The lawsuit filed against SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. (SeaWorld) in the Northern District of California, styled Marc Anderson, et al. v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc. has been ongoing since May 14, 2015.
The Court recently ruled on SeaWorld’s Motion for Summary Judgment, which it granted in part and denied in part. Marc Anderson, et al. v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc., No. 15-02172, slip op. (N.D. Cal. Feb. 20, 2018).
As a reminder, three plaintiffs brought individual and putative class claims for various alleged violations of California’s False Advertising Law and California’s Unfair Competition Law based on allegations that Plaintiffs relied on statements from SeaWorld about their care of animals before making certain purchases.
The Court denied SeaWorld’s Motion on the issue of standing which would have put an end to the litigation (unless the decision was appealed). The Court stated, “[i]n a class action, standing is satisfied if at least one named plaintiff meets the requirements.” Id. (citing Bates v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 511 F.3d 974, 985 (9th Cir. 2007). The Court found that SeaWorld “failed to meet its burden on the question of whether [Plaintiff] Anderson has standing to seek injunctive relief . . . because the testimony . . .presented on this issue relates to whether Anderson would purchase tickets to SeaWorld in the future; not whether he would purchase SeaWorld merchandize if he could rely on its advertising.” Id. (citations omitted). Since Anderson purchased merchandize, the Court held the argument was faulty. As to the other two Plaintiffs, the Court held that it “cannot make credibility determinations at this stage of the proceedings” which was the basis of SeaWorld’s evidence.
However, the Court granted, in part, SeaWorld’s Motion on [Plaintiff] Anderson’s claims, stating
[i]n order to survive SeaWorld’s motion, Anderson ‘must point to specific facts indicating that [he] actually saw the misrepresentations about which’ he complains, ‘and that those misrepresentations were ‘substantial factor[s]’ in’ his decision to purchase the Shamu toy. Id. (citations omitted).
The Court concludes that, like the plaintiffs in In re iphone, Anderson has not met his burden to overcome Sea World’s motion to the extent his claims are premised on the mother-calf separation statement . . . Anderson has not shown that he saw the mother-calf separation statement and, therefore, he could not have relied on that statement when he purchased the Shamu toy. Id. (citations omitted).
However, the Court held that, when considering the entirety of Anderson’s testimony, “the record is sufficient for a reasonable juror to find that if Anderson had known what he contends to be the truth about orca lifespans in captivity, in all reasonable probability he would not have purchased the Shamu toy,” thereby granting in part and denying in part SeaWorld’s motion on Anderson’s claims.
As to Plaintiff Nelson, the Court concluded that “Nelson has put forth sufficient evidence to create a triable issue of fact about whether she suffered an economic injury.” The Court was “not willing to find as a matter of law that Nelson lacks standing simply because her husband turned over the funds that were used to purchase the tickets” and that therefore Nelson did not suffer an economic injury.
The Court found sufficient evidence, at this point, to deny SeaWorld’s motion claiming that Nelson did not rely on SeaWorld’s statements before her husband purchased tickets to SeaWorld, despite Nelson being unable to identify where or when she actually saw those statements.
Finally, the Court denied the motion claiming that Plaintiff Morizur had “abandoned her claim for restitution because she testified that she does not ‘care about the money’; is not ‘in this for the money’; and is asking the Court to give her ‘0.00 dollars.’” Id.
The Court did invite SeaWorld to ‘“attempt to impeach [Plaintiffs] . . . at trial with prior statements’ it believes ‘are inconsistent . . .” Id.
I am sure SeaWorld will do just that.