The UCL Practitioner
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Some thoughts on Benson v. Kwikset Corp.
I was talking about the Benson case with a friend (a defense lawyer, no less), who pointed out that Attorney General Bill Lockyer supported the case as an amicus, and that the alleged violation of law (mislabeling products as "Made in America" when certain components were foreign-made) also resulted in an FTC investigation and a consent decree that enjoined the manufacturer from "using 'the legend "All American Made," ... or otherwise represent[ing] that a product is entirely made in the United States unless such product is in fact 100% made in the United States.'" (Slip op. at 1, 4.) In other words, both the state and federal law enforcement authorities believed this manufacturer was doing something wrong. The majority was right to conclude that if its holding forces businesses out of California, as the dissent warned, that's a legislative problem. (Slip op. at 15.) Also, while the decision doesn't quantify the work the plaintiff's attorneys did on the case, it does say that suit was filed before October 2000—nearly four years ago. (Slip. op at 4.) A heavily-litigated representative action that lasted four years or more and actually went to trial might very well justify a $3 million fees award. And, as the majority pointed out, the appeal challenged only the plaintiff's entitlement to fees, not the amount of the fees award, so the latter issue was waived. (Slip op. at 19.) Perhaps this case wasn't the best vehicle for the dissenting justice to air his (probably well-founded in some cases) concerns about UCL abuse. (My original post on Benson is here.)
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