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."