CUTPA – Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices
The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) provides a powerful tool in business litigation. It prohibits unfair competition, unfair acts or practices and deceptive acts or practices. A CUTPA claim is frequently asserted in commercial litigation involving trade or commerce in the State of Connecticut because the act can reach conduct that may not be considered unlawful under other statutes or the common law, because it may provide a private remedy where a private remedy is not provided by another statute and because it may allow a successful plaintiff to recover its attorneys’ fees and expenses, punitive damages and injunctive relief in addition to actual damages.
The Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act does not define the conduct that constitutes unfair competition or an unfair or deceptive act or practice. Over the more than 35 years, the Connecticut courts have rendered hundreds of decisions addressing whether particular business conduct violates the act. In addition, many Connecticut statutes, even those without express private remedies, provide that a violation also constitutes a violation of CUTPA.
Although the Connecticut courts have decided thousands of cases interpreting and applying CUTPA since it was enacted, there are still many questions about how CUTPA should be interpreted that have not definitively been answered. See David L. Belt, Unresolved Issues Under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, 82 Conn. B.J. 389 (2008). HSSK’s intimate familiarity with this large body of decisions helps it to represent its clients more effectively and efficiently in matters in which CUTPA claims are or may be made.
The attorneys at Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff, LLC have extensive experience in both bringing and defending CUTPA claims. In November, 2009, HSSK, with David Slossberg as lead counsel, won a jury verdict of $14.765 million in a class action on behalf of some 500 Connecticut auto body shops against a major insurance company based on a violation of CUTPA. Post-trial motions in that case are now pending. See Artie’s Auto Body Shop v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 287 Conn. 208, 947 A.2d 370 (2008)(affirming certification of class) and Artie’s Auto Body Shop v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 50 Conn. L. Rptr. 790, 2010 WL 4354114 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 14, 2010) (denying motion to set aside the verdict).
HSSK member David Belt is a leading authority on CUTPA. He is a co-author of the treatise on the act, Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices, Business Torts and Antitrust, published by West as Volume 12 of the Connecticut Practice Series. He is also the author of the chapter on Unfair Trade Practices in the Connecticut Lawyers’ Benchbook, published by the Connecticut Bar Association and a number of articles on unfair trade practices and antitrust law. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Antitrust and Trade Regulations Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, of which he has served as chair.
Other CUTPA cases handled by our attorneys at HSSK include:
- Co-counsel for Connecticut auto body shops in class actions against insurer for steering insureds to preferred auto body shops. See A&R Auto Body Specialty v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 2008 WL 2229888 (D. Conn. May 28, 2008); Artie’s Auto Body, Inc. v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 20110 WL 4354114 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct 14, 2010).
- Represented real estate investment firm claimed by the Commissioner of Consumer Protection to have improperly charged apartment tenants for water based on a ratio utility billing system; resolved by an assurance of voluntary compliance.
- Co-counsel in defense of civil RICO and unfair trade practices action by liability insurer alleging that defendant billed insured’s for services not provided. See Allstate Insurance Co. v. Seigel, 312 F.Supp.2d 260 (D. Conn. 2004).
- Represented major supermarket chain in class action alleging improper collection of sales tax and unfair trade practices.
- Connecticut counsel for video game manufacturer in action brought by administratrix of estate of minor alleging that video game caused son’s friend to stab him, claiming violating of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Connecticut Product Liability Act. See Wilson v. Midway Games, Inc., 198 F.Supp.2d 167, 106 ALR 5th 759 (D. Conn. 2002).
- Co-counsel for plaintiff in claim against health benefit plan administrator and its corporate customer for breach of contract, bad faith, unjust enrichment, interference with contract and unfair trade practices which deprived plaintiff of the fees he earned, a case successfully resolved by settlement. See Feen v. Benefit Plan Administrators, Inc., 28 Conn. L. Rptr. 137, 2000 WL 1398898 (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 7, 2000); Feen v. Benefit Plan Administrators, Inc., 1999 WL 33972 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 13, 1999).
- Represented counsel for plaintiff business consulting company in federal court action against defendant company which allegedly entered into an agreement for plaintiff to develop a credit card processing program. See 456 Corp. v. United Natural Foods, Inc., 2011 WL 87292 (D.Conn. Jan. 11, 2011).
- Represented international and domestic concert promoter in federal court action against purported agent obtaining $1,165,224.04 judgment with respect to breach of contract and CUTPA claim arising from agent’s failure to secure pop singer’s appearance for concert in Philippines. See ALV Events International v. Johnson, 2010 WL 7856715 (D.Conn. Aug. 20, 2010)
- Represented engineering firm specializing in use of powder coating technology in federal action against non-profit industry organization alleging breach of contract, misrepresentation and violation of CUTPA by directly competing with member of organization. See Powder Coating Consultants v. The Powder Coating Institute, 2010 WL 582613 (D.Conn. Feb. 16, 2010).
- Represented defendant limited liability company and its sole owner in action alleging breach of contract, fraud, conversion and violation of CUTPA, successfully defeating claim that corporate veil should be pierced and defendant’s owner held personally liable. See Optical Design Associates, Inc. v. Sunshine Confinery, LLC, 2010 WL 1495425 (Conn. Super. Ct. Mar. 9, 2010).
- Lead counsel for class of independent auto body repairers against national casualty insurer in federal class action alleging steering repair work to favored auto body shops and suppressing labor rates in auto body industry. See, A&R Body Specialty v. Progressive Casualty Co., 2008 WL 2229888 (D.Conn. May 28, 2008).
- Represented defendant limited liability company and its sole owner in action by creditor alleging, among other things, a violation of CUTPA arising out of an alleged “bust out scheme” to place debtor’s assets out of creditor’s reach. See Master Halco, Inc. v. D’Angelo, 351 B.R. 207 (D.Conn. 2006).
- Represented national cabinet manufacturer in defense of case alleging wrongful termination of distributors.
- Represented machine and tool company in action in which major firearms manufacturer alleged it had misappropriated trade secrets.
- Represented class of purchasers of children’s bedroom furniture alleged to contain formaldehyde for deceptive marketing in violation of CUTPA and the Connecticut Products Liabilities Act. See Stefan v. P.J. Kids, LLC, 2005 WL 834208 (Conn. Super. Ct. Mar. 1, 2005).
- Represented major real estate developer in action in which seller of commercial shopping centers alleging that developer had violated CUTPA by misrepresentations and had tortiously interfered with contract between seller and its employee. See Beckenstein Enterprises-Prestige Park, LLC v. Lichtenstein, 37 Conn. L. Rptr. 627, 2004 WL 1966863 (Conn. Super. Ct. Aug. 11, 2004).
- Connecticut counsel for co-defendant in multidefendant actions in which the State of Connecticut and a labor union health fund sought to recover for health care costs alleged to have been incurred as a result of the use of tobacco products. Connecticut Pipe Trades Health Fund v. Philip Morris, Inc., 153 F.Supp.2d 101 (D. Conn. 2001).
- Connecticut counsel for plaintiff manufacturer of reverse vending machines in federal action against competitor to recover for misappropriation of trade dress for its machines. See Tomra of North America, Inc. v. Environmental Products Corp., 4 F.Supp.3d 90 (D.Conn. 1998).
- Co-counsel for co-defendant in an action brought by the State of Connecticut against the major tobacco companies and others alleging violating of antitrust laws and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and seeking billions of dollars in damages. See State v. Philip Morris, Inc., 2005 WL 2081763 (Conn. Super. Ct. Aug. 3, 2005); State v. Philip Morris, Inc., 1998 WL 800274 (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 27, 1998).
- Represented defendant fund manager in action involving a claim for a multimillion-dollar fee in connection with the placement of investment interests. See Conning Corporation v. Davenport Group, 1992 WL 329298 (Conn. Super. Ct. Nov. 2, 1992); Conning Corporation v. Davenport Group, 6 Conn. L. Rptr. 340, 1992 WL 98135 (Conn. Super. Ct. Apr. 20, 1992).
- Represented state medical association in connection with investigation by Justice Department into whether association engaged in improper sharing of wage information among hospitals.