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Court of Appeal Affirms: Plaintiff Cannot Purchase Products Solely as Reason to Sue

California Women’s Law Center Executive Director Katherine Lee Buckland admitted to purchasing certain skin care products in the belief that they were being deceptively sold and with the intent of suing. Originally Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Hess, sustained a demurrer joined by many of the more than 30 defendants (members of the American Herbal Products Association), and whom Buckland sued for negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and violations of unfair competition and false advertising laws as well as the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Judge Hess also denied Buckland’s motion for a injunctive relief.

skin%20care%2064254_size1.jpg Buckland appealed, contending the trial court erred. She argued that her claims were legally tenable. The Court of Appeals disagreed.

Katherine Lee Buckland cannot sue for fraud, or under consumer statutes, because she did not rely on the alleged misrepresentations in choosing to purchase the products and did not suffer any “injury-in-fact,” Justice Nora Manella wrote for the Court of Appeal.

Simply stated, Buckland had no “standing”. Standing is a direct connection to a legal cause of action and was changed in California in 2004 by the passage of Proposition 64. Prior to that, the law allowed a private person not injured by an allegedly unfair or illegal business practice or by false advertising to seek equitable relief on behalf of the general public, which is essentially what Buckland stated she was trying to accomplish in her lawsuit.

Notably strange is that the…..

…list of board members of the California Women’s Law Center reads like a list of Who’s Who in California Big Law firms. I would have expected one or more board members might have explained the concept of “standing” to Ms. Buckland and her attorney. Big law firms are seldom better when it comes to business litigation.

If you have been sued in California, make sure the plaintiff in fact has legal standing based on Prop 64. If you have any questions related to “standing” or other concepts related to lawsuits or business litigation, feel free to contact me personally.

Richard Oppenheim