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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

California Supreme Court Schedules Oral Argument in Unfair Competition Case

California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et seq., "was enacted to protect consumers as well as competitors from unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business acts or practices, by promoting fair competition in commercial markets for goods and services." Over the years, the UCL has been used to stop such practices as stores selling cigarettes to underage kids or selling re-packaged meat as new. It has been used succesfully in countless wage and hour cases.

On November 2, 2004, California voters passed Proposition 64, amending the UCL in several important ways. Among other changes, Prop. 64 amended Section 17204 to provide that only the Attorney General, district attorney, city attorney, or "any person who has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of such unfair competition" could prosecute a UCL action.

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear oral argument in In re. Tobacco II Cases, Case S147345, on March 3 at 9:00 a.m. in San Francisco. The case includes the following issues:
(1) In order to bring a class action under Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code, section 17200 et seq.), as amended by Proposition 64 (Gen. Elec. (Nov. 2, 2004)), must every member of the proposed class have suffered "injury in fact," or is it sufficient that the class representative comply with that requirement?

(2) In a class action based on a manufacturer's alleged misrepresentation of a product, must every member of the class have actually relied on the manufacturer's representations?
In a typical wage and hour case, all class members will have suffered "injury in fact," so the Tobacco case will not be as important in wage and hour litigation as in other areas, but the case remains of interest.

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