High Court to Mull Requirements of Unfair Trade Practices Claim
Enterprise then filed to discontinue its claims, and stipulated that no further claims against Grimes would be pursued. The company also filed a motion for judgment on Grimes' pleadings.
The trial court granted Enterprise's pleadings, holding that Grimes had not pled wrongful conduct or any ascertainable loss, had not alleged a misrepresentation with respect to the disputed fees and had not suffered any losses.
Grimes appealed the decision, arguing that the alleged false statements fell within the catch-all provisions of the UTPCPL. To support her claim, she further contended that Enterprise knew of the alleged falsity of the claims, that the company threatened to contact her insurance carrier and credit card holder to obtain the payments, and that she incurred costs and fees associated with asserting her right to protect herself against the action.
In examining the argument that the claims fell under the UTPCPL catch-all, Mundy noted that the state Supreme Court has said the courts should liberally interpret the law to protect consumers. She further noted the Superior Court's 2012 decision in Bennett v. A.T. Masterpiece Homes at Broadsprings, which held that deceptive conduct that creates the likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding can constitute a cognizable claim under the UTPCPL.
Mundy further said that the court's 2005 decision in Agliori v. Metropolitan Life Insurance and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's 2011 decision in Jarzyna v. Home Properties were persuasive regarding the ascertainable-loss claims.
In Agliori, a plaintiff claimed that MetLife deceptively persuaded a decedent to surrender three whole life insurance policies in order to purchase a single universal life insurance policy. The trial court dismissed the case because the decedent received the amount of coverage he thought he'd purchased and he never paid higher than agreed to premiums, so therefore he was unable to show ascertainable damages. However, the Superior Court overruled the trial court, saying that the ruling obviated the UTPCPL's purpose because it diminished the deterrent value of the law.
The Eastern District in Jarzyna concluded that a plaintiff who fought a landlord's decision to withhold a security deposit had sustained an ascertainable loss because he had been forced to retain counsel.
"In what appears to be a classic case of 'tail wagging the dog,' the trial court granted Enterprise's motion for summary judgment on the pleadings on the basis Grimes had no ascertainable loss, where Enterprise had stipulated that it will not seek to collect any money from Grimes," Mundy said. "Grimes was not required under the UTPCPL to sit idly by and wait for Enterprise to collect $840 from her in order to assert her rights and attempt to stop Enterprise's alleged deceptive trade practices."
Defense counsel Theodore H. Jobes of Fox Rothschild did not return a call for comment.
Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI. •