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Villanueva v. Fidelity National Title Co.

California law required Fidelity, an entity engaged in the title insurance business, to file its rates with the California Insurance Commissioner. Consumers sued Fidelity under California’s unfair competition law, alleging that it had charged rates that were not filed with the Insurance Commissioner. The California court of appeal dismissed the case, holding that charging an unfiled rate was nonetheless “related to ratemaking,” and was therefore shielded from liability under a provision of state insurance law. The consumers filed a petition for review by the Supreme Court of California. Public Citizen submitted a letter as amicus curiae in support of the petition for review, explaining that the court of appeal’s decision was inconsistent with California law and could cause substantial consumer harm while immunizing corporate wrongdoing.  The court granted review, and we filed an amicus brief elaborating on the points made in our letter.

In an opinion issued in March 2021, the California Supreme Court ruled for the plaintiff. The court agreed with our position that the California Insurance Code does not shield title insurers from suit for charging unauthorized rates.