By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 34
This week we continue the discussion of when a district attorney can handle a civil matter.
As was discussed last week, the primary purpose of the district attorney is to handle criminal cases, but there are two statutes that give the district attorney authority to handle civil cases—civil asset forfeiture, which was discussed last week, and the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, which is today’s topic.
The Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law permits the Attorney General and district attorneys to bring a civil lawsuit on behalf of the general public to restrain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in any trade or commence under the statute.
In other words, the Attorney General or a district attorney has the ability to file a lawsuit to protect the general public from discriminatory or fraudulent business practices.
The result of these types of lawsuits can be a court order prohibiting actions by the business going forward and/or civil fines for each violation of the act or court order.
The most recent large-scale example of this statute being used here in Clearfield County, by the Attorney General, and by some of the other district attorneys around the Commonwealth was the litigation surrounding the opioid crisis.
In the spring of 2020, I, on behalf of the people of Clearfield County, filed a complaint and joined the class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and other opioid distributors and manufacturers.
The result of that lawsuit was that the District Attorney’s Office will be receiving approximately $561,000 over the next 18 years to be used to provide treatment and programs for those addicted to opioids and other controlled substances.
Next week, I will conclude this multi-week discussion by stating what the district attorney cannot and does not handle in the legal system.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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