As Matter of First Impression, Class Action Treatment for Rescission Claims Under TILA (Truth in Lending Act) is not Proper First Circuit Holds
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Massachusetts federal court against First Horizon Home Loan alleging that it violated the federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and its state law equivalent, the Massachusetts Consumer Credit Cost Disclosure Act (MCCCDA) by failing to accurately disclose to borrowers their statutory rescission rights. McKenna v. First Horizon Home Loan Corp., 475 F.3d 418, 420 (1st Cir. 2007). Plaintiffs moved for class certification; defense attorneys objected that class action treatment was inappropriate. Id. The district court certified a class that included borrowers who had refinanced or paid off their loan with First Horizon, id., at 420-21. The First Circuit granted a defense request for interlocutory review of “an appeal that requires us to explore, for the first time, the crossroads at which class-action rules intersect with the rescission provisions of [TILA] and [MCCCDA].” Id., at 420. The Circuit Court concluded that “the district court lacked the authority to certify a class of residential borrowers who might potentially be eligible for rescissionary relief.” Id.
The First Circuit began by summarizing TILA’s and the MCCCDA’s statutory scheme, McKenna, at 421-22, and noted that while the class action complaint sought rescissionary relief under the MCCCDA, the parties agreed that “TILA supplies the applicable rules of decision,” id., at 422. The Circuit Court then addressed the “flagship claim” of defense attorneys that “as a matter of law, class actions for rescission are unavailable under the TILA,” id. The Court noted that central issue before it – “whether TILA claims focused on rescission are maintainable in a class-action format” – is a matter of first impression in the First Circuit. Id., at 423. The Fifth Circuit, however, has held that “rescission class actions are not maintainable under the TILA.” Id. (citing James v. Home Constr. Co. of Mobile, Inc., 621 F.2d 727, 731 (5th Cir. 1980)). The theory behind this line of cases is that “rescission claims, unlike damages claims, are not subject to any aggregate statutory cap and, therefore, rescission class actions, if permitted, could easily render a creditor insolvent.” Id. (citation omitted). The First Circuit recognized that some district courts have certified TILA class actions seeking rescission, but followed James based on its conclusion that “Congress did not intend rescission suits to receive class-action treatment.” Id. The Circuit Court’s statutory intent analysis is well worth reading. See id., at 423-27.