Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zhang v. Super. Ct., S178542

Insurance law: the question is whether insurance practices that violate the UIPA can support a UCL action? This case arises at the intersection of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL; Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.) and the Unfair Insurance Practices Act (UIPA; Ins. Code, § 790 et seq.).  The question is whether insurance practices that violate the UIPA can support a UCL action.  In Moradi-Shalal v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Companies (1988) 46 Cal.3d 287, 304 (Moradi-Shalal) we held that when the Legislature enacted the UIPA, it did not intend to create a private cause of action for commission of the various unfair practices listed in Insurance Code section 790.03, subdivision (h).  In the wake of Moradi-Shalal, a split has developed in the Courts of Appeal regarding the viability of UCL claims based on insurer conduct covered by section 790.03.
We hold that Moradi-Shalal does not preclude first party UCL actions based on grounds independent from section 790.03, even when the insurer’s conduct also violates section 790.03.  We have made it clear that while a plaintiff may not use the UCL to “plead around” an absolute bar to relief, the UIPA does not immunize insurers from UCL liability for conduct that violates other laws in addition to the UIPA.  (Manufacturers Life Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (1995) 10 Cal.4th 257, 283-284 (Manufacturers Life); see also Cel-Tech Communications, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cellular Telephone Co. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 163, 182-183 (Cel-Tech); Quelimane Co. v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co. (1998) 19 Cal.4th 26, 43 (Quelimane); Stop Youth Addiction, Inc. v. Lucky Stores, Inc. (1998) 17 Cal.4th 553, 565 (Stop Youth Addiction).)
Here, plaintiff alleges causes of action for false advertising and insurance bad faith, both of which provide grounds for a UCL claim independent from the UIPA.  Allowing her also to sue under the UCL does no harm to the rule established in Moradi-Shalal.  The Moradi-Shalal court made it plain that while violations of section 790.03(h) are themselves not actionable, insureds retain other causes of action against insurers, including common law bad faith claims.  Furthermore, UCL actions by private parties are equitable proceedings, with limited remedies.  They are thus quite distinct from the claims for damages with which Moradi-Shalal was concerned. (A first party claim is one brought by the insured against the insurer.  Claims by injured parties against a liable party’s insurer are third party claims.  (See Zephyr Park v. Superior Court (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 833, 835, fn. 2.)  Our holding here is confined to the first party context.  Third party claims raise distinct analytical and policy issues, which are not involved in this case.  (See Moradi-Shalal, supra, 46 Cal.3d at pp. 301-304.)) (Cal. S.Ct., 01.08.2013, Zhang v. Super. Ct., S178542).

Droit des assurances (application du droit californien) : ce cas concerne la possibilité pour une partie qui s’estime lésée par les pratiques (déloyales) d’une compagnie d’assurance de l’actionner sur la base de la loi relative à la concurrence déloyale, considérant que les pratiques illicites commises par une compagnie d’assurance sont avant tout régies par la loi sur les pratiques d’assurance déloyales, dite loi ne prévoyant pas de droit d’action par un particulier contre les compagnies d’assurance. La réponse est qu’il est possible pour un particulier d’agir contre une compagnie d’assurance sur la base d’autres dispositions légales que la loi sur les pratiques d’assurance ou sur la base de principes découlant de la common law. Cela même si les comportements prohibés par ces autres bases légales sont également prohibés par la loi sur les pratiques d’assurance déloyales. Dans la présente espèce, le demandeur fonde ses prétentions sur des allégations de publicité mensongère et de mauvaise foi. Son droit d’action direct est préservé : ces deux moyens sont prévus par la loi sur la concurrence déloyale indépendamment de la loi sur les pratiques d’assurance. L’action basée sur la mauvaise foi découle en outre de la common law.

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