Monday, December 08, 2003

Attorneys' fees of $50,000+ affirmed in VCPA case

In Peter Farrell Supercars, Inc. v. Monsen, the Fourth Circuit in a per curiam opinion for the panel of Judges Niemeyer, Williams, and Duncan affirmed the judgment in favor of a consumer on claims of breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Virginia Consumer "Practices" Act, which I thought was called the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, see Va. Code § 59.1-196, and an award of attorneys' fees under the Act.

The most interesting part of the opinion deals with the VCPA. For one, it states that the fraud rule for when a cause of action accrues applies to VCPA claims based on misrepresentation, which is not at all clear to me as being true. The whole point of the VCPA is to allow consumers an easier recovery, without having to prove all the byzantine elements of fraud - and if VCPA claims are not really fraud claims, they should not get the accrual rule reserved for fraud claims under Va. Code § 8.01-249. Even more interesting, the appellant raised Va. Code § 17.1-625, which says simply, "Although the party recovering may have had more than one attorney, only the fees of one shall be taxed in the same court." The appellant claimed that this meant the fee award could not include fees for the work of more than one attorney. The Fourth Circuit dodged the question of what the statute means, concluding that it was sufficient for the trial court to eliminate any duplication in the fee application of the multiple attorneys.

I never heard of this statute and have no idea what it means.

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