Wednesday, January 9, 2008
C.A.: Book Purchaser Lacked Standing to Sue Publisher
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A plaintiff who had ordered a book under an offer granting a 21-day free trial period before he would be obligated to purchase it lacked standing to pursue an unfair competition law claim against the publisher, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Three, in an opinion filed Monday by Justice Richard D. Fybel, found that Jeffrey R. Hall had not suffered any injury in fact, nor could he prove any causation between the alleged unfair competition practices and his injury. Hall’s complaint brought a claim for class action relief against Time, Inc. for alleged unfair business practices in sending invoices for immediate payment before the expiration of the free trial period.
Hall had purchased a copy of the book “Life Millennium” in August 2000 under the offer of a free 21-day preview period. He received his order the following month, along with an invoice for the book.
Hall received two more bills and a series of payment notices before sending a check dated June 25, 2001 to a collection agency.
An Orange Superior Court judge granted Time’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Fybel said Hall lacked standing under Proposition 64, which requires injury-in-fact and a financial or property loss in order to bring a UCL claim.
The justice explained that the voters passed Proposition 64 to help stop frivolous unfair competition lawsuits by narrowing the class of potential plaintiffs. The goal of this proposition was to put an end to attorneys filing lawsuits where no client had actually been injured, he wrote.
While few cases since Proposition 64 was passed have specifically addressed what constitutes an injury in fact in determining standing, Fybel explained, standing has consistently been denied when the plaintiff did not spend or lose money or fail to receive money to which he had a claim because of a defendant’s unfair competition.
Hall likewise suffered no financial loss, Fybel wrote, explaining that the plaintiff “expended money by paying Time $29.51—but he received a book in exchange” and “did not allege he did not want the book, the book was unsatisfactory, or the book was worth less than what he paid for it.”
The court also found that Hall did not show causation in his claim. Hall relied on Anunziato v. eMachines, Inc. (C.D.Cal 2005) 402 F.Supp.2d 1133 to argue that a showing of causation was not necessary to establish standing.
Fybel distinguished that case in which certain laptop computers were overheating despite the manufacturer’s representations in the product manual and press release.
“By purchasing a defective computer, the plaintiff in Anunziato did suffer actual damage caused by the defendant,” the justice said. “In contrast, Hall did not allege the book he purchased was defective or unsatisfactory, or that he did not want it.”
The case is Hall v. Time, Inc., 08 S.O.S. 58.
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