New York Appellate Court Holds that Federal Law Does Not Preempt State Contract and Consumer Protection Laws in Gift Card Suit

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On April 17, 2012, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court held that federal laws and regulations do not preempt state contract and consumer protection laws, reversing an earlier trial court decision dismissing a lawsuit concerning gift card expiration dates and renewal fees. Sharabani v. Simon Property Group, Inc., No. 2010-07552, 2012 WL 1320067 (N.Y. App. Div. Apr. 17, 2012). The plaintiff filed an action based on New York state law to recover damages arising out of a gift card that required a “reactivation fee” for use after its expiration date. The defendant, a federally chartered thrift that managed the gift card program, and its co-defendant moved to dismiss the lawsuit on various grounds, including that all of the plaintiff’s state law claims were preempted by federal law. The court held that although Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) regulations permitted the issuance of gift cards with administrative fees, the OTS has explicitly stated that its regulations do not preempt state contract law, commercial law, tort law, or criminal law to the extent those laws are consistent with the OTS’s intent to occupy the field of federal savings associations’ deposit-related regulations. Based on this regulatory guidance, the court determined that only the claim based on New York’s abandoned property law was preempted by federal law because the OTS has specific regulations regarding abandoned accounts. The court affirmed dismissal of the abandoned property claim and remanded the remaining claims based on state contract and consumer protection laws to the trial court for evaluation under the remaining prongs of the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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