Thursday, January 24, 2019

Pet Leasing Lawsuit in the News

Pet leasing is fundamentally unfair and deceptive, and our suit against this terrible practice is getting a lot of media attention: The CT Law Tribune; The Day (New London); and The Norwich Bulletin. Other outlets have expressed interest as well, which is great because we want to make people aware of this practice so they can avoid being stuck in this situation. If you or someone you know was taken advantage of in a similar situation with a pet lease please contact me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

First Lawsuit Filed in Connecticut Against Pet Leasing

The ASPCA has called pet leasing a predatory practice aimed at people who cannot afford a companion animal.  A new lawsuit in Connecticut claims pet leasing is an unfair and deceptive trade practice in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.  The suit was brought on behalf of a 20-year-old Norwich woman who thought she was buying a puppy with a payment plan, only to find out later that she actually leased the dog and is not the owner.  
The suit, filed in New London Superior Court, is known as Christina Diskin v. The Dog House I, Inc.; My Pet Funding, LLC; and Monterey Financial Services, LLC.   The Dog House offers dogs for sale and adoption, and advertising on its website encourages consumers to "take advantage of our new financing program Wags.  Bring your puppy home today with affordable monthly payments." No where does the store say anything about "leasing" an animal.
On July 14, 2018, Ms. Diskin went to the Dog House and fell in love with a 13-week old puggle, which was listed for sale for $1,200.00 (the fair market value of a puggle is only $300-$600).  The store offered and encouraged her to apply for financing, which was done online via computer, so that she could make monthly payments. 
The sales rep told Ms. Diskin that she was approved for $3,000.  She agreed to buy the dog and pet supplies for a total price of $1,340, with a down payment of $75.  She understood that she was buying the puppy and signed a paper document called a “New Ownership Agreement.”  But she electronically signed other documents on the computer including a lease agreement.  No one told her it was a lease agreement, no one printed the documents or went over the terms, including the payments, interest rate, or the fact that she actually was not an owner of the dog, and she was not given time to read or understand the lease on the computer.  The lease was emailed to her after the transaction.
The lease states that she is NOT the owner of the dog, contrary to the New Ownership Agreement that she signed in the store.  The lease is unclear, deceptive and confusing on its face in many ways, including the total value of the dog and supplies: one page states “the total value of the product(s), capitalized cost, you are leasing is $1,425.09,” but another page says the agreed upon value of the puppy is $1,200 and the puppy kit $140.  The interest rate, which is not disclosed in the document, is in excess of 100%, and is unconscionable and unjustifiable under any circumstances.  The lease states that the total amount she will pay by the end is $3,575.97 ($49.99 plus 23 payments of $153.30) and that she must pay an additional purchase price of $213.76 plus additional fees and taxes.  The total price to own the dog is not disclosed but is in excess of $3,789.73.
The suit alleges that the defendants committed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practice Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110b et seq., in one or more of the following respects, in that they: sold a dog for a price that far exceeded the fair market value of the animal;  sold overpriced dogs to unsophisticated buyers who could not afford them, and locked them into leases with highly unfavorable terms, further increasing the cost of the animal; offered “financing” to unsophisticated buyers without informing them that the contract was actually a lease; arranged to have the plaintiff finance the cost of $1,425.09 even though the purchase price of the puppy and supplies was only $1,340.00; failed to fully disclose or explain the terms of the lease including the interest rate; duped buyers into long-term leases with an unconscionable rate of interest; failed to explain that the effective interest rate was over 100%; Failed to disclose the full purchase price of the dog; failed to explain that if she missed a payment or otherwise defaulted she would be liable for additional fees and penalties and could be forced to surrender the dog; and violated the Consumer Leasing Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1667a.
Pet leasing is banned in California, Nevada and New York, and other states have considered prohibiting the practice as well.  It is unfair to both consumers and the animals.  If a consumer misses a payment they can be forced to surrender their pet in addition to incurring financial penalties.  Pet leasing is an inherently harmful business practice that offends public policy and should be unlawful in the State of Connecticut. The suit seeks damages and a declaration that the lease is void as against public policy, and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from enforcing this lease and any other pet leases in CT. For more information, or if you were also tricked into signing a pet lease, please contact Attorney Camassar.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DAFR Responds to State's Motion to Dismiss

Here is the link to Plaintiff's Memo in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss filed by the State of Connecticut Attorney General's office on behalf of Gov. Malloy. The State moved to dismiss this declaratory judgment action on the grounds of lack of standing and sovereign immunity. The case challenges the constitutionality of Connecticut's recently enacted gun control statute that was enacted in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, in particular, the expansion of the State's "assault weapons" ban and limit on magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Plaintiff Scott Ennis founded DAFR, which now has a national membership of about 15,000, including 3,500 in Connecticut, with the goal of providing opportunities for disabled Americans, including disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to engage in recreational and competitive shooting events. DAFR’s mission also includes the education of the public and elected officials concerning the unique needs of disabled individuals when exercising their fundamental rights in the lawful use of firearms. They claim that the language of the Act, particularly the adoption of a "one feature test" that bans guns based on features like pistol grips and adjustable stocks, precludes many disabled individuals from being able to safely and effectively use a rifle for self-defense.
The plaintiffs claim violations of Connecticut constitutional and statutory provisions, including (a) Art. I § 15 of the State constitution, which guarantees that all citizens have a right to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State; (b) Conn. Gen. Stat. § 27-2, which affirms the rights of all citizens to bear arms as members of the unorganized militia of the State; (c) Art. I §1 of the State constitution, which guarantees equality of rights of all citizens of the State; (d) Article I § 20 of the State constitution, as amended by amendment XXI, which guarantees equal protection of the law, and prohibits discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of civil or political rights based on physical disability; and (e) Conn. Gen. Stat. §46a-58(a), which prohibits the deprivation of civil rights on the basis of physical disability.
The plaintiffs argue that it is a well established principle of Connecticut law that sympathy and emotion make for bad legal outcomes. However horrible and terrifying was Newtown, the constitution and laws of our state require--and our citizens deserve--more than a knee-jerk, feel-good emotional legislative reaction, one that was poorly thought out, not debated, hastily passed and implemented, and which does nothing to keep people safe from homicidal/suicidal sociopaths who perpetrate random acts of violence that were already illegal before the Act.
We know from our own experience in Connecticut, as well as nationally, that the assault weapon bans do not work to reduce violence, we know that American cities with the strictest gun control laws have the highest gun murder rates (i.e., Chicago), and we know that highly restrictive gun laws in other countries like Australia and Great Britain have not made those societies any safer, or prevented mass shootings there. At some point we have to admit that these laws do not accomplish their stated purposes. They only infringe the rights of honest people.
The assault weapon ban is a misguided, ill-considered distraction from the real issue of gun violence in this country and this state. It is already illegal to kill one’s mother, steal her lawfully-owned guns, drive them to a school, and murder students and staff inside. None of the laws against these activities prevented the Newtown incident, and there is nothing in the Act that will prevent another homicidal maniac from attacking another school or other “gun-free zone” with a legal pistol and a dozen 10-round magazines.
Incidents like Newtown are among the most isolated and rare crimes in this country. Sadly, crimes against the disabled happen with much more frequency and regularity. Sane, law-abiding citizens, particularly disabled ones who are among the most vulnerable in our society, deserve the ability to defend themselves with appropriate arms that are suitable for personal and home defense. The language of P.A. 13-3, particularly the expansion of the “assault weapons” ban and limitation on “large capacity magazines,” deprives disabled persons such as the plaintiffs of the right to bear suitable arms in self-defense. For these reasons, the plaintiffs maintain that the provisions of the Act should be declared unconstitutional.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Energy Drinks Face More Scrutiny

The NY Times reported "The distributor of the top-selling energy 'shot,' 5-Hour Energy, has long claimed on product labels, in promotions and in television advertisements that the concentrated caffeine drink produced 'no crash later' - the type of letdown that consumers of energy drinks often feel when the beverages' effects wear off." However, "an advertising watchdog group said on Wednesday that it had told the company five years ago that the claim was unfounded and had urged it then to stop making it." The article mentions that "the dispute over 5-Hour Energy's claim also comes as regulatory review of the high-caffeine drinks is increasing." The US Food and Drug Administration recently said that it has received reports over the past five years of the possible role of 5-Hour Energy in 13 deaths, although this does not necessarily mean that the product was actually responsible for a death or injury.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Surgical Errors Rise in CT, Despite Efforts to Prevent Errors

The AP reports that the Connecticut Dept. of Public Health "says reports of wrong-site surgeries in Connecticut hospitals increased by 62 percent last year, while the number of patient deaths or disabilities resulting from surgery or falls also rose."

Also, 96 patients died or were seriously injured from falls in 2011 — up from 91 the year before.

"Dr. Mary Reich Cooper, vice president and chief quality officer for the Connecticut Hospital Association, tells the Connecticut Health Investigative Team that hospitals are working together to eliminate errors."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Opinion: Focus on Patient Safety to Reduce Malpractice Cases

Mary Alice McLarty, president of the American Association for Justice, wrote in a CNN op-ed that "preventable medical errors are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and cost our country $29 billion a year," adding that while medical malpractice lawsuits are a symptom of the problem, the root of the problem is medical malpractice itself. Writing that "the civil justice system gives families of patients who have died or have been injured by medical negligence an avenue to seek accountability," McLarty argues that proposals for medical malpractice reform are misguided because they only strip away patients' rights and remove accountability. She argues that the most effective way to address the medical malpractice crisis is to focus on patient safety efforts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NHTSA: Nearly 10% of Fatal Crashes Involved Distracted Driving reported that "Distracted driving was cited as a contributing factor in nearly 10% of all fatal crashes in 2010, while that number nearly doubles (to 18%) for crashes where individuals were injured, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The report studied all vehicle crashes in 2010, analyzing how influential distracted driving behaviors were in those crashes. ...  NHTSA found that 416,000 people were injured that year in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers, while 3,092 people were killed in crashes where someone was exhibiting distracted driving behaviors."  Read more.