The UCL Practitioner
Thursday, February 17, 2005
New UCL decision: In re Firearm Cases
Last Thursday, the Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division One) issued a 32-page opinion entitled In re Firearm Cases, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Feb. 10, 2005). The Benson decision came down just a few hours earlier on that same day, and it got all the attention, but Firearm Cases shouldn't be overlooked. The opinion discusses the pre- and post-Cel-Tech definitions of "unfair" in detail, and concludes that even under the pre-Cel-Tech definition, the plaintiff must
show some connection between conduct by defendants and the alleged harm to the public. Even in a UCL unfairness case, there must be such a connection. Without evidence of a causative link between the unfair act and the injuries or damages, unfairness by itself merely exists as a will-o'-the-wisp legal principle.
Slip op. at 15. In other words, the Court of Appeal imported a "causation" element into the UCL's "unfair" prong, in part based on post-Cel-Tech decisions rejecting the pre-Cel-Tech definitions of "unfair" for consumer actions. Slip op. at 16-19. (These decisions were recently reviewed in Slaughter, "What is 'Unfair'?: Developments in 17200 Law After Cel-Tech," 13 Competition 29 (Fall 2004/Winter 2005), which is discussed in my post here.) The Court concluded: "Although the weighing test of the pre-Cel-Tech cases remains useful, ... we do not believe a UCL violation may be established without a link between a defendant's business practice and the alleged harm." Slip op. at 18. The Court affirmed summary judgment in the defendant's favor because the plaintiffs had presented insufficient evidence of a causal link.
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