In Earl v. NVR, Inc., No. 20-2109, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 6451, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Third Circuit) considered whether, under Pennsylvania law, the plaintiff’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) claims against the builder of her home were barred by the economic loss doctrine. The UTPCPL is a Pennsylvania statute that prohibits “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” 73 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 201-3. The Third Circuit previously addressed the impact of the economic loss doctrine on UTPCPL claims in Werwinski v. Ford Motor Co., 286 F.3d 661 (3d Cir. 2002). In Werwinski, the court held that the plaintiff’s UTPCPL claim was barred by the economic loss doctrine. The Court of Appeals overturned its decision in Werwinski and held that the economic loss doctrine does not bar UTPCPL claims since such claims are statutory, and not based in tort.
In Earl, the plaintiff, Lisa Earl, entered into an agreement with defendant NVR, Inc. (NVR) for the construction and sale of a home in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Ms. Earl learned of the home through NVR’s marketing, which described the home as containing “quality architecture, timeless design, and beautiful finishes.” Ms. Earl alleged that during the construction of the home, she had further discussions with agents of NVR, who made representations that the home would be constructed in a good and workmanlike manner and that any deficiencies noted by Ms. Earl would be remedied. The defendant also assured Ms. Earl that the home would be constructed in accordance with relevant building codes and industry standards. After moving into the home, Ms. Earl discovered several material defects in the construction. She provided notice of these defects to NVR, but NVR’s attempts to repair some of the defects were inadequate.