Thursday, January 26, 2006

Colorado Supreme Court allows deceptive trade practices suits against attorneysPoint of Law informs us the Colorado Supreme Court this month allowed an aggrieved client of high volume personal injury law firm Azar and Associates to add to his malpractice claim against the law firm a Colorado statutory deceptive trade practices count (Colorado Consumer Protection Act "CCPA" § 6-1-105, C.R.S. (2005). Crowe v Tull and Azar & AssociatesThe Colorado Supreme court rejected the "actual practice -entrepreneurial aspects of law"distinction that has insulated attorneys from suits under deceptive trade practices actions in other states. However, it appears that even the plaintiff's counsel came up a little short on their pleading; but the lawyers opposing Azar and Associates will also get a shot at the defendants' inside marketing practices:
Crowe’s bare bones original complaint only sketches the elements of a CCPA offense. Nonetheless, Crowe’s CCPA claim was dismissed by the trial court on improper grounds. Crowe’s amended complaint and his petition, which flesh out Crowe’s argument that the Azar firm is a "personal injury mill"using its advertising to deceive the public, show that Crowe is capable of asserting a claim that alleges the five elements of the CCPA, elucidated in Walter, and which we have held applicable to attorneys in this opinion. 969 P.2d 224. Therefore, in light of today’s decision, we direct the trial court to permit Crowe to replead his CCPA claim. We also note that in repleading, Crowe must allege facts sufficient to support the inference that Tull and Azar knowingly engaged in a deceptive trade practice which Crowe relied upon. See Martinez, 969 P.2d at 220-22 (medical doctor who misrepresented his ability to diagnose organic brain injury may have committed deceptive trade practice) . Further, if Crowe fails to allege an injury other than a private wrong caused only by the poor advice of his attorney, the injury will lack public impact and will be too narrow in scope to be covered by the CCPA. See id. at 220-23 (CCPA claim dismissed because misrepresentations were made only to patient’s insurer) . The original complaint failed to adequately set forth these elements. Finally, we direct the trial court to reconsider the protective order which shut down discovery related to the Azar firm’s advertising and marketing practices, including the production of its television, radio, and print advertisements, and certain of its operations and practices in serving past clients. These avenues for discovery were closed by the trial court after the CCPA claim was dismissed on improper grounds.

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