SANDRA C. THORNELL, on behalf of herself and an others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v SEATTLE SERVICE BUREAU, INC. d/b/a) NATIONAL SERVICE BUREAU, INC., and STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY,) Defendants.
copy of decision: 151210 Thornell v Seattle Service Bureau
“This case involves two certified questions from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. First, we are asked to determine whether the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA), chapter 19.86 RCW allows a cause of action for a plaintiff residing outside Washington to sue a Washington corporate defendant for allegedly deceptive acts. Second, we are asked to determine whether the CPA supports a cause of action for an out-of-state plaintiff to sue an out-of-state defendant for the allegedly deceptive acts of its instate agent. The United States District Court noted an absence of Washington case law providing guidance on these issues. We answer both certified questions in the affirmative.”
“We first focus on the definition of “commerce” – “any commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of the state of Washington.” RCW 19.86.010(2) (emphasis added). The definition of “commerce” does not describe who may sue under the CPA but rather the scope of the acts and practices the CPA is designed to prevent. Defendants argue that the definition of “commerce” should not be understood to allow a claim for an unfair or deceptive practice on behalf of people not “of the state of Washington.” Such a reading, however, would require us to give no effect to the words “indirectly affecting.” In order to give effect to the phrase “indirectly affecting,” claims are not limited to those only having a direct affect. Such a narrow interpretation would be inconsistent with both the legislative mandate for a liberal construction of the CPA and with our previous cases ‘ . . ‘ involving the interpretation of the CPA. The statutory purpose is broadly worded not only to protect the public but also, and distinctly, to foster “fair and honest competition.” RCW 19.86.920.”
WA Consumer Protection Law applies extraterritorially
“We answer both questions yes. Under the CPA an out-of-state plaintiff may bring a claim.against a Washington corporate defendant for allegedly deceptive acts. Similarly, an out:of-state plaintiff may bring a CPA claim against an out-of-state defendant for the allegedly deceptive acts of its in-state agent.”