Supreme Court ruling is good news for West Virginia businesses

By The West Virginia Record | Dec 24, 2010

West Virginia's Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) was written to protect consumers, not to provide a rationale for jackpot schemes conjured up by opportunistic plaintiffs and lawyers -- or by an overzealous state attorney general.

That is plain as day to anyone with common sense and scruples. Now our state Supreme Court has confirmed the intent of the law, and legal operators will have to seek out other statutes to indulge their self-interest.

On. Dec. 17, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in White vs. Wyeth that plaintiffs suing for misrepresentation under WVCCPA must prove that they relied on the alleged misrepresentation when making the purchase. Previously, plaintiffs had only to prove misrepresentation. Now they must prove the misrepresentation was material and contributed to the sale being made.

White v. Wyeth was filed in April 2004 by a group of private citizens claiming that pharmaceutical company Wyeth had used unfair and deceptive practices in promoting prescription drug products to doctors and patients for treatment of menopausal disorders.

Wyeth countered that the plaintiffs failed to show a causal connection between their claims of injury and any alleged unfair or deceptive conduct by the company.

Our high court concluded that the WVCCPA requires proof of a plaintiff's reliance on alleged affirmative misrepresentations in order to satisfy the element of causation.

Justice Thomas McHugh noted, "... courts are struggling to arrive at a way to be faithful to the purposes of consumer protection statutes -- promoting fair and honest business practices and protecting consumers -- without inviting nuisance lawsuits which impede commerce."

McHugh emphasized the private cause of action afforded state consumers does not extend to prescription drug purchases "because the consumer cannot and does not decide what product to purchase."

The court's common sense ruling may not please Darrell McGraw and like-minded litigants, but it's a great blessing for businesses operating in West Virginia -- and for the citizens who benefit from the jobs, salaries and opportunities those businesses bring.

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