State ex rel. McGraw v. Scott Runyan Pontiac-Buick, Inc

In State ex rel. McGraw v. Scott Runyan Pontiac-Buick, Inc., 194 W. Va. 770, 461 S.E.2d 516 (1995), the Court specified that West Virginia Code 46A-5-101(1) should be construed liberally as a remedial statute. The Court explained: "Where an act is clearly remedial in nature, we must construe the statute liberally so as to furnish and accomplish all the purposes intended." 194 W. Va. at 777, 461 S.E.2d at 523. "The purpose of the CCPA is to protect consumers from unfair, illegal, and deceptive acts or practices by providing an avenue of relief for consumers who would otherwise have difficulty proving their case under a more traditional cause of action." Id. In Scott Runyan, the Court also clarified that "as a result of this inquiry being strictly a matter of statutory construction, our power of interpretive scrutiny is plenary." 194 W. Va. at 776, 461 S.E.2d at 522. The West Virginia Attorney General sued an automobile dealership for unfair and deceptive trade practices arising from the allegedly unlawful sale of extended warranties for motor vehicles. General Motors Acceptance Corporation and Citizens National Bank of St. Albans (later, Bank One), both of which financed the sales of extended warranties by the dealership, were named as additional defendants. The Supreme Court of West Virginia observed that West Virginia law requires finance companies to purchase consumer credit "'subject to all claims and defenses of the buyer or lessee against the seller or lessor,'" and held that "the Attorney General clearly has the right to bring a civil action against an assignee to collect a refund of an excess charge imposed upon a consumer regardless of whether the assignee committed any wrongdoing." McGraw, 194 W. Va. at 779, 461 S.E.2d at 525. In so holding, the Court reasoned that logic and experience dictate that if the types of lawsuits which the Attorney General could bring under the CCPA Consumer Credit and Protection Act did not include lawsuits against financial institutions such as the defendants, these institutions could, if unsavory, run in effect a "laundry" for "fly-by-night" retailers that seek to excessively charge their customers. Consequently, the real meaning of consumer protection would be stripped of its efficacy. Id. at 780, 461 S.E.2d at 526.