Monday, January 14, 2008

Exclusive Authority

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court , Eastern District, held that the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") does not apply to "an attorney's conduct in collecting and distributing settlement proceeds." A law firm had been held vicariously liable for conversion of funds by a firm associate attorney. The suit alleged a variety of lapses by the firm including the UTPCPL violation. After a bench trial, the court awarded treble damages on that claim. The Superior Court affirmed.

The court majority concluded that the ethical and disciplinary rules "exclusively address the conduct complained of in this case... [the law firm's] conduct in collecting and distributing settlement proceeds does not fall within the purview of the [act], but rather within this Court's exclusive regulatory power."

There are concurring and dissenting opinions (linked here and here: "The UTPCPL is not a law directed at regulating attorneys; rather, it is a law of general applicability. Appellants should not be exempted from the reach of the UTPCPL simply because of their status as attorneys.") (Mike Frisch)

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