Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Unsecured Creditor's Levy on Deposit Account Defeats Prior Secured Creditor--UCC 9-332(b)

In a reported case of first impression under California law, the California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 5 ruled that an unsecured creditor's garnishment or levy on funds in a deposit account will defeat the prior secured creditor. Orix Financial Services, Inc. v. Kovacs, 83 Cal. Rptr. 3d 900, 08 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 12,845 (Sept. 30, 2008).

The debtor defaulted on $1.5 million in secured debt held by Orix. Kovacs independently obtained a judgment against the same debtor for about $150,000. Kovacs was an unsecured creditor. In traditional analysis of creditors' priorities, Orix's claim was superior to Kovaks. However, Kovacs obtained a writ of execution and levied on the debtor's deposit accounts. The deposit account holders paid the funds to Kovacs. The prior secured creditor Orix sued the unsecured creditor Kovacs for unjust enrichment and imposition of a constructive trust.

The court of appeal ruled that the unsecured creditor was entitled to keep the money as a "transferee" under California's version of UCC 9-332(b) (California Comm. Code 9332(b)), which states:
"A transferee of funds from a deposit account takes the funds free of a security interest in the deposit account unless the transferee acts in collusion with the debtor in violating the rights of the secured party."

The term "transferee" is not defined. However, considering the underlying commercial policy favoring certainty in routine deposit account transactions--most of which involve transfers to unsecured creditors--the court ruled that the levying creditor should fall within the definition of "transferee" within UCC 9-332(b).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

UCC Warranty Limitations--New Article in Orange County Lawyer Magazine

Our blogger Gregory E. Robinson published an article in the October 2008 edition of Orange County Lawyer Magazine, the official publication of the Orange County [California] Bar Association. "Beyond the Battle of the Forms--UCC Warranty Limitations: 'How to Make 'Em and How To Break 'Em," Vol. 50, N0. 10, Orange County Lawyer, page 18 (October 2008). The article discussed common situations in which express and implied warranties arise (UCC Sections 2-213, 2-314, 2-315). Sellers' exclusions and limitations of warranties are also considered (UCC 2-306) along with buyers' strategies to defeat these restrictions. Buyers' strategies include omission of these limits or exclusions from the contract (Section 2-207), subsequent dealings between the parties giving rise to new obligations, and failure of an essential purpose. (UCC 2-719). We have added a link to the article. Copies can be ordered from the Orange County Bar Association website, or from Robinson & Robinson, LLP.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Implied and Express Warranty Claims: Duck Feet Have No Class

The Central District of California recently denied class certification in a lawsuit alleging breach of express warranty and implied warrant of merchantability. Gable v. Land Rover of North America, 2008 WL 4441960 (C. D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2008)--not reported in F. Supp. 2d. Plaintiff claimed that Land Rovers sold in Michigan in 2005 and 2006 had a defective "toe-out" condition in the rear tires, causing the vehicles to be "duck-footed." The court found that many different circumstances can cause duck-footed misalignments. Without "individual inquiry" there was no way to determine whether the duck-footedness was caused by the manufacturer or driver. The court also noted that plaintiff had not shown that even a majority of the class vehicles experienced the defect. These two factors caused the judge, Andrew J. Guilford, to rule that the plaintiff had "no class." The opinion noted that courts often split over the issue of class certification involving defects that can be caused by the manufacturer or owner. (See Sammuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors America, Inc., 212 F.R.D. 271, 282 (E.D. Pa. 2002) [class certification granted in premature brake wear case]; Kia Motors America Corp. v. Yvonne Butler, No. 3D05-11455 (Florida Third District Court of Appeals, 2008) [class certification denied in case involving the exact same claims.]) Maybe the Ninth Circuit will have to determine whether duck feet have no class.