Thursday, August 02, 2007

Consumer Protection Law - pleading - particularity

Rosenberg v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, Inc. - ED Pa. - July 31, 2007

The court granted defendant's motion to dismiss a consumer protection claim under the state CPL, 73 PS 201-1 et seq, for failure to plead the claim with "particularity," as allegedly required by FRCivP 9(b), because fraud is said to be involved. "Federal courts have analogized fraud pleading to the "first paragraph of any newspaper story, requiring the who, what, when, where, and how of the circumstances." This applies not only to fraud actions under federal statutes but also to those based on state law, such as the CPL. The court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint.

Citing a series of ED Pa. cases, the court held that under CPL, plaintiff's must plead the following elements with particularily:

a) a specific false representation of material fact;
b) knowledge by the person who made it of its falsity
c) ignorance of its falsity by the person to whom it was made
d) the intention that it should be acted upon
e) that the plaintiff did act on it to his detriment (damages)
These requirements are "relaxed when the factual information regarding the alleged fraud is within the defendant's control."

As so often happens with this issue, the court did not mention Commonwealth v. Percudani, 825 A.2d 743 (Pa. Cmwlth 2003), noting that amendments (fraudulent or deceptive conduct prohibited) to the CPL statute negated this strict pleading requirement.