Tumult in California UCL Class Action Cases: Will the Supreme Court Step in?

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Late last year the Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal issued its decision in Zhang v. Superior Court, 178 Cal. App. 4th 1081 (2009). In that case, the court identified the issue presented “as whether fraudulent conduct by an insurer, which is connected with conduct that would violate Insurance Code § 790.03 et seq., sometimes referred to as the ‘Unfair Insurance Practices Act’—can also give rise to a private civil cause of action under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq.” The court held that it did. This case will thus address whether insurance companies enjoy any special exemption from UCL liability. The statement of issues on review reads:

(1) Can an insured bring a cause of action against its insurer under the unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200) based on allegations that the insurer misrepresents and falsely advertises that it will promptly and properly pay covered claims when it has no intention of doing so? (2) Does Moradi-Shalal v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Companies (1988) 46 Cal.3d 287 bar such an action?

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