Businesses Have Broad Legal Standing to File a Lawsuit on the FDUTPA
The Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is perhaps the most important consumer protection law in our state. Through an FDUTPA claim, a plaintiff can hold a defendant liable for losses related to unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Until recently, there were some questions about when exactly business had a right to file a lawsuit under this statute.
That is no longer an issue: Businesses and organizations have legal standing to sue under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, even if they are not the direct consumer. Here our Miami business & consumer fraud attorneys provide an overview of Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. v. Better Business Bureau of Palm Beach County—a 2015 case in which an appeals court brought clarity on this matter.
Case Review: Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. v. Better Business Bureau of Palm Beach County
The Background and Facts
Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. filed an FDUTPA lawsuit against the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Palm Beach County. In its complaint, the cruise company alleged the BBB made false representations on its website that, among other things, its rating system was “unbiased” and reflected a comprehensive investigation of each company’s business practices.
The BBB immediately moved to dismiss the FDUTPA claim on the grounds that Caribbean Cruise Line was not a consumer—at least not in relation to the BBB. It did not purchase services from the BBB nor was it otherwise engaged in a direct commercial relationship with the organization.
The Fundamental Legal Question
Initially, the trial court agreed with the Better Business Bureau. The FDUTPA was dismissed for lack of standing. Caribbean Cruise Line filed an appeal. They want the court to answer a fundamental question: Can a business file an FDUTPA lawsuit in Florida even if it is part of a consumer relationship with the defendant?
The Decision By the Appeals Court
On review, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal found in favor of Carribean Cruise Line. In writing its decision, the appeals court noted the lack of direct rulings on the specific matter. The court found that the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act bars certain deceptive and unfair practices deemed to be harmful to consumers. To prove liability on the act, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct improperly harmed consumers. However, the court also affirmed that the plaintiff does not necessarily have to be the harmed consumer in order to have legal standing to bring a claim.
Call Our Miami, FL Business Fraud Lawyers for Legal Help
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida business fraud attorneys are skilled, trustworthy advocates for our clients. We help business owners find solutions. If you have any questions about your company’s right to bring a claim under the FDUTPA, our team can help. Call us today for a confidential initial appointment. With a legal office in Miami and an office in West Palm Beach, we advocate for our clients’ business fraud claims throughout the whole region.