Businesses Facing Surge in Lawsuits Related to State Consumer Law
Due to broad interpretation of a specific consumer law known as the Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act ("TCCWNA"), New Jersey has seen an increase in lawsuits against businesses operating in New Jersey. Plaintiffs and their lawyers have been particularly fond of the statute’s provisions, which can include a statutory penalty, actual damages or both. Attorney’s fees and costs can also be recovered. As a result, the federal and state court systems have been flooded with such claims.
What is the TCCWNA?
The TCCWNA basically offers consumers an alternative method of enforcing their existing rights. Unlike the more familiar New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the TCCWNA does not require proof of a measurable loss caused by a seller’s fraudulent conduct. It is designed to allow consumers who have suffered no monetary loss of any kind to file lawsuits against businesses where the alleged misconduct is not readily apparent. All that is required is proof that the business has violated any legal right or responsibility by entering into a written contract with the consumer.
Who Are Wenger & Spade?
Wenger and Spade are plaintiffs in cases against Bob’s Discount Furniture Store (Wenger) and Select Comfort Corporation (Spade). The cases allege violations of the New Jersey Delivery of Household Furniture and Furnishing Regulations. According to these regulations, specific language regarding timely delivery is supposed to be included in the contracts between company and the consumer. A federal district court judge determined that while the language of the contracts did not fully comply with the Furniture Delivery Regulations, the plaintiffs were not “aggrieved” under the TCCWNA. As a result, the claims were dismissed. The issue of what is "aggrieved" under the TCCWNA is now pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The New Jersey Supreme Court is addressing whether a consumer is entitled to relief under the TCCWNA for a statutory violation even if there is no actual damage?
Why are these cases significant to consumer law and business owners?
Since the law was first signed by Governor Brendan Byrne in 1981, there has not been a lot of judicial interpretation of the statute. Depending on the New Jersey Supreme Court's interpretation of "aggrieved," consumer claims under the TCCWNA could become more or less easy to pursue.
If you are an aggrieved consumer or a business accused of violating the TCCWNA, please contact us for an appointment to further assess your matter. As a consumer and business law practice, the Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC is well-equipped to assist your legal needs.
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