McDonald’s Corp. has filed a motion to dismiss a putative class action seeking to stop the company from advertising and selling to children its allegedly “unhealthy Happy Meals” with toys. Parham v. McDonald’s Corp., No. 11-00511 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Francisco Div., motion filed April 18, 2011). Details about the lawsuit appear in Issue 375 of this Update. The company contends that the plaintiff lacks standing to sue under the unfair competition law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act or false advertising law and argues that the complaint is the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “attempt to distort state consumer protection law beyond recognition” to stop McDonald’s from selling Happy Meals containing toys in California.
According to the motion, the plaintiff does not allege physical harm, reliance on the company’s advertising (that is, “Plaintiff does not allege that her own children saw any particular advertisement or made a single purchase from McDonald’s”), or identify any advertisement that was allegedly false or misleading. McDonald’s summarizes the lawsuit as one in which the plaintiff alleges violation of consumer protection statutes based on advertising that causes children to pester their parents. “The scope of the conduct that would qualify as a violation of California’s consumer protection statutes under Plaintiff’s novel theory is vast to say the least. In short, advertising to children any product that a child asks for but the parent does not want to buy would constitute an unfair trade practice.”
The company also argues that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege the causal connection between her “loss” and the company’s practice of advertising Happy Meals with toys and failed to include any factual allegations that could support her claims. It seeks dismissal of the claims in their entirety.