Our broad experience litigating on behalf of consumers and small businesses includes the pursuit of claims arising from the wrongful denial of insurance benefits, abusive debt collection practices, and the unlawful imposition of fees and other misconduct in connection with mortgages and mortgage servicing obligations. Many of these actions assert common law fraud, while others seek recoveries pursuant to statutes such as the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
Federal antitrust law allows direct purchasers of products or services to bring a lawsuit under certain instances where the purchased product or service is the subject of anticompetitive practices. These anticompetitive practices can include monopolization of a market or price-fixing, among other forms of wrongdoing. The laws of a certain number of states, including Tennessee under the Tennessee Trade Practices Act, permit indirect purchasers to file suit with reference to certain anticompetitive practices. Indirect purchasers are those who acquired the subject goods or services from intermediaries, rather than directly from the parties that perpetrated the anticompetitive practices.
Wronged consumers are often able to deal with abusive business practices through breach of contract lawsuits. To provide more expansive protection for the consumer, state legislatures have enacted consumer protection acts, sometimes referenced as deceptive trade practices acts. These enactments typically address deceptive and/or unfair business practices. Some state statutes, in addition to enumerating specific prohibited acts (such as bait and switch), also provide a catch-all provision in order to bring within their sweep improper conduct that may not neatly fit under the specific types of acts identified. Tennessee’s statute is referred to as the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
Underpayment of Gas Royalties
Some areas of consumer protection, such as deceptive trade practices, cover a broad area. Others are much more specific. One area of litigation that has drawn attention in recent years is the underpayment of royalties to royalty owners on the production of gas by oil companies pursuant to oil and gas leases. While gas royalty owners may not always be characterized as consumers in the conventional, colloquial sense, they face many of the same problems that ordinary consumers encounter. The gas royalty owners, frequently landowners who enter into oil and gas leases with oil companies (or their descendants), are often taken advantage of by oil companies who bear superior industry knowledge and vast bargaining power. It is often difficult for them to sort through their royalty statements and other documents to determine whether they have been paid properly by the oil companies. Often, the oil company has not provided sufficient facts for the royalty owners to make an informed assessment of whether he has been fully paid. The complexity of the facts and legal issues facing royalty owners increases the gas royalty owner’s vulnerability to abusive practices by gas producers.
Insurance Bad Faith
Insurance companies are obligated to their policy holders in a number of ways depending on a number of factors, including the exact language found in their policies and duties arising under state law. Areas of abuse by insurance companies include the failure to defend the insured and the improper denial of coverage wherein the insured is denied the benefit of what he bargained for. Bad faith by insurance companies can expand into many other areas of conduct too numerous for a succinct enumeration.