New Mexico Defeats Unfair Trade Practices, Dangerous Dog Bills

March 30, 2009

New Mexico’s Legislature has defeated two insurance-related bills that an insurance association would have increased costs for consumers.

House Bill 157, “Unfair Trade Practice Private Right of Action,” would have amended the Unfair Trade Practices Act to allow lawsuits for anything that is deemed an unfair trade practice, broadening “the standards without a practical benefit” and opening the door “to frivolous litigation,” said Kelly Campbell, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association.

“A person likely to be damaged by an unfair or deceptive trade practice or by an unconscionable trade practice of another may be granted an injunction against it under the principles of equity and on terms that the court considers reasonable,” the bill text stated. The legislation would not have required proof of monetary damage, loss of profits or intent to deceive or take unfair advantage of [any] a person.

If the bill had passed, then anyone who suffered from an unfair or deceptive trade practice could bring have brought action to recover actual damages or $100, whichever was greater — and the court could have awarded up to three times the actual damagers or $300, whichever was greater. The court also could have awarded attorney fees and costs to the party charged with an unfair or deceptive trade practice or an unconscionable trade practice if it found that the party complaining of such trade practice brought an action that was groundless.

The bill was defeated in the Senate Corporations Committee.

Additionally, the state Legislature defeated HB 667, “Dangerous Dog Definitions and Prosecution,” which would have defined pit bulls or Rottweileras as dangerous and would have created absolute liability for the actions of those dogs, according to PCI.

“Singling out certain breeds hurts the owner and the dog,” Campbell said. “We believe it is impoartant to look at each homeowner and dog individually.”

Campbell said the proposed legislation would have held dog owners responsible for any action of a dog, regardless of the circumstances, making it more difficult and expensvie for homeowners with dogs to get insurance. “Every dog owner would have to pay the price of higher insurance. This simply isn’t fair to the owner or the dog, especially those that have no history of biting incidents.”

Sources: New Mexico Legislature, PCI

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