Friday, September 26, 2008

consumer - UTPCPL - fraud in the inducement - parol evidence

Devine v. America's Whole Lender, et al. - ED Pa. - September 25, 2008

Plaintiff's evidence about defendant's preliminary, fraudulent misrepresentations is barred by the Pennsylvania application of the parol evidence rule barring evidence about fraud in the inducement.

From the opinion (read it and weep)

Under Pennsylvania law, evidence of prior or contemporaneous oral or written negotiations or agreements is generally inadmissible to explain or vary the terms of a contract that covers or purports to cover the entire agreement of the parties. Yocca v. The Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., 854 A.2d 425, 436 (Pa. 2004); Bardwell v. Willis Co., Inc., 100 A.2d 102, 104 (Pa. 1953). In Yocca, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court explained the fraud exception to the parol evidence rule as follows:

"Notably, while parol evidence may be introduced based on a party's claim that there was fraud in the execution of the contract, i.e., that a term was fraudulently omitted from the contract, parol evidence may not be admitted based on a claim that there was fraud in the inducement of the contract, i.e., that an opposing party made false representations that induced the complaining party to agree to the contract. Yocca, 854 A.2d at fn. 26; see also HCB Contractors v. Liberty Place Hotel Assocs., 652 A.2d 1278, 1279 (Pa. 1995)."

The plaintiffs claim they signed the loan documents based on defendant's assurances that the payment option they desired would be added to the package after execution of the documents. This is fraud in the inducement. The parol evidence rule bars the introduction of this evidence because plaintiffs seek to vary the terms of the written loan documents, which purported to cover the parties' entire agreement. There is no evidence that a term was fraudulently omitted from the contract. Thus, what happened here does not fall within the fraud exception under Yocca.

Given Pennsylvania's adoption of the parol evidence rule, the plaintiffs cannot be said to have justifiably relied on the defendants' representations regarding the amount of the monthly payments due under the loans because these representations are in direct conflict with the parties' contract. Yocca, 854 A.2d at 502. Thus, plaintiffs' claim under the UTPCPL fails.

Accordingly, the court will grant summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims under the catch-all provision of the UTPCPL which are based on defendants' alleged misrepresentations.6

n. 6 - The plaintiffs' brief in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment for the first time asserts that their claims "are based in part on the ground that a violation of any portion of the UTPCPL, notably here the violations of 73 P.S. section 201-7 and the violation of any other consumer protection laws, such as the TILA, constitute per se violations of section 201-4(2) of the TPCPL." However, paragraph 32 of the plaintiffs' complaint premises their per se violations of the UTPCPL on the defendants' alleged violations of the Pa. Credit Services Act and the Pa. Loan Broker Trade Practices Regulations ("LBTP") only. To the extent the plaintiffs have premised their claims under the UTPCPL on the alleged violations of TILA and § 201-7 of the UTPCPL, such claims come too late.

child abuse - founded report - right to hearing

G.M. v. DPW - Commonwealth Court - September 26, 2008

There is no right to a civil expungment hearing on a "founded" report of abuse--i.e., one based on a court decision-- where the defendant has previously pleaded nolo contendere in a separate criminal case, if the same underlying factual circumstances are involved in both matters.

The court contrasted its decision in R.F. v. DPW, 845 A.2d 214 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004), where the generic criminal charges did not correspond to the allegations of abuse in the civil case.

Where “there is an entry of a guilty plea or nolo contendere or a finding of guilt to a criminal charge involving the same factual circumstance involved in the allegation of child abuse, an appeal would ‘in most instances, constitute a collateral attack of the adjudication itself, which is not allowed.’” J.G. v. DPW, 795 A.2d 1089, 1093 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002).