Lack of Standing—Fatal Obstacle To Plaintiffs In Complaint Against SeaWorld

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Plaintiff Juliette Morizur and Plaintiff Kelly Nelson, along with other plaintiffs (at least one of whom dismissed his claims with prejudice, evidencing the sham nature of those claims) sued Sea World Parks and Entertainment, Inc. in 2015, claiming that they bought tickets to or bought a stuffed animal at SeaWorld because they allegedly relied on statements posted on SeaWorld’s website, including “SeaWorld did not separate calves from mothers”; “SeaWorld’s captive orcas had similar lifespans to those in the wild”; “collapsed dorsal fins are normal, and also equally common in the wild”; and “captivity in general does not harm orcas.”

On October 13, 2020, Hon. Jeffrey S. White, USDJ put an end to this sham of a lawsuit when he entered an order and separate judgment concluding that “Plaintiffs have failed to prove they have Article III standing to seek injunctive relief and fail to prove they have statutory standing to pursue their state law claims” and closed the case.

Standing has been a longstanding obstacle in many cases filed by animal rights organizations.  See, e.g., Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004); Naruto v Slater, 2016 WL 362231 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2016).

Here, the Court explained, in part,

“Questions of Article III standing go to a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction.  In order to demonstrate Article III standing, Plaintiffs must show they: ‘(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision’ . . . In addition to restitution, Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, and they must establish Article III standing for both forms of relief . . . (Internal and end citations omitted).

. . .

Plaintiffs must prove they have standing by a preponderance of the evidence.

. . .

Past exposure to harmful or illegal conduct does not necessarily confer standing to seek injunctive relief if the plaintiff does not continue to suffer adverse effects.  Plaintiffs must prove that they have ‘suffered or [are] threatened with a ‘concrete and particularized’ legal harm . . . coupled with a ‘sufficient likelihood that [they] will again be wronged in a similar way’ . . . The latter inquiry turns on whether Plaintiffs face a ‘real and immediate threat of repeated injury’ . . . The threat of future injury cannot be ‘conjectural or hypothetical’ but must be ‘certainly impending’ to constitute an injury in fact for injunctive relief purposes.

The Court reviewed Plaintiffs deposition and trial testimony, and found them to be internally inconsistent, and “found that neither Ms. Nelson’s nor Ms. Morizur’s trial testimony that they, in fact intend to return to or purchase merchandise from SeaWorld is credible, the Court concludes they have not met their burden to prove they are faced with a real and immediate threat of an ongoing or repeated injury. Accordingly, Ms. Nelson and Ms. Morizur have failed to meet their burden to show they have Article III standing to seek injunctive relief on their claims.”

Standing has been a longstanding obstacle to plaintiffs, particularly in the animal rights arena.  It is unfortunate that it can take years for defendants to obtain sufficient evidence to dismiss such a suit, through costly discovery and motion practice, and after suffering irrevocable harm to their business.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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