“Happy Cows” False Labeling Theory is Just “Half Baked”: Court Dismisses False Advertising Claims Against Ben & Jerry’s

The plaintiffs’ bar has continued to challenge sourcing and sustainability claims made by food manufacturers.  In Ehlers v. Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80773 (D. Vt. May 7, 2020), however, the court dismissed such a challenge where the allegedly false statement was taken out of context and the plaintiff ignored the totality of the company’s representations.  “A plaintiff who alleges that he was deceived by an advertisement may not misquote or misleadingly excerpt the language of the advertisement in his pleadings and expect his action to survive a motion to dismiss.”  This case should help companies fend off similar claims in the future. Continue Reading

The Second Circuit Invites All The Party Plaintiffs To The Disco With Broad Definition Of ATDS Under The TCPA

In Duran v. LaBoom Disco, Inc., No. 19-600-cv (2d Cir. Apr. 7, 2020), the Second Circuit joined the Ninth Circuit in expansively defining Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The Second Circuit held, like the Ninth Circuit before, that ATDS includes automated texts/calls to consumers from stored lists, while the Third, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits have held the opposite, requiring that an ATDS make texts/calls not only automatically, but from a list of randomly generated numbers.  The Second Circuit decision highlights the growing Circuit split on the issue and potentially foreshadows a date with the Supreme Court.  For now, the decision will likely encourage TCPA class action plaintiffs to fill their dance cards in New York and other states in the circuit. Continue Reading

FCC Declares Certain Calls/Texts Regarding COVID-19 Are Exempt From The TCPA

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) generally prohibits automated calls, including text messages, to cell phones without sufficient prior express consent, and imposes a statutory penalty of $500 to $1,500 per call/text in violation.  Calls that serve an “emergency purpose” are completely exempt from the TCPA.  The FCC’s rules define “emergency purpose” to mean “calls made necessary in any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.” See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(f)(4). Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Adopts Narrow Definition of Autodialer Under The TCPA

The Seventh Circuit has recently joined the Second, Third, Sixth and Eleventh Circuits in adopting a narrow interpretation of Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), one that excludes equipment that dials numbers from a customer database.  See Gadelhak v. AT&T Services, Inc., No. 19-1738, — F.3d —-, 2020 WL 808270 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2020); see also Glasser v. Hilton Grand Vacations Co., 948 F.3d 1301 (11th Cir. Jan. 27, 2020); Gary v. Trueblue, Inc., 786 F. App’x 555 (6th Cir. Sept. 5, 2019); King v. Time Warner Cable, 894 F.3d 473 (2d Cir. 2018); Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., 894 F.3d 116 (3d Cir. 2018). Continue Reading

California Court Sets High Bar For Class Certification In False Advertising Cases

The California Court of Appeal recently made it more difficult for plaintiffs to certify class actions based on false advertising or fraud.  In Downey v. Public Storage, Inc., Case No. B291662, ___Cal.App.5th___ (Feb. 6, 2020), the Court of Appeal affirmed an order denying class certification on the grounds that issues of deception and reliance were not susceptible to common proof.

In March 2015, several plaintiffs filed a class action against Public Storage, alleging that its $1 promotional rate was deceptive, violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. § 17200 et seq.), and constituted a false advertisement.  In particular, the plaintiffs alleged that the $1 promotional rate was deceptive because customers had to pay more than $1 for their first month of storage due to (1) having to pay for a new account fee, (2) being charged for a second month’s rent on the first day of the next calendar month, (3) having to pay for a lock for their storage unit, and (4) having to pay for insurance coverage.  Continue Reading

The Death of One California Privacy Class Action, and the Birth of Another

As one year ends, another begins.  So too it seems with California’s embrace of multi-million dollar privacy class actions.  The purported illegal recording of cellular or cordless phone calls under Section 632.7 of the California Penal Code has long been a favorite of the class action bar due to the availability of staggering statutory damages.  These actions are all but dead, however, following the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Smith v. LoanMe, Inc., 2019 DJDAR 11930, holding that some form of eavesdropping is required to state a cause of action under Section 632.7.  No longer is the simple recording of a cellular or cordless telephone call between the actual participants to the call actionable.  While many have long argued that the actual language of the statute as well as its legislative history – including the legislative history of the California Invasion of Privacy Act (Pen. Code §§ 630, et seq.) in general – require some form of spying to state a claim under Section 632.7, the court of appeal in LoanMe has made it official.  Barring review or inconsistent rulings by other appellate districts, privacy class actions seeking statutory damages under Penal Code section 632.7 are the past.   Continue Reading

Is Hate Too Strong A Word (When It Comes To Compelling Arbitration In California)?

When it comes to compelling arbitration in California, courts often put the moving party to the test. The most recent example is the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Fabian v. Renovate America. Affirming a lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeal held that the defendant failed to meet its burden of proof that an electronically signed contract – one containing a 15-digit alphanumeric verification from DocuSign and the words “Identify Verification Code: ID Verification Complete” – was in fact signed by the plaintiff. Stating that the “burden of authenticating an electronic signature is not great,” the Court of Appeal went on to hold that the defendant had not met its burden as it had failed to submit evidence explaining the DocuSign verification process. The court of appeal acknowledged the acceptance of a DocuSign verified signature in Newton v. Am. Debt Servs (N.D. Cal. 2012) 854 F.Supp.2d 712, but distinguished that case finding that Renovate had not submitted “evidence about the process used to verify Fabian’s electronic signature via DocuSign, including who sent Fabian the Contract, how the Contract was sent to her, how Fabian’s electronic signature was placed on the Contract, who received the signed the [sic] Contract, how the signed Contract was returned to Renovate, and how Fabian’s identification was verified as the person who actually signed the Contract.” Continue Reading

CBD Industry Beware: The False Labeling Class Action Has Arrived

Last week, in what may be the first of its kind, a putative class of Massachusetts consumers filed a false labeling class action complaint against Global Widget LLC, d/b/a Hemp Bombs (“Hemp Bombs”) (Ahumada v. Global Widget LLC, D. Mass. Case No. 1:19-cv-12005), challenging the labeling of numerous Hemp Bombs products, including gummies, lollipops, capsules, syrup, vape and pet products. Continue Reading

The Sixth Circuit Limits the Meaning of ATDS Under the TCPA

Recently, the Sixth Circuit in Gary v. Trueblue, Inc., No. 18-2281, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26959 (6th Cir. Sep. 5, 2019), weighed in on the meaning of Automatic Telephone Dialing System (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The TCPA generally prohibits calls and text messages to cell phones using an ATDS without prior express consent and imposes a statutory penalty of $500 per call or text in violation, or up to $1,500 per call/text for a knowing or willful violation.  On a class action basis covering all calls/texts sent over four years, the potential liability can be crushing. Continue Reading

Supreme Court Punts On Whether FCC’s Interpretation of the TCPA Binds Federal Courts

At the end of the Supreme Court’s most recent term, the Court released its long-awaited ruling in PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc., 139 S. Ct. 2051 (June 20, 2019)—a case that could have carried far-reaching ramifications for Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) litigation nationwide. The Supreme Court granted review to consider whether the Administrative Orders Review Act (also known as the Hobbs Act), 28 U.S.C. § 2342(1), requires district courts to accept the FCC’s legal interpretation of the statutory term “unsolicited advertisement” under the TCPA. Continue Reading

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