Litigation

The litigation attorneys at Houston Harbaugh, P.C., are accomplished business trial lawyers, providing comprehensive support in litigation across a broad spectrum of matters throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other jurisdictions upon a special admission basis. Our clients are regional and national small, medium and large companies and individuals who seek well planned and aggressive, but cost effective litigation. We counsel, we budget, we have a deep bench, we act quickly when needed and we have experienced trial lawyers who know the courts and bench. We serve regularly as local counsel for some of the largest law firms in the country when they have matters in this region.

Here Comes Treble: Pennsylvania Supreme Court holds treble damages under the UTPCPL cannot be limited by punitive damages

On April 25, 2024, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that trial courts considering violations of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”) may not limit damages because of separate awards of punitive damages or attorneys’ fees. In Dwyer v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., --- A.3d ----, 2024 WL 1776091 (Pa. 2024), a 5-1, precedential opinion, the Supreme Court held that trial courts are precluded from considering that a jury awarded the plaintiff common law punitive damages or attorneys’ fees when deciding whether to award treble damages under the UTPCPL.

This case arose from the Dwyers’ 1985 purchase of a life insurance policy from Ameriprise, which misrepresented that premiums would not increase for the life of the policy. The Dwyers filed a civil action in state court raising claims for negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, and a violation of the UTPCPL. The parties agreed that a jury would decide the question of punitive damages, while compensatory and statutory UTPCPL damages would be decided by the trial court. Following a 2019 trial, the jury awarded punitive damages of $75,000.00. The trial court then found for the Dwyers on their UTPCPL claim and awarded $45,570.00 in compensatory damages plus interest.

The trial court declined to award treble damages under Section 9.2 of the UTPCPL, holding that the actual and punitive damages were “sufficient to compensate the [Dwyers] for the losses caused by [Ameriprise], and to punish and deter [Ameriprise] from such similar future conduct.”

On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed. However, the Supreme Court reversed, holding:

The purposes of a remedial statute such as the [UTP]CPL are not served by restricting the availability of damages to those that may already exist under the common law . . . The trial court’s exercise of discretion under Section 9.2(a) of the [UTP]CPL was clouded by its consideration of other damages. Contrary to the trial court’s belief, the court may not rely upon the jury’s award of punitive damages on the common-law claims to resolve the Dwyers’ entitlement to treble damages under the [UTP]CPL. The trial court may not conflate the two species of damages.

The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions for the trial court to reconsider of damages under Section 9.2(a) of the UTPCPL.

Justice Wecht authored the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Todd and Justices Donohue, Dougherty, and Mundy. Justice Brobson filed a concurring and dissenting opinion.

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About Us

The litigation attorneys at Houston Harbaugh, P.C., are accomplished business trial lawyers, providing comprehensive support in litigation across a broad spectrum of matters throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other jurisdictions upon a special admission basis. Our clients are regional and national small, medium and large companies and individuals who seek well planned and aggressive, but cost effective litigation. We counsel, we budget, we have a deep bench, we act quickly when needed and we have experienced trial lawyers who know the courts and bench. We serve regularly as local counsel for some of the largest law firms in the country when they have matters in this region.

Henry Sneath Pittsburgh Business Litigation Lawyer. Pittsburgh Strong.® DTSALaw® Complex Case Mediation and ADR

Henry M. Sneath - Practice Chair

Co-Chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Litigation Practice, and Chair of its Intellectual Property Practice, Henry Sneath is a trial attorney, mediator, arbitrator and Federal Court Approved Mediation Neutral and Special Master with extensive federal and state court trial experience in cases involving commercial disputes, breach of contract litigation, intellectual property matters, patent, trademark and copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, DTSA claims, cyber security and data breach prevention, mitigation and litigation, probate trusts and estates litigation, construction claims, eminent domain, professional negligence lawsuits, pharmaceutical, products liability and catastrophic injury litigation, insurance coverage, and insurance bad faith claims.

Sam Simon Houston harbaugh lawyer

Samuel H. Simon - Practice Chair

As co-chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Litigation Group, Sam focuses his practice on commercial/business litigation. Sam regularly represents clients in the construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and wholesale/retail/ distribution industries, as well as individuals in matters such as:

  • Construction litigation
  • Environmental litigation
  • Breach of contract disputes
  • Oil and gas litigation
  • Negligence
  • Restrictive covenants (non-compete agreements)
  • Civil rights
  • Collections/creditors’ rights
  • Lease disputes