Unfair Competition Law

Several consumers have accused First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation of engaging in allegedly improper advertising and business practices. Their bid to have their complaints decided on a nationwide basis ran aground last month when a federal court in San Diego denied their motion for class certification. The main problem with the consumers’ claims, the court found, was that customers had not been uniformly exposed to the same marketing statements.
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Statutes of limitations bar lawsuits that are filed more than a certain amount of time after the conduct in question has occurred. But creative lawyers for class-action plaintiffs can sometimes rescue an otherwise untimely, flat-lined case by, for example, invoking a longer statute of limitations from a different law. Last week, a federal appellate court handed plaintiffs’ attorneys a much bigger defibrillator for doing just that.
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Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s former practice of charging more for broker price opinions (BPOs) than it paid for them could lead to class liability, a federal court in California ruled last month. The lone claim approved for class certification is a doozy: one count under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). That disco-era statute, seldom invoked nowadays, is being dusted off and used by plaintiffs’ lawyers as a last-ditch effort to rescue seemingly doomed class actions.
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Earlier this month, Bank of America, N.A., convinced a California court to reject certification of a proposed class of homeowners who experienced long delays when modifying their mortgages under a federal housing program. The plaintiffs’ novel theory, while inappropriate on a class basis, still might result in lenders being liable to individual consumers.
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