Consumer Fraud in New Jersey
In general, consumer fraud refers to any unconscionable commercial practice, fraud, false promise or misrepresentation, suppression, or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale of goods, services or real estate which causes a financial or other loss for the consumer.
Consumer fraud is common in the health industry and its related services and can result in large financial losses to the consumer. An attorney well versed in the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”) can assist you in either avoidance or recovery of your losses. Our consumer rights attorney, Paul M. da Costa, and his associates at Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa, LLC, can help you achieve full compensation as the victim of consumer fraud.
Understanding the CFA
The CFA is liberally construed to the benefit of the consumer, mostly in order to discourage large companies and businesses with greater bargaining power from taking advantage of more vulnerable and unwitting consumers.
Pursuant to the New Jersey CFA, a plaintiff must prove three elements:
- Unlawful conduct by defendant;
- An ascertainable loss by plaintiff; and
- A causal relationship between the unlawful conduct and the ascertainable loss. D’Agostino v. Maldonado, 216 N.J. 168, 184 (2013).
Under the Act, any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise is considered unlawful conduct. With respect to the second element, although there has been sparse guidance on what constitutes an ascertainable loss, it must be “quantifiable and measurable.” Id. at 185. However, the element of ascertainable loss is not exclusively limited to an out-of-pocket loss to the plaintiff. An estimate of damages, calculated within a reasonable degree of certainty will suffice to prove ascertainable loss. Thiedemann v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 183 N.J. 234, 249 (2005).
Benefits of a Valid Claim
Filing a suit under the CFA in receiving health-related products or services carries many benefits over the typical medical malpractice claim. Specifically, a plaintiff will have a less onerous burden of proof because there is no requirement to prove negligence. Instead, a plaintiff must prove the above elements by a preponderance of the evidence. Moreover, the statute of limitations (eligibility to file a claim) is six years as opposed to two years for a malpractice claim.
Remedies and Objectives
The New Jersey CFA provides not only for the equitable and legal remedies available against violators, but also treble damages, costs associated with the suit, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Thus, there are three main objectives of the CFA:
- Compensate the victim for his or her actual loss;
- Punish the wrongdoer through an award of treble damages, thus serving as a deterrent; and
- Attract competent counsel to counteract unlawful conduct and fraud by providing incentive for an attorney to take a case involving a minor loss to the individual consumer.
Paul M. da Costa and his team at Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa LLC are dedicated to providing high quality representation and ensuring your rights are defended. Mr. da Costa will fight to achieve full compensation for victims of consumer fraud and will aggressively pursue additional damages. Contact our office today to set up a consultation and discuss your case with an experienced professional.
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