Who Can Be Sued And How Much Can Be Recovered

Fort Worth insurance lawyers will have potential clients come in their doors complaining of being done wrong by an insurance company. One of the ways to help a client make a recovery in their case, besides the Texas Insurance Code, is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).
The DTPA does not limit who may be sued except for one seldom used media exception found in Section 17.49. Instead, the right to sue depends on whether the plaintiff qualifies as a “consumer” under the DTPA. This is established with respect to the underlying transaction. Once it is shown that the plaintiff sought or acquired goods or services by purchase or lease, the plaintiff is a “consumer” as to all persons involved in the transaction. This is told to us by the DTPA and in case law. The case law is from the Texas Supreme Court case, Cameron v. Terrell & Garrett, Inc., a 1981 case.
There is a long line a Texas appeals court cases that say privity of contract is not required to be classified as a consumer.
However, the DTPA statutes do exempt certain transactions, must of which are found in Section 17.49. These exemptions include some acts or practices mentioned in the Federal Trade Commissions Act, the rendering of professional services which the essence of is providing advice, judgment, opinion, or similar professional trade, and the media as mentioned earlier.
A “consumer” who prevails may obtain:
(1) the actual economic damages;
(2) if the trier of fact finds that the conduct of the defendant was committed “knowingly,” the consumer may recover damages for mental anguish, as found by the trier of fact, and the trier of fact may award not more than three times the amount of economic damages;
(3) if the trier of fact finds the conduct was committed “intentionally,” the consumer may recover damages for mental anguish, as found by the trier of fact, and the trier of fact may award not more than three times the amount of damages for mental anguish and economic damages;
(4) an order enjoining such acts or failure to act;
(5) orders necessary to restore to any party to the suit any money or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired in violation of the DTPA;
(6) any other relief that the court deems proper, including the appointment of a receiver or the revocation of a license or certificate authorizing a person to engage in business in this state, if the judgment had not been satisfied within three months of the date of the final judgment; and
(7) Court costs and reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees.
All the above can be found in Section 17.50(b) thru (h).
As can be seen, a violation of the statute allows recovery of economic damages, costs, and attorney’s fees. A “knowing” violation allows, in addition, recovery of mental anguish damages. An “intentional” violation lets the jury award up to three times the amount of mental anguish damages and economic damages.
As can be seen, there is quite a bit of “bite” in the law for most cases.