In Clark v. Superior Court, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2009 WL 1414903 (2009), the Court of Appeal for the Second District was asked to decide the following question:
Civil Code section 3345 (section 3345) authorizes the award of an enhanced remedy-up to three times greater than the amount of a fine, civil penalty “or any other remedy the purpose or effect of which is to punish or deter” that would otherwise be awarded in actions by or on behalf of senior citizens or disabled persons seeking to “redress unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition.” Is this enhanced remedy available in a private action by senior citizens seeking restitution under California‘s unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof.Code, § 17200 et seq.)?
The Court of Appeal answered the question affirmatively – that the section applies to private actions under B&P Code 17200 brought on behalf of classes of seniors or disabled persons. Punishment and deterence are important goals of restitution under the UCL, so section 3345’s language encompasses a UCL action. The Court of Appeal explained:
Unlike Korea Supply and Cel-Tech, in this case the plaintiffs do not seek to justify monetary relief other than restitution under the unfair competition law: The enhanced remedy is sought under section 3345, a separate statute, which specifically authorizes such an enhanced remedy in unfair competition actions brought by senior citizens. We simply must presume the Legislature meant what it said when it provided section 3345 applied in unfair competition actions involving a fine, civil penalty or “any other remedy ” the purpose of which is to punish or deter. (See People v. Toney (2004) 32 Cal.4th 228, 232, 8 Cal.Rptr.3d 577, 82 P.3d 778[“[i]f the statutory language is unambiguous, ‘we presume the Legislature meant what it said, and the plain meaning of the statute governs’ “]; accord, Genlyte Group, LLC v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 705, 714, 69 Cal.Rptr.3d 903; see also Hood v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. (E.D.Cal.2008) 567 F.Supp.2d 1221, 1227[“[t]he text of the statute clearly indicates that section 3345 applies to the UCA [unfair competition law] and the CLRA, as both Acts prohibit ‘unfair practices’ “].)