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Committee on Children's Television, Inc. v. General Foods Corp.

Supreme Court of California

December 22, 1983

L.A. No. 31603

Opinion

 [*204]  [**663]  [***786]    Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment of dismissal following a trial court order sustaining demurrers without leave to amend to their fourth amended complaint. The complaint essentially charges defendants -- General Foods Corporation, Safeway Stores, and two advertising agencies -- with fraudulent, misleading and deceptive advertising in the marketing of sugared breakfast cereals. The trial court found its allegations insufficient because they fail to [****2]  state with specificity the advertisements containing the alleged misrepresentations. We review the allegations of the complaint and conclude that the trial court erred in sustaining demurrers without leave to amend to plaintiffs' causes of action charging fraud and violation of laws against unfair competition and deceptive advertising.

I. Summary of the Pleadings and Procedure.

Plaintiffs filed their original complaint on June 30, 1977, as a class action on behalf of "California residents who have been misled or deceived, or are threatened with the likelihood of being deceived or misled," by  [***787]  defendants in connection with the marketing  [**664]  of sugared cereals. 1 The named plaintiffs included five organizations (The Committee on Children's Television, Inc.; the California Society of Dentistry for Children; the American G.I. Forum of California; the Mexican-American Political Association; the League of United Latin American Citizens), individual adults, and individual children.

 [****3]  The principal defendant is General Foods Corporation, the manufacturer of five "sugared cereals" -- Alpha Bits, Honeycomb, Fruity Pebbles, Sugar Crisp, and Cocoa Pebbles -- which contain from 38 to 50 percent sugar by weight. The other corporate defendants are two advertising agencies -- Benton and Bowles, Inc., and Ogilvy & Mather International, Inc. -- which handled advertising of these cereals, and Safeway Stores, which sold the products to plaintiffs. Finally, the complaint includes as defendants numerous officers and employees of the corporate defendants.

When the court sustained a demurrer to the third amended complaint, it ruled that no cause of action could be stated on behalf of the organizational plaintiffs. The individual plaintiffs remaining then filed their fourth amended complaint; the validity of this complaint is the principal issue on appeal.

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35 Cal. 3d 197 *; 673 P.2d 660 **; 197 Cal. Rptr. 783 ***; 1983 Cal. LEXIS 266 ****

COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN'S TELEVISION, INC., et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. GENERAL FOODS CORPORATION et al., Defendants and Respondents

Prior History:  [****1]  Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. CA000429, David A. Thomas, Judge.

Disposition: The judgment is reversed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

CORE TERMS

cause of action, advertisements, unfair competition, misrepresentation, breakfasts, allegations, cereals, false advertising, sugar, consumers, Foods, damages, representations, plaintiffs', deceptive, amended complaint, misleading, products, defendants', restitution, injunctive relief, trial court, television, specificity, seller, cases, eat, sustain a demurrer, demurrer, pleaded

Torts, Business Torts, Unfair Business Practices, General Overview, Fraud & Misrepresentation, Trademark Law, Federal Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising, Business & Corporate Compliance, Governments, Agriculture & Food, Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, Governments, Product Promotions, Banking Law, Federal Acts, Federal Trade Commission Act, Civil Procedure, Pleading & Practice, Pleadings, Rule Application & Interpretation, Heightened Pleading Requirements, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Elements of False Advertising, Justiciability, Standing, Lanham Act, Standing, Fraud Claims, Environmental Law, Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances, Toxic Torts, Commercial Law (UCC), General Provisions (Article 1), Definitions & Interpretation, Fiduciaries, Malpractice & Professional Liability, Contract Formation, Consideration, Sufficient Consideration, Contracts Law, Affirmative Defenses, Coercion & Duress, Contract Interpretation, Fiduciary Responsibilities, Estate, Gift & Trust Law, Trusts