property that was subject to the secured party sale; and (2) lacked the authority to award nontaxable costs pursuant to CUTPA. View "Ulbrich v. Groth" on Justia Law

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Appellant and her two uncles each owned as tenants in common an undivided one-third interest in two tracts of farmland. Both of Appellant's uncles separately sold their interest in the property to Appellee. Appellee subsequently sold one of the farms. Appellant filed a complaint seeking a partition of the lands and damages for breach of fiduciary duty as a tenant in common, tortious interference, and deceptive trade practices. Appellant claimed that Appellee prevented a family partnership from entering into seven-year renewal leases with farmers who leased the farmland and prevented the partnership from implementing a long-term plan for improving the farms. The circuit court granted summary judgment in Appellee's favor and dismissed the action with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment on Appellant's three claims, as Appellant failed to meet proof with proof that she sustained any damages as a result of Appellee's alleged breach of fiduciary duty, alleged tortious interference, and alleged deceptive trade practice. View "Skalla v. Canepari" on Justia Law

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Appellant was in the business of extending high-risk loans to customers with poor credit ratings and operated primarily in Louisiana. Appellees, who resided in Arkansas, obtained four loans from Appellant at its location in Louisiana. After Appellees failed to make payments on the loans, Appellant filed in an Arkansas circuit court a notice of default and intention to sell Appellees' home. Appellees asserted the defenses of usury, unconscionability, esoppel, unclean hands, predatory lending practices, and a violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The circuit court found that the loans constituted predatory lending by a foreign corporation not authorized to do business in Arkansas and that the contract between the parties was unconscionable and could not be given full faith and credit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court's findings of unconscionability and predatory lending practices were not clearly erroneous; and (2) court did not err in refusing to enforce the mortgage, as to do so would contravene the public policy of the State of Arkansas. View "Gulfco of La. Inc. v. Brantley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued behalf of themselves and all other purchasers of title insurance in Ohio from March 2004 through the present. They alleged that 22 title-insurance companies and the Ohio Title Insurance Rating Bureau violated antitrust laws (Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1; Ohio Rev. Code 1331.01) by conspiring to set unreasonably high title-insurance rates. The title-insurance companies filed rates with the Ohio Department of Insurance through OTIRB, a properly licensed rating bureau. Plaintiffs claimed that it was impossible for the Department to review the reasonableness of the rates collectively set by defendants because those rates are based principally on undisclosed costs, which allegedly included “kickbacks, referral fees and other expenses designed to solicit business referrals.” The district court dismissed, holding that the filed-rate doctrine applied to title insurance, and foreclosed claims for monetary damages and that Ohio statutes (Title XXXIX) completely foreclosed federal and state antitrust claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that there are at least 45 similar cases, nationwide. The filed-rate doctrine, which limits antitrust remedies available to private parties, is irrelevant because the actions are barred by state law. View "Katz v. Fidelity Nat'l Title Ins." on Justia Law

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Title insurance purchasers, on behalf of themselves and similarly situated consumers, claimed that insurers collectively fixed title insurance rates in violation of the Sherman Act. Title insurers in Delaware are required to file their insurance rates with the state Department of Insurance, Del. Code tit. 18, 2504(a). Insurers may comply with the state’s rate filing requirements through a licensed rating organization. Defendants, title insurers, are members of and file their rates through the Delaware Title Insurance Rating Bureau, which is licensed by the DOI; the statutory scheme authorizes cooperative action. The district court dismissed, holding that the complaint is barred by the filed-rate doctrine (which precludes antitrust suits based on rates currently filed with federal or state agencies), lack of standing, and federal antitrust liability exemptions. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "McCray v. Fidelity Nat'l Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This case involved two putative class actions, consolidated on interlocutory appeal, brought by purchasers of real estate brokerage services in South Carolina. Each complaint alleged that the real estate brokerages serving as board members of the local multiple listing service (MLS) conspired to unfairly restrain market competition in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. The court held that plaintiffs sufficiently pled the plurality of actors necessary for section 1 to apply. At this early stage of the litigation, the court was not in a position to weigh the alleged anticompetitve risks of the MLS rules against their procompetitive justifications. This rule of reason inquiry was best conducted with the benefit of discovery and the court expressed no view on the merits of the litigation beyond recognizing the sufficiency of the complaints. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Co." on Justia Law