Harding v. Cutler Group, Inc., 2015 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 4104 (Nov. 10, 2015)

The only element of common law fraud a homeowner must prove to prevail in a claim under the Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law against their homebuilder is justifiable reliance.

The plaintiffs sued their homebuilder/contractor, alleging claims sounding in breach of contract, violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), , 73 Pa.C.S. § 201-1, et seq., and breach of warranty arising from water infiltration issues with their new home. After a three-day bench trial, judgment was entered in favor of the homeowners, finding that the homebuilder was liable to the plaintiffs for breach of contract/warranty and for violations of the UTPCPL. The homebuilder appealed, alleging, in part, that the plaintiffs failed to prove the elements of common law fraud and, thus, should not have prevailed on their UTPCPL claims. The Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the plaintiffs were not obligated to prove all elements of common law fraud in order to prevail on a UTPCPL claim. Instead, the court held that, to prevail on a claim under the UTPCPL, a plaintiff need only prove one element of common law fraud – justifiable reliance. Specifically, the Superior Court held, “The plaintiff must demonstrate that he justifiably relied upon the defendant’s wrongful conduct or representation and that he suffered some harm as a result of that reliance.” Citing Weinberg v. Sun Co., 777 A.2d 442, 446 (Pa. 2001). Although this decision is not binding, as it is unpublished, it provides persuasive authority in support of an argument that a plaintiff is not required to prove all elements of common law fraud, including scienter, to prevail on a UTPCPL claim.

Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2016

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