Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Eileen Dalton purchased two used cars under separate finance contracts which contained provisions that retained self-help remedies for both parties, and that allowed either party to compel arbitration of any claim or dispute arising out of the contracts that exceeded the jurisdiction of a small claims court (which in New Mexico was $10,000). One of the cars was repossessed without judicial action. Dalton sued, alleging fraud, violations of the New Mexico Uniform Commercial Code, unfair trade practices, conversion, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of warranty of title. Santander Consumer USA moved to compel arbitration based on the clause contained in the finance contracts. Dalton argued that the arbitration clause was substantively unconscionable on its face, and therefore unenforceable because the self-help and small claims carve-outs were unreasonably one-sided. After review of the provisions at issue here, the Supreme Court held that the arbitration provision in this case was not substantively unconscionable because: (1) lawful self-help remedies were extrajudicial remedies; and (2) the small claims carve-out was facially neutral because either party had to sue in small claims court if its claim was less than $10,000, or arbitrate if its claim exceeds $10,000, thereby neither grossly unfair nor unreasonably one-sided on its face. View "Dalton v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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In January 2006, two former payday lenders, defendants B&B Investment Group, Inc., and American Cash Loans, LLC, began to market and originate high-cost signature of $50 to $300, primarily to less-educated and financially unsophisticated individuals. The loans were for twelve months, payable biweekly, and carried annual percentage rates ranging from 1,147.14 to 1,500%. The Attorney General’s Office sued Defendants, alleging that the loan products were procedurally and substantively unconscionable under the common law and that they violated the Unfair Practices Act (UPA). The district court found that Defendants’ marketing and loan origination procedures were unconscionable and enjoined certain of its practices in the future, but declined to find the high-cost loans substantively unconscionable, concluding that it is the Legislature’s responsibility to determine limits on interest rates. Both parties appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s finding of procedural unconscionability. However, the Court reversed the district court’s refusal to find that the loans were substantively unconscionable because under the UPA, courts have the responsibility to determine whether a contract results in a gross disparity between the value received by a person and the price paid. The Supreme Court concluded that the interest rates in this case were substantively unconscionable and violated the UPA. View "New Mexico ex rel. King v. B&B Investment Group, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law, Contracts

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In 2006, Joseph and Mary Romero signed a mortgage contract with the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) as nominee for Equity One, Inc. They pledged their home as collateral for the loan. The Romeros alleged that Equity One urged them to refinance their home for access to the home's equity. The terms of the new loan were not an improvement over their then-current loan: the interest rate was higher and the loan amount due was higher. Despite that, the Romeros would receive a net cash payout they planned to use to pay other debts. The Romeros later became delinquent on their increased loan payments. A third party, Bank of New York (BONY), identified itself as a trustee for Popular Financial Services Mortgage, filed suit to foreclose on the Romeros' home. BONY claimed to hold the Romeros' note and mortgage with the right of enforcement. The Romeros defended by arguing that BONY lacked standing to foreclose because nothing in the complaint established how BONY held their note and mortgage, and that the contracts they signed were with Equity One. The district court found that BONY had established itself as holder of the Romeros' mortgage, and that the bank had standing to foreclose. That decision was appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in finding BONY's evidence demonstrated that it had standing to foreclose. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Bank of New York v. Romero" on Justia Law