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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

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Plaintiffs appealed from a judgment of dismissal from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California) following an order sustaining demurrers to the complaint alleging, among other claims, violations of California's unfair competition and false advertising statutes, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200-17208 and 17500-17572, and fraud.

Overview

Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that defendants' advertising of certain sugared breakfast cereals was fraudulent, misleading, and deceptive. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, the court held that plaintiffs stated valid claims for violations of California's unfair competition and false advertising statutes. It was not required that the complaint specifically plead the exact language of every deceptive statement; it was sufficient that plaintiffs described defendants' scheme to mislead customers. In addition, the organizational plaintiffs had standing because the statutes permitted a complaint by any person on behalf of the general public. With regard to the fraud claims, the court held that the organizational plaintiffs could not prove the damages element of fraud; therefore, their fraud claims were properly dismissed. However, the individual plaintiffs, parents and their children, could prove damages: they sought restitution of the cereals' purchase price, and they could amend to allege specific health injuries.

Outcome

The judgment was reversed. The trial court erred in sustaining the demurrers because plaintiffs' complaint sufficiently stated claims for injunctive relief and restitution under the unfair competition and false advertising statutes. The individual plaintiffs should have been permitted to amend their fraud claims to allege damages specifically.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Torts > Business Torts > Unfair Business Practices > General Overview

HN1  Business Torts, Unfair Business Practices

See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17203.

 

Torts > Business Torts > Unfair Business Practices > General Overview

HN2  Business Torts, Unfair Business Practices

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 is not confined to anticompetitive business practice but is equally directed toward the right of the public to protection from fraud and deceit. Furthermore, the § 17200 proscription of "unfair competition" is not restricted to deceptive or fraudulent conduct but extends to any unlawful business practice.

 

Torts > Business Torts > Fraud & Misrepresentation > General Overview

HN3  Business Torts, Fraud & Misrepresentation

Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500 et seq., the false advertising law, prohibits the dissemination in any advertising media of any statement concerning real or personal property offered for sale, which is untrue or misleading, and which is known, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be untrue or misleading. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17535 authorizes injunctive relief and restitution.

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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.