Assign DTPA Claim?

Dallas insurance and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) lawyers will tell you a DTPA claim cannot be assigned. If you don’t believe them, you can believe the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion in 2004 that discusses the assignability of a DTPA claim. The style of the case is, PPG Industries, Inc. v. JMB/Houston Centers Partners Ltd. Partnes. Here is the relevant information from that case to help understand why these claims cannot be assigned.
Houston Center Corporation contracted for and constructed the One Houston Center in April 1978. It subsequently sold the building to JMB in 1989 on an “as is” basis. In 1982, some seven years prior to the sale of the building, it had become apparent that the windows manufactured and installed by PPG were defective and about one quarter of the windows had to be replaced. As part of the sale, HVV assigned its warranties to JMB and JMB, in turn, waived its potential DTPA claims against HCC. When more window problems appeared in 1991, JMB sued PPG for breach of warranty and DTPA violations. A jury found for JMB and awarded damages of $4,745,037, and trebled the damages in accordance with the DTPA. The jury also awarded attorney fees in the amount of $1,716,181.00. The Fourteenth District Court of Appeals in Houston affirmed the judgment of the trial court. PPG appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
It was held by the Texas Supreme Court that DTPA claims are not assignable. While the Texas legislature failed to specify within the language of the DTPA whether claims were assignable, the purpose of the statute argues against assignability. The Texas Supreme Court noted that if it allowed the assignment of DTPA claims, it could well result in a market whereby third-parties purchased a claim from a consumer for less than its full value, thus enabling the third-party to bring the claim and obtain treble damages. In other words, the Court wished to avoid creating a secondary market similar to the one that exists for the purchase of structured settlements. The Court also held that JMB was not restricted in bringing its breach of warranty claim against PPG, thus allowing the court to sustain the jury award for breach of warranty and attorney’s fees.

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