The complaint in a civil action serves to frame and limit the issues and to apprise the defendant of the basis upon which the plaintiff is seeking recovery and the complaint should set forth the ultimate facts constituting the cause of action, not the evidence by which plaintiff proposes to prove those facts.
Plaintiffs filed a class action on behalf of “California residents who have been misled or deceived” by the defendants’ marketing of sugared cereals. The defendant manufactures popular cereals such as Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles. The complaint alleged several causes of action including fraud, breach of warranty and violation of consumer protection statues. Essentially, the plaintiffs allege that the commercials the defendant airs mislead children into thinking the cereals are healthy and contain adequate nutrients. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the plaintiffs appealed.
Did the trial court err in its dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case?
The court held that the plaintiffs’ claims were valid. The plaintiffs’ description of the defendants’ conduct was sufficient to continue the case. It further held that the plaintiffs had organizational standing for the case because state statutes allowed a complaint by one person on behalf of the general public. The appellate court did dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims of fraud because the plaintiffs could not provide sufficient evidence in support. Fraud carries a heightened pleading standard that the plaintiffs could not overcome.