Monday, January 30, 2012

Nationwide Class Certification of California Ad Claims Vacated

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

Certification of a nationwide class was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco in an action under California law asserting that Honda’s advertisements misrepresented the characteristics of a braking system.

California Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, and Consumers Legal Remedies Act could not be applied to the entire nationwide class, and all consumers who purchased or leased an Acura RL automobile could not be presumed to have relied on the advertisements, the court held.

Variances in State Consumer Laws

The law of multiple jurisdictions applied to any nationwide class of purchasers or lessees, according to the court. Variances in state consumer laws overwhelmed common issues and precluded predominance for a single nationwide class.

Reliance on Advertising

Even if the class was restricted only to those who purchased or leased their car in California, common issues of fact would not predominate in the class as currently defined because it almost certainly included members who were not exposed to, and therefore could not have relied on, Honda’s allegedly misleading advertising, the court determined.

Honda’s product brochures and TV commercials fell short of the “extensive and long-term [fraudulent] advertising campaign” at issue in In re Tobacco II Cases (Cal. S. Ct. 2009), CCH Advertising Law Guide ¶63,423.

In the absence of a massive advertising campaign, the relevant class had to be defined in such a way as to include only members who were exposed to advertising that was alleged to be materially misleading, the court concluded.

The decision is Mazza v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc., CCH Advertising Law Guide ¶64,536.

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