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Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices

Every corporation that conducts business in North Carolina should be aware of the risks and benefits associated with North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. This extremely broad statute permits the award of treble damages and attorneys fees in a broad range of circumstances. Ellis & Winters attorneys have direct experience in the litigation and trial of such claims, particularly in their application in matters involving the theft of trade secrets.

The firm has deep experience in litigation over allegedly unfair or deceptive trade practices. In the 2014 edition of Benchmark Litigation, a referee says that a partner in Ellis & Winters “know[s] more about deceptive trade practices than anyone I’ve ever seen. I witnessed him at work on one of these cases and it was an eye-opener.”

To give two recent examples of the firm’s experience in this field:

  • The firm represents the defendant in Bumpers v. Community Bank of Northern Virginia, 747 S.E.2d 220 (N.C. 2013). Clarifying the law under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that when a plaintiff pursues a section 75-1.1 claim based on an alleged misrepresentation, the plaintiff must prove that she actually and reasonably relied on the statements at issue. The court also held that in most circumstances, parties cannot state a claim under section 75-1.1 by alleging that the price they paid was “excessive.”
  • The firm, with co-counsel, represents the defendants in Torrence v. Nationwide Budget Finance, 753 S.E.2d 802 (N.C. Ct. App. 2014), pet. for disc. rev. denied, No. 86P14, 2014 WL 2803001 (N.C. June 11, 2014). In Torrence, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs, who alleged that the defendants’ lending practices violated N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1, must submit their claims to binding bilateral arbitration. Applying recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, the court reversed a trial court’s decision that an arbitration clause in the plaintiffs’ loan contracts was unconscionable.

The firm also serves the courts and the bar through scholarship on unfair and deceptive trade practices. Matt Sawchak has written or co-authored two North Carolina Law Review articles in this area. In addition, Matt Sawchak, Stephen Feldman, and other Ellis & Winters lawyers often speak to lawyers, judges, and professors on unfair and deceptive trade practices and other business torts.