Red Law Firm LLC v. Webster Bank
Allegations that a bank did not follow proper identification procedures, before negotiating a check, may be insufficient to allege that the bank violated CUTPA, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The plaintiff, Red Law Firm LLC, alleged that the defendant bank negotiated a check and released $15,000 in funds on a forged endorsement. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the bank was negligent, because it failed to follow reasonable banking standards and to obtain adequate identification, and that the bank's conduct was unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous, in violation of CUTPA. The defendant moved to strike. The court found that the plaintiff's complaint failed to allege that the plaintiff was the defendant bank's customer. Absent a contract or an alleged statutory violation, the bank did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. The court granted the bank's motion to strike the negligence count. CUTPA provides, "No person shall engage in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce." To prevail, the plaintiff must establish a substantial injury to consumers, competitors or other businessmen. "At its core," wrote the court, "CUTPA requires some sort of business relationship." The plaintiff's complaint failed to allege a business relationship sufficient to meet CUTPA requirements. The alleged conduct did not qualify as a deceptive or unfair trade practice. The facts failed to support the plaintiff's allegations that the bank's conduct was immoral, unethical, oppressive or unscrupulous. The court granted the bank's motion to strike the allegations that the bank was negligent and violated CUTPA.