Treble Recovery Under Civil Code § 3345 Not Limited to CLRA; But It Does Not Apply to an Award of Restitution Under the UCL

by charlesjung

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In Clark v. Superior Court, 235 P.3d 171, 112 Cal. Rptr. 3d 876 (Cal. Aug. 9, 2010), senior citizens brought an action against an annuity seller for unfair competition pursuant to BPC 17200, seeking treble recovery.  The Los Angeles Superior Court granted judgment on the pleadings for the annuity seller’s on the treble recovery claim, without leave to amend. The seniors filed petition for writ of mandate, which the Court of Appeal granted.  And the California Supreme Court granted review, superseding the opinion of the Court of Appeal.

The Court held that Civil Code section 3345 is not limited to actions brought under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Id. 880.  But the Court concluded that § 3345  does not apply to claims for restitution under the UCL: “[b]ecause restitution in a private action brought under the unfair competition law is measured by what was taken from the plaintiff, that remedy is not a penalty and hence does not fall within the trebled recovery provision of Civil Code section 3345, subdivision (b).” Id. 882-83.

Judges and Attorneys

Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote the opinion for the court.  Chief Justice Ronald M. George and Justices Marvin R. Baxter, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, Ming Chin, Carlos R. Moreno, and Carol A. Corrigan concurred.

Hon. Victoria Gerrard Chaney, State of California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District.

Robert S. Gerstein; Gianelli & Morris, Robert S. Gianelli, Jully C. Pae, Richard R. Fruto, Los Angeles; Ernst & Mattison, Raymond E. Mattison, Don A. Ernst, Christopher D. Edgington; Law Offices of Ronald A. Marron, San Luis Obispo, and Ronald A. Marron for Petitioners.

Barbara A. Jones, Michael Schuster and Jay Sushelsky for AARP as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

No appearance for Respondent.

Barger & Wolen, Kent R. Keller and Larry M. Golub, Los Angeles, for Real Party in Interest.

Reed Smith, Margaret M. Grignon, Los Angeles, Robert D. Phillips, Jr., San Francisco, James C. Martin and Wendy S. Albers, Los Angeles, for Association of California Life and Health Insurance Companies, North American Company for Life and Health Insurance and Midland National Life Insurance Company as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.

Fred J. Hiestand, Sacramento, for The Civil Justice Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.

Jorden Burt, James R. Jorden, Denise A. Fee, Ann B. Furman and Brian P. Perryman for American Council of Life Insurers as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.