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8197-consumer false advertising class actions-ca.qxd

advertising claims. In class actions, the class plaintiffs’counsel typically is retained on a contingency basis, and therefore, unlike in most Lanham Act cases, theplaintiffs in false advertising class actions often are not motivated to keep legal costs down, and indeed,could well have the opposite motivation.
A recent decision in the Second Circuit, Pelman v. McDonald’s Corp., 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 1229 (2d Cir.
Under §43(a) of the Lanham Act, standing to sue for 2005), appears to open the door for additional false O false advertising is limited to competitors and others advertising consumer class actions in the New York who can claim to have suffered a business injury as a federal courts, where more Lanham Act false result of the defendant’s advertising claims. E.g., advertising cases have been filed than anywhere else PR Telecom Int'l Am., Ltd. v. AT&T Corp., 280 F.3d 175, in the United States. In Pelman, the Second Circuit 197 (2d Cir. 2001). Consumers do not have standing reversed a lower court decision and reinstated the to bring false advertising suits under §43(a).
claims of a consumer class that McDonald’s useddeceptive advertising to mask the health risks Traditionally, this limitation on standing has had a associated with its products. The suit alleged that substantial, albeit little recognized, minimizing effect McDonald’s created the false impression that its food on the litigation risk and costs associated with products are nutritionally beneficial, and, as a result, consumer advertising. Because competitive injury caused health problems for potentially millions of resulting from a particular false advertisement is often difficult to prove, the principal remedy in Lanham Actfalse advertising cases is injunctive relief. As a result, The trial court had dismissed the claims in 2003 (1) the law firms representing plaintiffs in Lanham principally because the plaintiffs had failed to allege Act false advertising typically charge by the hour, particularized reliance on the allegedly false instead of receiving contingent fees; (2) therefore, statements, which the trial court held is required by litigating Lanham Act false advertising cases tends to §350 of the New York General Business Law. See be approximately equally expensive for plaintiffs and McGill v. GMC, 231 AD 2d 449, 450 (1st Dep’t 1996).
defendants; and (3) the heavy expense associated with However, the Second Circuit, citing precedent from Lanham Act false advertising cases frequently causes New York’s highest state court, held that §349 of the potential plaintiffs to choose the far less expensive General Business Law, under which the plaintiffs also route of challenging an advertisement before the sued, does not require proof of actual reliance, and National Advertising Division or the national therefore reversed. 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 1229 at *6.
In the context of a false advertising lawsuit, this was apuzzling ruling. Section 349 principally authorizes In the last few years, however, a number of false lawsuits by the State Attorney General to remedy advertising class actions have been brought by deceptive acts and practices. See id §§ a-g. Section consumer classes under state laws in various state 349(h) does permit private actions to be brought and federal courts. These cases not only create an under this statute, but only by persons who “have additional source of potential liability for false been injured” by reason of a violation of the statute.
advertising, but also have the potential to increase It is true, in a sense, that reliance and injury are substantially the legal costs of defending false separate concepts, in that it is possible for a person to rely on a false advertisement without being injured by it.
Class Action suit re: fountain sodas
But it is difficult to understand how the converse would bepossible: in other words, how can a person who does not rely on a false statement in an advertisement be injured by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are facing multiple class actions claiming they had not disclosed that bottled and canneddiet colas are different from the fountain versions and that In an opinion which was rather less than clear, it may be the fountain versions contain saccharin.
that the Court was speaking merely of pleadingrequirements, rather than requirements of proof. Indeed, commenting on the trial court’s holding that plaintiffs had Separate class actions against the two companies have been “failed to draw an adequate causal connection between their filed in Middlesex (MA), Chicago, Miami, San Diego and consumption of McDonald’s food and their alleged injuries,” id. at *8, the Second Circuit explained that this“is the sort of information that is appropriately the subjectof discovery,” and therefore permitted the claims to proceed Class Action against Anheuser Busch-Co and
so that plaintiffs could gather such information. Id. *8-*9.
Miller Brewing Co. Dismissed
The likely effect of Pelman will be to embolden plaintiffs class action law firms to file class action false advertising Class-action suit claimed that Anheuser-Busch Co. and suits. By setting an extremely low bar for the successful Miller Brewing Co. encouraged underage drinking by defense of motions to dismiss in such suits, the decision targeting teens with their advertising.
could well provide class action plaintiffs’ firms with theincentive to pressure defendant/advertisers into expensive settlements to avoid the substantial expense of discovery that the Second Circuit’s opinion openly invited.
This case was decided in the context of an already increasing body of consumer false advertising class actions filed in thelast few years, including the potentially significant casesnoted below: Resolution:
Case dismissed. Court ruled that under state law, regulating
Moviegoers sue Sony
alcohol ads is the job of the Department of AlcoholicBeverages Control, not the courts. He also stated that thesuit had failed to identify beer ads that were literally false and the plaintiffs failed to show how they had suffered any A lawsuit was brought against Sony Pictures Entertainment direct harm as a result of the marketing campaigns.
by moviegoers who saw films that were allegedly endorsedby a fake critic. The lawsuit alleges that Sony advertisedcertain films using quotations attributed to “David Manning” and incorrectly indicated that he was affiliated The Los Angeles Times reports that there are similar class- with The Ridgefield Press; it also alleged that Sony advertised action suits against beer and spirits makers in Ohio, The Patriot using endorsements of persons who were its Colorado, North Carolina, and D.C. that allege they use employees without disclosing that they were its employees.
sexually charged ads to induce illegal drinking by teens.
Advertisements violated §§ 17200 and 17500 of the MGM was sued in a class action alleging that the studio California Business and Professions Code and the falsely advertised many of its DVD titles as widescreen.
Other defendants named in the case are retailers that carriedthe DVD titles in question.
Resolution:
Sony denied liability, but has agreed to settle the action by
paying up to $1.5 million to plaintiffs. A hearing to determine whether the settlement should be granted finalapproval will be held on April 15, 2005.
deceptive advertising and bait-and-switch tactics to systematically deceive Dell customers. The alleged deceptionis that Dell advertised low prices and then told those who Resolution:
asked that the computers are no longer available for the Without admitting wrongdoing, MGM agreed to compensate advertised price, but then attempted to sell them another PC consumers who bought DVDs in certain ratios during a or ship one of lesser value. The claim against CIT Bank is specific timeframe. The offer is for a $7.10 cash refund or a that it increased interest rates and added hidden charges without notice. A class action against Dell Inc., DellFinancial Services L.P. and CIT Bank has also been filed in the Southern District of New York challenging the sameadvertising and financing practices under New York law.
At least three class action false-advertising lawsuits were filed recently against the makers of Splenda, claiming consumersare wrongfully led to believe the product is sugar. McNeilNutritionals, a Pennsylvania-based unit of Johnson & PHARMACEUTICALS
Johnson, has denied the allegations, saying the sweetener Challenged statement: “Splenda is made from sugar, so it Class actions have been filed against AstraZeneca regarding tastes like sugar.” (on advertisements and product packaging) the marketing of Nexium alleging that AstraZeneca’spromotion and advertising of Nexium to physicians and State Consumer Class Actions:
consumers is unfair, unlawful and deceptive conduct,particularly as the promotion relates to comparisons of 1. Patton v. McNeil Nutritionals LLC (filed in Santa Clara Nexium with Prilosec. They also allege that AstraZeneca’s conduct relating to the pricing of Nexium was unfair,unlawful and deceptive. The plaintiffs allege claims under 2. Backer v. McNeil Nutritionals LLC (filed in Los Angeles various state consumer protection, unfair practices and false 3. Green v. McNeil Nutritionals LLC (filed in Duval County, Where/When:
1. Los Angeles Superior Court (10/04) – by the AFL-CIO, two unincorporated associations and an individual on Florida and California statutes designed to protect behalf of themselves, the general public and a class of consumers against misleading corporate statements.
CA consumers, third party payers, cash payers and thosemaking co-pay.
2. A second suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of a similar putative class of consumers.
Verizon Wireless Inc. is being sued by a class of itssubscribers for allegedly disabling some Bluetooth short- 3. Actions making similar allegations were filed on behalf range wireless features of its Motorola v710 handset.
of a putative class of consumers in the Circuit Court of California law firm Kirtland and Packard has filed a class Searcy County, Arkansas and on behalf of a putative action suit on behalf of subscribers in the state accusing class of third party payers in the Superior Court of the Verizon Wireless of false advertising.
State of Delaware in and for New Castle County.
Dell Computer
Fen-Phen
A class action had been filed in San Francisco against Dell In 2001 a class action was filed against Nutraquest, alleging Inc. and its finance partner, CIT Bank, claiming they used that Nutraquest falsely advertised Xenadrine RFA-1 as safe and effective. The class action lawsuit, which ultimatelyresulted in a $12.5 million judgment, sought to force thecompany to reimburse California consumers who purchasedthe diet aid.
Pfizer
What:
A number of purported class actions recently have been filed
against Pfizer in the U.S. and in Canada alleging consumer
fraud as the result of false advertising of Celebrex and Bextra
and the withholding of information from the public
regarding the alleged safety risks associated with Celebrex
and Bextra. The plaintiffs seek damages in unspecified
amounts for economic loss.
N E W Y O R K z L O S A N G E L E S z WA S H I N G T O N
B O S T O N z B O C A R AT O N z N E WA R K
N E W O R L E A N S z PA R I S
Proskauer's False Advertising Practice
Proskauer has one of the leading false advertising litigation

practices in the country, with unparalleled expertise in the field
of advertising law. Proskauer regularly represents a variety of
major national advertisers and advertising agencies in all
facets of false advertising dispute resolution and counseling.
Lawrence I. Weinstein
212.969.3240 – lweinstein@proskauer.com
Amy R. Terry
Proskauer Rose is an international law firm that handles a full spectrum of legal This publication is a service to our clients and friends. It is designed only to give general information on the developments actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of recent developments in the law, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice or render a legal opinion.
You can also visit our Website at www.proskauer.com
2005 PROSKAUER ROSE LLP. All rights reserved.

Source: http://www.proskauer.com/files/News/3dc965f2-d3fb-4a12-aad1-2bc0ad673ebf/Presentation/NewsAttachment/920eae76-0e80-462b-b11a-381eaaeb1d89/8197-Consumer%20False%20Advertising%20Class%20Actions-ca.pdf

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