No Right to Jury Trial for Consumer Fraud Claim in Pennsylvania

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently refused to grant plaintiffs' request to review a Superior Court decision in December 2012 that held there is no right to a jury trial for claims brought under Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL).

In Fazio v. The Guardian Life Insurance Company, the Superior Court affirmed a bench trial verdict against the plaintiffs and agreed with several Pennsylvania trial court decisions holding that "there is no right to a jury trial for private causes of action under the UTPCPL." The Superior Court explained that "[t]he statute does not specifically enumerate that right." It also emphasized that "the UTPCPL did not merely codify common law claims of fraud. The UTPCPL created a distinct cause of action for consumer protection."

The Superior Court recently reiterated that there is no right to a jury trial in Dearmitt v. New York Life Insurance Company. Also relying on Fazio, a judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently held in Dings v. Lenhoff that there is no right to a jury trial of UTPCPL claims in federal court.

The practical effect of the Fazio decision is to reduce the settlement value of UTPCPL claims, as it eliminates the risk of a "runaway jury."

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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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