In 1973 the Texas legislature enacted the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act, changing the business climate in the state from one of "buyer beware" to one where consumers had remedies against businesspeople who engaged in underhanded tactics. The legislature intended courts to apply the law broadly so that it offered the most protection possible for consumers. Texas residents should be aware of what the DTPA prevents people from doing, how the DTPA applies to legal services and how violation of the DTPA may be grounds for a legal malpractice claim.
Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act
The DTPA protects Texas consumers from deceptive business practices, misleading or false claims, breaches of warranty and unconscionable actions. The DTPA applies in most situations where a person seeks goods or services from another. The DTPA makes it illegal for a person to breach a warranty, whether it be an express written or verbal warranty, a warranty of merchantability or a warranty of fitness for the intended purpose. The DTPA also forbids unconscionable acts, when a person takes advantage of a consumer's lack of knowledge, experience, ability or understanding to a greatly unfair extent.
The DTPA prevents people from engaging in a number of misleading or deceptive business practices, including:
- False advertising.
- Overstating the benefits of a good or service.
- Misrepresenting the origin or manufacture of a good or service.
- Claiming used goods are new.
- False claims about the need for parts or repairs.
Lawyers violating DTPA
Some may think that the DTPA applies only when people are purchasing goods or seeking services like auto or home repairs. However, the DTPA applies to legal services in some cases, as well. The DTPA excludes professional services that provide "advice, judgment, opinion or similar professional skill." However, there are ways that an attorney can violate the DTPA. Some of the ways that attorneys can violate the DTPA include:
- Misrepresenting material facts in a way that cannot be described as an opinion or judgment.
- Failing to disclose information.
- Committing unconscionable acts that cannot be described as advice or opinions.
- Breaching an express warranty.
Speak with an attorney
When a lawyer violates the DTPA it may be the basis of a legal malpractice claim. When an attorney violates the DTPA, the client may choose to bring a claim to recover damages including actual economic damages, mental anguish damages, attorney fees, punitive damages, loss of the attorney's license to practice law and any other relief the court sees fit to award. Legal malpractice claims are complex cases, and it is important to have the assistance of an attorney with broad experience dealing with such matters when pursuing a legal malpractice claim. If you have questions about legal malpractice, talk to a skilled Texas legal malpractice attorney.