H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts. v. Dignity Funeral Service


Court: United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

Civil Action No. 2:97cv218.

Date published: May 14, 1997


H.D. Oliver Funeral Apartments, Inc. (“Oliver”) is in the business of providing a full range of funeral-related services to customers in Virginia and other states. Dignity Funeral Services, Inc., t/a Altmeyer Funeral Homes, offers discounted funeral-related services in Virginia and other states; Altmeyer Funeral Homes, Inc. (together the defendants will be referred to as “Altmeyer”) offers full service funerals in West Virginia and other states. Oliver and Altmeyer are competitors.

On January 21, 1997, The Virginian-Pilot, a newspaper of general circulation in Virginia and North Carolina, published an  advertisement placed by Altmeyer comparing its prices with those of thirteen other funeral homes in the South Hampton Roads area, including Oliver. The comparison included the prices for traditional services, an identified stainless steel casket, and an identified vault. The total prices were also compared. The prices listed for Oliver and ten of the other compared funeral homes were knowingly false and misleading.



The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Act does not preclude insurance companies from subrogating their claims under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (VCPA). The court stated that the Act does not mention subrogation rights, but rather concerns that entities subject to state or federal regulation cannot be sued for their actions by the public. Oliver argued that excluding a competitor from using the Act to obtain relief precludes it from any method of recovery under state law for the wrong it has suffered. However, Va. Code ยง 18.2-216 makes it unlawful to publish an advertisement containing untrue, deceptive, or misleading statements of fact. Therefore, the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss Count II of the complaint should be granted.

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