Thursday, May 23, 2013

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. California Milk Producers Advisory Bd. case brief

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. California Milk Producers Advisory Bd. case brief
22 Cal.Rptr.3d 900

CASE SYNOPSIS: Appellant animal rights group sued respondent California Milk Producers Advisory Board (CMAB), alleging that CMAB's advertising campaign violated California's Unfair Business Practices Act, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq., know as the unfair competition law (UCL), because the advertisements were false and deceptive. The Superior Court of San Francisco County, California, dismissed the action, and the group appealed.

FACTS: The trial court sustained the demurrers after concluding that CMAB was not a "person" as defined by the UCL and, thus, that the state board was not subject to suit under that remedial statutory scheme. The court of appeal agreed that public entities, including CMAB, were not "persons" who were subject to suit under the UCL. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17201, which defined a "person" subject to suit, did not include any references to governmental agencies or political entities. Thus, only through an unreasonable, strained construction could CMAB, an administrative adjunct to a governmental body, be deemed encompassed by that statutory definition. The court rejected the group's argument that "infringement of sovereign power" was a proper test, but nevertheless noted that its decision was supported under that rationale. The work of CMAB in promoting California's agricultural economy through promotional campaigns was linked by the legislature to important public interests that would have given rise to an infringement of sovereign power.

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, with costs on appeal awarded to CMAB.

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