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Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
May 21, 2020, Argued; February 17, 2021, Decided
No. 29 WAP 2019
[*640] JUSTICE WECHT
In 1999, Gary and Mary Gregg sought the expertise of Robert A. Kovalchik, a financial advisor and insurance salesperson for Ameriprise Financial, Inc. Engaging in what the trial court would later conclude to be deceptive sales practices, Kovalchik made material misrepresentations to the Greggs to induce them to buy certain insurance policies. The Greggs ultimately sued Ameriprise Financial, Inc., Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., Riversource Life Ins. Co., and Kovalchik (collectively, Ameriprise) under Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("CPL"), 73 P.S. § 201-2(4)(xxi).1 The [*641] Greggs' complaint also asserted, inter alia, common law claims for negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent misrepresentation.
The case proceeded to a jury trial on the [**2] common law claims, resulting in a defense verdict. The CPL claim proceeded to a bench trial. After the trial court ruled in favor of the Greggs on that CPL claim, Ameriprise filed a motion for post-trial relief arguing (among other points) that the Greggs failed to establish that Kovalchik's misrepresentations were, at the very least, negligent, a finding that Ameriprise asserted was required to establish deceptive conduct under the CPL.
The trial court denied relief, and the Superior Court affirmed. Like the trial court, the Superior Court concluded that the Greggs were not required to prevail on the common law claims of fraudulent misrepresentation or negligent misrepresentation in order to succeed on their CPL claim. Gregg v. Ameriprise Fin., 2018 PA Super 252, 195 A.3d 930, 936 (Pa. Super. 2018). Applying Commonwealth v. TAP Pharm. Products, Inc., 36 A.3d 1197 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2011), rev'd on other grounds, 626 Pa. 1, 94 A.3d 350 (Pa. 2014), the Superior Court held that the test for deceptive conduct under the CPL is whether the conduct has the tendency or capacity to deceive, without regard to the actor's state of mind. Gregg, 195 A.3d at 939.
On appeal, this Court is tasked with determining whether, as the Superior Court held, a strict liability standard applies to the Greggs' CPL claim. ] A plain language analysis of the relevant statutory provision leads inexorably to the conclusion that [**3] deceptive conduct under the CPL is not dependent in any respect upon proof of the actor's state of mind. The Superior Court's holding is consistent not only with the plain language of the CPL, but also with our precedent holding that ] the CPL is a remedial statute that should be construed broadly in order to comport with the legislative will to eradicate unscrupulous business practices. See Commonwealth by Creamer v. Monumental Props., Inc., 459 Pa. 450, 329 A.2d 812, 817 (Pa. 1974). Accordingly, we affirm.
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245 A.3d 637 *; 2021 Pa. LEXIS 608 **; 2021 WL 607486
GARY L. GREGG AND MARY E. GREGG, Appellees v. AMERIPRISE FINANCIAL, INC., AMERIPRISE FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC., RIVERSOURCE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY AND ROBERT A. KOVALCHIK, Appellants
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered September 12, 2018 at No. 1504 WDA 2017, affirming the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County entered September 27, 2017 at No. GD 01-006611.
deceptive, vendor, catch-all, state of mind, consumer, strict liability, deceive, misrepresentation, misunderstanding, fraudulent, trial court, negligent misrepresentation, likelihood of confusion, unfair, misleading, practices, falsity, consumer protection, common law fraud, common law, fraudulent misrepresentation, consumer transaction, fraudulent conduct, courts, legislative intent, common law claim, insurance policy, cause of action, plain language, deceptive act
Antitrust & Trade Law, Trade Practices & Unfair Competition, State Regulation, Scope, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices, State Regulation, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Questions of Fact & Law, Torts, Fraud & Misrepresentation, Actual Fraud, Elements, Negligent Misrepresentation, Private Actions, Standing, Requirements, Regulated Practices, Federal Trade Commission Act, Federal Trade Commission Act, Effect & Operation, Amendments