Legislation championed by PCCJR that would amend the Unfair Trade Practices Act has been introduced in the House by Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin. The legislation, H.B. 1891, is in response to the state Supreme Court’s decision in Gregg v. Ameriprise, which expanded the scope of liability under the Act’s “catch-all” provision.
In a split 4-3 decision the Court held that the “catch-all” provision of the Unfair Trade Practices Act is a strict liability provision and the intent or mindset of the business actor has no bearing on liability. This means that “state of mind” or intent of a defendant is irrelevant under the “catch-all” provision of the Act and does not need to be proven by a plaintiff. “A plain language analysis of the relevant statutory provision leads inexorably to the conclusion that deceptive conduct under the [UTPCPL] is not dependent in any respect upon proof of the actor’s state of mind,” Justice David Wecht wrote in the majority opinion.
With the standard of liability eased, this opens the door to an increase in suits filed under the Act. As noted in a previous PCCJR update, mere buyers remorse will now be cause to sue, should a plaintiff allege they did not understand a transaction.
As argued in a PCCJR amicus curiae brief, this expanded scope of liability goes against legislative intent by ignoring the limiting language (fraudulent or deceptive conduct) which requires consideration of the actor’s state of mind. Kauffman’s legislation reverts the law back to the original legislative intent.