Some Restrictions Apply: Ninth Circuit Restricts Scope of Nationwide False Advertising Claims

In a ruling that may restrict the future viability of false advertising class actions, the Ninth Circuit recently overturned a lower court decision certifying nationwide class status to individuals who purchased or leased an Acura vehicle equipped with an optional “collision mitigation braking system” between August 2005 and December 2008. See Mazza v. American Honda Motor Company – opinion here. According to plaintiffs, advertisements for the $4,000 system were misleading in that they failed to disclose certain important facts, including that the system did not work in inclement weather (when collisions have been known to occur).

As certified, the class consisted of individuals who purchased their Acura vehicle in one of 44 states. Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court in California and sought false advertising relief solely under California’s consumer protection law. Plaintiffs argued that California law should apply to all class members’ claims, regardless of the point of actual purchase, because the defendant is headquartered in California and because the consumer protection law of that state is not materially different from the consumer protection laws of the other 43 states in which class members purchased the collision mitigation system.

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