Personal Liability for Corporate Officers Under FDUTPA

I often warn clients that are starting new businesses that incorporating is not a perfect shield against personal liability. Most small businesses are run by their owners who work in them. People who personally engage in tortious conduct may be held liable even if they’re working for an incorporated business at the time. The example I often give clients is to assume that they’re driving a company owned vehicle when they run over an old lady in a crosswalk (i.e., liability is clear). The client gets sued as the driver and the company gets sued because it owns the vehicle and the client was on company business. Now assume the driver is another employee of the company, the driver gets sued and the company gets sued, but not the owner. In this case, the Fifth District Court of Appeal relied on this principle in ruling that a corporate officer may be held personally liable for violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practice Act (FDUTPA) if he participated personally in the decepitve or unfair practice.