Kimberly Kralowec at The UCL Practitioner reports (and reports) on a key California Supreme Court decision from Monday. The Court ruled that the Golden State hadn't gutted a consumer protection law when voters passed Proposition 64 five years ago, in 2004. In re Tobacco II Cases, No. 147345 (Cal. May 18, 2009).
The defendants, several tobacco companies, argued that Prop 64 raised the standard for treating a consumer case as a class action. The Court, 4-3, ruled that the proposition did require class representatives to meet a tougher test for "standing" to sue but that class members didn't have to comply. The Court also clarified the "reliance" test under Prop 64:
We conclude that a class representative proceeding on a claim of misrepresentation as the basis of his or her UCL action must demonstrate actual reliance on the allegedly deceptive or misleading statements, in accordance with well-settled principles regarding the element of reliance in ordinary fraud actions. Those same principles, however, do not require the class representative to plead or prove an unrealistic degree of specificity that the plaintiff rlied on particular advertisements or statements when the unfair practice is a fraudulent advertising campaign.
The lawsuit alleged that the tobacco companies defrauded consumers with lies about the addictiveness of nicotine and the relationship between tobacco use and disease. The Court reverse an order decertifying a class and remanded the case for further proceedings.