Montana Governor Blocks Bill to Limit Fraud Victim Damages
Governor Steve Bullock took a stand in favor of consumers when he vetoed a bill that would have weakened protections for victims of fraudulent practices by businesses. A recent lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court by a White Sulphur Springs couple appears to have prompted the introduction and passage of the legislation. In that case, the couple had been orally advised over the phone on numerous occasions by their bank regarding how to handle the restructuring of their home loan. While providing the oral advice, the bank was sending contradictory information through the mail. The bank representatives speaking with the couple advised them to ignore the mailings.
If it had been law at the time, the proposed bill would have prevented the couple from recovering damages that could not be substantiated as an actual loss of money or property. Language in the bill sought to remove a general reference to damages and replace it with language limiting damages to $500 or the amount of any ascertainable loss of money, whichever was greater. In the White Sulphur Springs case, the bill would have allowed only five hundred dollars for the severe emotional aggravation they endured as a result of the bank's fraudulent actions.
The bill also would have removed the possibility of punitive damages in cases of fraudulent practices. Instead, it would have allowed courts to award three times the amount of the ascertainable money loss. This provision would have removed a key incentive for banks and other businesses to deal fairly with their patrons. Without a strong incentive to do the right thing for consumers, big businesses may be tempted to follow harmful practices if they would stand to make money even after having to pay whatever damages they may cause to a customer.
If you have suffered from the fraudulent practices of a bank, mortgage company, or other business, you may be entitled to compensation for damages, even if you cannot show a specific monetary loss. At Tipp & Buley we believe in strong consumer protection laws and stand ready to make sure you are treated fairly by the businesses to whom you give your business. We have extensive experience in consumer fraud cases and will put our expertise to work for you. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our firm online or call 406-549-5186.