Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds that Party Can Secure BOTH Treble Damages AND Punitive Damages in UTPCPL Claim

In the case of Dwyer v. Ameriprise Financial, No. 2 WAP 2023 (Pa. April 25, 2024) (Op. by Wecht, J.)(Brobson, J., Concurring and Dissenting), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a court may, under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), award both punitive damages and treble damages.

This case involved Plaintiffs who sued Ameriprise Financial for negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation relative to a life insurance policy. The Plaintiffs alleged that the carrier misrepresented to them that their quarterly premium payments would remain the same for the life of the policy. In reality, if the Plaintiff’s premium payment had remained the same, the policy allegedly would have lapsed for insufficient funds in 2020.

The trial court found Ameriprise guilty of violating Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and award compensatory damages. The trial court declined to award treble damages under the UTPCPL under a rationale that such damages would be duplicative of the punitive damages that were awarded by the jury on the common law claims.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court had affirmed this decision.

Going up to the appellate ladder to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, that Court reversed and held that treble damages under the UTPCPL are a separate remedy available to the Plaintiffs and must be considered by the trial court without regard to a punitive damages award on related common law claims.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that nullifying the availability of a statutory award because of a common law award is not a permissible exercise of discretion by the trial court.

Accordingly, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the order of the Superior Court and remanded the case back down to the trial court for reconsideration of the appropriate amount of damages under the UTPCPL.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of the Majority decision written by Justice Wecht may click this LINK.  

Justice Brobson Concurring and Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE

I send thanks to Attorney Kenneth Newman of the Pittsburgh office of the Thomas Thomas & Hafer law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Source of image::  Photo by Giorgio Trovato on www.unsplash.com.

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