Appellate Division Compels Arbitration of Consumer Fraud and TCCWNA Claims and Dismisses Class Claims

Adrienne C. Rogove

In Griffoul v. NRG Residential Solar Solutions, LLC and NRG Energy, Inc., the Appellate Division recently addressed the validity of an arbitration clause in a lease between the plaintiffs, residents of Elmwood Park and class representatives (“Plaintiffs”), and NRG Residential Solar Solutions (“NRG RSS”) doing business as NRG Home Solar (“NRG Residential”) and NRG Energy, Inc. (“NRG Energy”) (collectively, “Defendants”). A-5535-16T1 (App. Div. May 4, 2018). Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Defendants alleging violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) and the Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”) based on particular provisions in the lease. The lease required NRG Residential to install solar systems on Plaintiffs’ properties, which would provide electricity to their homes, and which would be connected to the utility’s electrical transmission grid.

Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration clause in the lease. In pertinent part, the lease provided:

“[A]ny dispute, disagreement or claim between you and NRG RSS arising out of or in connection with this Lease, or the Solar System…shall be submitted to final and binding arbitration…YOU AND NRG RSS AGREE THAT BY ENTERING INTO THIS LEASE, YOU AND WE ARE WAIVING THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL. IN ADDITION, EACH PARTY MAY BRING CLAMS AGAINST THE OTHER PARTY ONLY IN ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING.”

Defendant NRG Energy also moved to dismiss the CFA claim for failure to plead it with particularity as required by Rule 4:5-8(a), and to dismiss the TCCWNA claim on the basis that NRG Energy was not a party to the lease agreement. Continue reading “Appellate Division Compels Arbitration of Consumer Fraud and TCCWNA Claims and Dismisses Class Claims”

Appellate Division Holds That Consumer Fraud Act Plaintiffs Can Recover Attorneys’ Fees Expended in Defense of Counterclaim

Jaret N. Gronczewski 

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The New Jersey Appellate Division in Garmeaux v. DNV Concepts, Inc. t/a The Bright Acre, No. A-1400-14T1, held that a prevailing plaintiff in a Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) case is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees expended to defend an intertwined counterclaim. The opinion, which addressed an issue of first impression for the court, has been approved for publication. The court also reaffirmed that New Jersey law does not impose a proportionality requirement on fee awards.

The plaintiffs in Garmeaux sued Bright Acre in connection with services rendered to replace their gas fireplace in 2010. According to the plaintiffs’ testimony, Bright Acre introduced them to co-defendant James Risa, who was slated to perform the installation services for the new fireplace. At the time, Risa had worked at Bright Acre for approximately 20 years. Risa, however, also owned and operated his own independent company called Professional Fireplace Services. In March 2010, Risa provided a $3,700 estimate to the plaintiffs for installation services. And Bright Acre provided a sales order for $2,450 in August 2010. In September 2010, the plaintiffs made a payment to Professional Fireplace Services toward the $3,700 installation fee. Work began in late October 2010. Continue reading “Appellate Division Holds That Consumer Fraud Act Plaintiffs Can Recover Attorneys’ Fees Expended in Defense of Counterclaim”

Does a CFA Claimant Need to Plead “But for” Causation?

Seth J. Lapidow and Ethan M. Simon

New Jersey courts appear to be trending toward requiring Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) claimants to plead “but for” causation to survive dismissal. On Aug. 23, Judge Anne E. Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed a class action CFA claim Rudel Corporation filed against Heartland Payment Systems, a credit and debit processor. See Rudel Corp. v. Heartland Payment Systems, No. 16-2229, 2016 WL 4472944 (D.N.J. Aug. 23, 2016). According to the complaint in Rudel, the plaintiff operated a restaurant and used Heartland to process credit card transactions. In spring 2014, Heartland sent a letter to Rudel and other clients announcing a new program through which Heartland would charge a lower rate on American Express transactions. Several months later, Heartland indicated on Rudel’s monthly account statement that it had incorrectly calculated the rates for the new American Express program and had to adjust the rates. Allegedly, Heartland also retroactively charged the increased rate. Continue reading “Does a CFA Claimant Need to Plead “But for” Causation?”