Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Greenlights Class Claims Against Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and Orders Them to Pay Damages and Attorneys’ Fees
June 1, 2022
Types : Press Releases
On May 27, 2022, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court published two related opinions permitting damages claims to proceed against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and ordering them to pay petitioners’ attorneys’ fees.
The claims arise out of the PLCB’s failure to implement a procedure for the direct delivery of special-order wine and liquor by June 1, 2017. In MFW Wine Co., et al. v. PLCB, 251 M.D. 2020, a team of Montgomery McCracken lawyers led by John G. Papianou, Patrick T. Ryan, Joseph E. Samuel, Jr., and Robert E. Day brought an emergency petition against the PLCB demanding that it implement the procedure as required by law. Petitioners prevailed in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court after a full-day evidentiary hearing. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Commonwealth Court’s decision in a unanimous per curiam opinion.
Following the Supreme Court’s affirmance, petitioners submitted an application for damages and for the recovery of attorneys’ fees. In addition, the Montgomery McCracken team brought a separate class action in Log Cabin Property, LP v. PLCB, 292 M.D. 2020, for the recovery of millions of dollars in handling fees that the PLCB unlawfully charged.
The PLCB objected to petitioners’ application for damages and for the recovery of handling fees arguing that sovereign immunity precluded any money damages. In its May 27 decisions, the Commonwealth Court rejected the PLCB’s argument that sovereign immunity applies. “Where an agency acts outside the scope of the powers granted,” the Commonwealth Court wrote, “the immunity is lost.” In addition, the Commonwealth Court found the PLCB’s conduct over the course of the litigation to be so vexatious, dilatory, and obdurate that it ordered the PLCB to pay petitioners’ attorneys’ fees. The PLCB has now been ordered to answer the class claims, which will proceed to the merits as Montgomery McCracken seeks to secure the return of millions in unlawful fees paid by restaurants and bars around the Commonwealth.
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