Section 8-19-10

Private right of action.

(a) Any person who commits one or more of the acts or practices declared unlawful under this chapter and thereby causes monetary damage to a consumer, and any person who commits one or more of the acts or practices declared unlawful in subdivisions (19) and (20) of Section 8-19-5 and thereby causes monetary damage to another person, shall be liable to each consumer or other person for:

(1) Any actual damages sustained by such consumer or person, or the sum of $100, whichever is greater; or

(2) Up to three times any actual damages, in the court's discretion. In making its determination under this subsection, the court shall consider, among other relevant factors, the amount of actual damages awarded, the frequency of the unlawful acts or practices, the number of persons adversely affected thereby, and the extent to which the unlawful acts or practices were committed intentionally; and

(3) In the case of any successful action or counterclaim to enforce the foregoing liability or in which injunctive relief is obtained, the costs of the action or counterclaim, together with a reasonable attorney's fee. On a finding by the court that an action or counterclaim under this section was frivolous or brought in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment, the court shall award to the defendant (or counterclaim-defendant) reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

(b) The liability provided in this section may be enforced by counterclaim in an action arising from the same transaction without regard to the statute of limitations provided in Section 8-19-14.

(c) Any action under this section may be brought in the circuit court for the county in which the defendant resides, has his or her principal place of business, is doing business, or committed the unlawful act or practice.

(d) Upon commencement of any action brought under this section, the clerk of the court shall mail a copy of the complaint or other initial pleading to the office of the Attorney General and to the local district attorney and, upon entry of any injunction, judgment, or decree in the action, shall mail a copy of such injunction, judgment, or decree to the office of the Attorney General and to the local district attorney.

(e) At least 15 days prior to the filing of any action under this section, a written demand for relief, identifying the claimant and reasonably describing the unfair or deceptive act or practice relied upon and the injury suffered, shall be communicated to any prospective respondent by placing in the United States mail or otherwise. Any person receiving such a demand for relief who, within 15 days of the delivering of the demand for relief, makes a written tender of settlement which is rejected by the claimant may, in any subsequent action, file the written tender and an affidavit concerning this rejection. If the court finds that the relief tendered was sufficient to compensate the petitioner for his or her actual damages, the court shall not award any additional damages or attorney's fees or costs to the petitioner. The demand requirements of this subsection shall not apply if the prospective respondent does not maintain a place of business or does not keep assets within the state, but such respondent may otherwise employ the provisions of this section by making a written offer of relief and paying the rejected tender into court as soon as practicable after receiving notice of an action commenced under this section. All written tenders of settlement such as described in this subsection shall be presumed to be offered without prejudice in compromise of a disputed matter.

(f) A consumer or other person bringing an action under this chapter may not bring an action on behalf of a class. The limitation in this subsection is a substantive limitation and allowing a consumer or other person to bring a class action or other representative action for a violation of this chapter would abridge, enlarge, or modify the substantive rights created by this chapter.

(g) Notwithstanding the limitation in subsection (f), only the office of the Attorney General or district attorney shall have the right and authority to bring action in a representative capacity on behalf of any named person or persons. In any such representative action brought by the office of the Attorney General or a district attorney, the court shall not award minimum damages or treble damages, but recovery shall be limited to actual damages suffered by the person or persons, plus reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

(h) Any person who sells, distributes, or manufactures cigarettes and sustains direct economic or commercial injury as a result of a violation of subdivision (23) of Section 8-19-5 may bring an action in good faith for appropriate injunctive relief.

(Acts 1981, No. 81-355, p. 510, §10; Act 2002-496, p. 1276, §1; Act 2016-407, §1.)