Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Consumer Suit Proceeds Against Donald Trump and Trump University

This posting was written by William Zale, Editor of CCH Advertising Law Guide.

Individuals who paid $35,000 apiece to enroll in Trump University seminars, hoping to “Learn from the Master,” can pursue common law fraud and California consumer protection law claims against Donald Trump and Trump University, the federal district court in San Diego has ruled.

The court separately addressed claims against Trump and the university in two opinions issued the same day.


The fraud claims against Trump himself focused on the allegation that he lied about “hand picking” instructors. Trump maintained that the named plaintiffs in the class action complaint did not sustain any damages in reliance on the alleged misrepresentation.

To the extent that the plaintiffs did rely on Trump’s alleged misrepresentations, they may have sustained damages of up to $35,000 apiece, the court determined and declined Trumps motion to dismiss.

In claims against the university, three of four named plaintiffs stated claims of fraud by alleging that they signed up for seminars in reliance on university speakers’ statements that included a misrepresentation about providing exclusive access to a list of properties handpicked by Donald Trump.

False Advertising, Consumer Protection Laws

One plaintiff stated a claim of false advertising under California law by alleging that she purchased a $35,000 seminar based on misleading statements at a $1,500 seminar made for the purpose of inducing her purchase, according to the court.

California Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) claims based on the fraud allegations survived, although the court dismissed the California statutory claims brought by two of the four named plaintiffs who were not California residents. Claims under the New York deceptive acts and practices statute were rejected because none of the plaintiffs took classes in New York.


The court agreed with Trump’s contention that his alleged statement “no course offers the same depth of insight, experience and support as the one bearing my name” constituted mere puffery and thus could not support claims under the UCL or CLRA.

The May 16 opinions in Makaeff v. Trump University LLC will be reported in CCH Advertising Law Guide.

Further information about CCH Advertising Law Guide appears here.

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