Chocolates, roses, and s. 17200

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2004

Tim Sandefur has collected more examples of unsuccessful, but inevitably expensive, lawsuits invoking California’s abuse-fraught s. 17200 private-attorney-general “unfair competition” law (see Dec. 8 and links from there). All three were rejected by the Court of Appeal. In one case, Consumer Cause, Inc., associated with veteran s. 17200 impresario Morse Mehrban, had demanded damages from an auto show producer that had provided female visitors to its shows with complimentary chocolates and roses, but had made similar gifts available to men only after an affirmative request. In a second case, an attorney had sought to employ s. 17200 as a surrogate obscenity statute by suing AT&T cable services demanding a refund of all fees collected for showings of pay-per-view adult film fare. The attorney’s suit had also sought forfeiture of AT&T’s profits from the films, revocation of its cable franchise (useful as a negotiating point, that one), and of course attorneys’ fees. (Feb. 20). Yet a third s. 17200 suit was filed against abortion clinics arguing, to quote Sandefur, “that providing abortion without disclosing alleged health threats to the mother, was unfair competition under Business and Professions Code 17200″. It was dismissed under the state’s anti-SLAPP (use of litigation for harassment) statute (Feb. 24).

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